Group psychotherapy is a powerful and rewarding treatment modality in which changes can occur rapidly. Group therapy provides an opportunity to share your concerns with other peers. This experience allows you to be both supported and challenged by others who, like you, are interested in growth and self-understanding. All of this occurs in a setting of safety and trust, with the opportunity to receive different perspectives, learn, and grow. As group members allow themselves to invest in the group experience, they begin noticing positive changes in their personal and professional relationships outside of the group.
All groups that I lead operate in an interpersonal process format, based on the principles espoused by Irvin Yalom. What this means is that while we do some of the typical supportive work one usually associates with group therapy, the real magic occurs in the "here-and-now" interpersonal interaction. To understand this concept, a key distinction must be made between process and content. Content is the actual subject material discussed. An example of content would be when a person shares her or his relationship breakup story the content in this case would refer to the story itself and its many details. Process, on the other hand, is where the energy lies. Process is HOW that story is experienced in the given moment and conveyed to others. Imagine the many different ways in which that breakup story could be shared and experienced by this individual. It could be delivered in a tearful manner or perhaps with an angry voice or maybe with a quiet, somber tone or perhaps in a humorous, nonchalant way which suggests that the person doesn't really care.
Now that you have an understanding of what process and content are, let's come back to the idea of the "here and now" interpersonal interaction. In my groups, I focus on the process occurring between the different group members in any given moment. How are the group members interacting with each other? Who takes the lead? Who tends to be quiet? These are just two of many interaction styles. We tend to learn patterns of interacting with others based on our own personal experiences and developmental relationships. Examples might include the individual who learns that he or she needs to be aggressive and argumentative to be heard by others, or the person who is a "control freak" and likes to manage her or his anxiety by tightly managing her or his relationships. While these interpersonal patterns can be adaptive at times, they also can get us into relationship difficulties. Sometimes we have an awareness of these patterns (but still have difficulty controlling them), and sometimes we have limited to no awareness of them.
In group, all of these patterns come to the surface. Through feedback from the therapist and other group members, each individual begins to have greater awareness of her or his relationship patterns and behaviors. And since group is a microcosm (sample) of the types of relationship interactions we have in real life, group members become more skilled at applying their newfound awareness to their relationships outside of group. This can result in significantly improved personal and professional relationships.
I have a great deal of experience leading groups. In addition to general groups, I have led groups focusing on rape and trauma, addiction, pain management, stress management, and men's issues. Ironically, the themed groups often end up discussing issues that we might consider to be "general group" issues. Oftentimes, more universal aspects of the human experience - such as the quest to truly know oneself, the need to be understood, the wish for love and fellowship, the struggle to cope with pain and loss - become expressed through symptoms.