Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and often reference this when group is mentioned (e.g., Hi, I am John Doe, and I am an alcoholic). While AA is a form of group, it is different from what we mean when we talk about group therapy. AA is often lead by a recovering alcoholic and there is discussion around the 12 steps. In general process group therapy, group is lead by a clinician (and at times two clinicians). Each group is slightly different because they form their own rules and norms (in addition to the basic guidelines outlined in the group informed consent).
The underlying logic of group therapy is that each member of the group forms relationships with other group members in the same way that they form them outside of group. It is these patterns that are likely unknown to the member but are also causing some of the difficulty in relationships. For example, let's pretend that one group member has a tendency to "one-up" every member of the group (meaning that every time someone shares, they share a similar story but with better outcomes). This may be subtle at first, but as time goes on, group members may grow frustrated. At some point that member will likely hear feedback that their tendency to "one-up" other members is frustrating. This can also get in the way of forming meaningful connections, which is probably what led that group member to group in the first place. Another example can be when someone makes it a point to take care of others but never takes care of themselves. Other group members might notice this and explain how it might actually impede their relationship with that group member when they never ask for support or need help because the group members are left feeling as though the relationship is one-sided.
The overarching goal of group therapy is to help each member of the group form more meaningful and healthy relationships. Group becomes a model for this and a chance to experiment with different ways of being. For example, the group member that tends to "one-up" others may experiment to see how it feels to listen to others without comparing stories. The person that tends to take care of others will need to take time in group to ask for help. There are so many possibilities for how group may work well with your particular treatment goals. If you are interested in this as a treatment modality, please be sure to ask your clinician for more information.
Starting Group Therapy
Most individuals will start group through a referral from their clinician. Before joining a group, all individuals will need to attend an intake session where background information is gathered to ensure that group is the most helpful modality. There may be times where the group screening may be completed at the same time (for example when a group member requests group therapy upon initiating treatment). It may also be helpful for some clinicians in the area to refer to group therapy. In this case, the client will retain their individual provider, but attend group at Manhattan Mental Health Services, LLC. This should be done only in cases where the individual provider deems necessary and there will need to be a signed release of information on file for the coordination of care. Other times people may be referred at a later point in treatment. In these cases, the individual attends a group screening where they can meet the leader or co-leaders (if different from their individual therapist), discuss their goals for group, and ask any questions they may have before beginning group. Each member will need to agree to follow the group guidelines in order for group to be effective (click here to see the guidelines).