2 MayAdvantages Of Group Therapy For Teens And Young Adults by Jessyka Venchkoski, LCSW Group therapy offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and healing in a supportive and structured environment. It has been proven to be particularly effective for teens and young adults, who often face a myriad of mental health and psychosocial challenges during adolescence and emerging adulthood. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of group therapy for teens and young adults, the different types of group therapy available, and how to get the most out of your group therapy experience. What Is Group Therapy? Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a group of individuals meet in-person or virtually to discuss their challenges together under the supervision and facilitation of one or more therapists. Anyone can participate in group therapy, including children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. There are open groups, meaning the group is open to people joining at any time, and closed groups, in which all members begin the group at the same time. Participating in both enhances one’s personal growth, increases the likelihood that changes will last, and personal goals will be met. It is important to consider which type of therapy, individual or group, is right for you. In this article, we will review the advantages of group therapy for teens and young adults, as research continues to support the efficacy of group therapy for these age groups. Before we get to the advantages, let’s look at the different types of group therapy. Types of Group Therapy As described on Medical News Today, there are many types of group therapy that focus on specific mental health concerns: Social Anxiety Generalized Anxiety Disorder Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Depression Substance Abuse Disorder Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder … and more. There are other types of groups that help people dealing with other concerns: Grief Obesity Chronic Pain Chronic Illness Weight Loss Anger Management Domestic Violence Caregiver Burnout … and more. How Teen Group Therapy Works Group therapy is shown to be highly effective in addressing and improving mental health and psychosocial challenges often faced by teens and young adults during adolescence and emerging adulthood years. Skilled therapists who specialize in working with teens and young adults pull from research-based therapeutic modalities including CBT, DBT, Play Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, and more to help teens develop their abilities to be effective, competent, and satisfied in their lives. The reasons some people shy away from groups are the same reasons group therapy would be helpful to them. On that challenging note, let’s look at some of the advantages of group therapy. A few of the advantages of therapy include: Support from peers: Group therapy provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who are going through similar struggles. Group therapy offers members the opportunity to receive counseling with their peers, which reduces the stigma around mental health treatment, increases prosocial behavior, and provides teens with healthy bonding opportunities in which bullying and out-casting are not permitted. Increased self-awareness: Group therapy lends members a uniquely valuable opportunity to receive feedback from others in a compassionate, structured environment. Hearing other group members share their experiences and perspectives can promote the development of insight into one’s own thoughts and behaviors. The sharing experience is extremely empowering, especially for teens and young adults who may be struggling to find out who they are and who they want to be. Learning social skills: Group therapy can help individuals develop and practice communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills in a safe and supportive setting. Group work can enhance social skills through games, role-play, in-group conflict resolution, and guided group work. The group therapist will host activities that help individuals learn how to share, take turns, empathetically listen, respectfully disagree, and make friendships. For many, explicitly learning about body language and paraverbal communication are helpful lessons to learn. Cost-effective: Group therapy is often more affordable than individual therapy, making it a more accessible option for teens and young adults. Additionally, there are sometimes waitlists for intakes with an individual therapist. Group therapy is sometimes an equally effective mental health treatment that should be considered in the interim or as an alternative. Reduced isolation: Group therapy can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing a sense of community and belonging. Experiencing acceptance by a peer group is fundamental for teens. Group therapy is unique in that it offers teens the chance to bond with peers their age and to experience positive, prosocial outcomes. Feedback and validation: Group members can offer feedback and validation to each other, which can be particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with low self-esteem or self-doubt. As hard as it can be to receive constructive feedback, a group setting allows individuals to receive this feedback in a therapeutic way, which increases personal insight. Validation coming from a peer can be deeply reassuring to teens and young adults who may be experiencing isolation or feeling out-casted in other settings. Increased motivation: Being part of a group can increase motivation and accountability to work towards personal goals and make positive changes in one’s life. In group therapy, teens realize they are not alone in their feelings and can be empowered to take different perspectives on how to solve their problems or work towards their goals. When teens realize their goals have been achieved by their peers in the group, they can be inspired to work harder towards their goals as they see it work out for their peers. Group Therapy FAQs What if no one likes the new me after therapy? It’s totally normal to wonder how people will like the “new you” when you’ve made personal progress. Keep in mind that your personal growth is for you, and those who support you and your wellness will validate and respect your positive changes. As we grow, we may see our environment and social world differently than before. In some friendships, it’s helpful to consider how our friends fit into our lives after we’ve grown, and how we fit into theirs. Just as we grow and change, friendships do too. Sometimes our changes will inspire positive change in others. Sometimes when we grow, we may feel we’ve outgrown others, and need to create new connections. Consider that we cannot always know what other people are thinking and feeling. This would be a great question to bring up in a group setting to hear what others would have to say! Do therapists give advice (and should they)? Therapy is a deep and meaningful process of personal development that is not based on advice giving. If someone is seeking advice for an issue, a trained therapist would not give an opinion as this is not part of their training or role. A therapist can help one better understand their motivations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through introspection, productive questioning to provoke new thoughts and perspectives, psychodynamic analysis, skills-building, and more. However, advice giving is not a practice for therapy. How to get the most out of your group therapy There are many important things to consider when starting group therapy. For someone new to group therapy, we suggest these three points: Set an intention or goal before beginning group therapy: This will serve as your focus when you begin treatment and should be revisited as you attend your group. You can use this intention as a way of measuring your growth, and you should adjust your goal as you grow and learn more about yourself. It is a great personal practice to see how the goal changes as you grow through therapy! Practice being authentic in the group: Challenge yourself to bring your true self into the room. This includes being honest, challenging yourself to speak up and share your ideas, and to respectfully disagree. This will help you and the others learn and grow. Authenticity is an important ingredient for long-lasting personal change! Be open to feedback from your peers and group therapist: Inviting others’ perspectives of you allows you to learn more about yourself. Learning how to hear others’ perspectives, that may be good, neutral, or constructive, can increase your tolerance for others’ opinions. If you find yourself feeling defensive, lean into the discomfort with curiosity. The more you remain curious, the more you will gain. How can I get started with group therapy? Group therapy is often offered at mental health practices and clinics. Call your local practices to find out more. For group therapy options with Lukin Center, contact us to find out more today.