Ten tips for getting the most out of group therapy by Mark Sorensen, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA
Get involved and try to be as open as possible. It’s okay to not understand. It isn’t expected that you will come up with a brilliant interpretation for others. Just be honest, even if it means admitting that you don’t know what is going on.
Find out from others what role they see you taking on in the group. What are your “blind spots”? Ask the group for feedback about how they experience you.
Try out new ways of talking to people and behaving. Take some risks.
Do your best to share with others what is going on in your mind, even if it isn’t very pretty. If you don’t know what is going on in your mind, tell the group that. It is okay to be “messy” and let others know about the things that you normally keep hidden from others. We follow “group rules” not “social rules” and these rules allow for greater self-disclosure.
Try and notice the ways in which your actions match your intentions, and the ways they don’t. (Hint: Much of the time they won’t!). Explore with the group what makes it difficult for them to match.
Remember that how people talk is as important as what they say. Pay attention to the non-verbal behaviors in the group—yours and those of other members. Talk about what you notice.
Try to be as direct as possible and be open to the responses of others. Telling a story is sometimes a way of being known, but it can also be a way of avoiding dialogue and intimacy. Aim for dialogue rather than monologue.
Avoid questions when a statement about what is going on in your mind can be offered instead. For example, you might say, "My own difficulty in getting along with my boyfriend is making me curious about what your marriage is like" rather than, "How long have you been married?".
Focus on the relationships you have with the group, other group members and the leader. Put a priority on noticing what is happening inside the group. What is going on that makes you feel closer or more distant towards others? Try and explore with the group what you notice.
The expression of emotion will have far greater value than the expression of ideas or information. Try and take the risk to let yourself be emotionally available to others.