“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller
This month I found the courage to do something that I have been wanting to do for a while… I started a men’s group in my private practice. In the last few years, I have realized that my clients, especially those impacted by addiction, need more than just one-on-one meetings with a therapist. They need friendship, support, direction and a sense that they are not alone, whether as a partner of one battling addiction, or the one battling the addiction. For years I have referred clients to groups outside of my practice, and have seen the benefits they experienced, for themselves and their relationships, through attending groups. After a nudge from my clients, I brushed off my group facilitator hat, which had become quite dusty, and began a men’s group.
I have several clients who are new to therapy. They often have questions about the various types of available therapy and the differences between them all. I want to take the time to delve into this because I am a firm believer in the power behind group therapy/support groups. This goes back to one of my very first blog posts ever on connection and the strength found in healing with/alongside others. Let’s dive in!
While both support groups and group therapy offer support, the goal of group therapy is to help the participant(s) change, while the goal of support groups is to help members cope. This is a paid service that is quite cost effective; I have seen a two-hour class offered for $50. Group therapy is where an average of members meet to work on a specific issue with the help and supervision of a trained, licensed clinical therapist. The interactions between the group members are a large part of the treatment. Group discussions can be structured and focused on learning and practicing new skills, or they can be more free-flowing and process-oriented. Groups may be time-limited, with a certain number of pre-planned sessions, or they can be ongoing. Group therapy can be a very effective treatment for a wide variety of issues, all of which need a clinician’s expertise. By providing a safe space, groups help improve emotional processing skills, increase self-awareness, promote learning by watching others’ success, encourage self-esteem, and improve social connections.
Support groups are a free resource offered in communities which tend to have a particular theme (that is oftentimes quite broad–like addiction, divorce, new to parenthood, etc) and all who attend have some connection to that theme. Support groups help identify effective coping strategies and skills and typically follow a prescribed structure (ie AA, SA, NA, CODA). Personal sharing is optional. Support groups can be very large and are often open-ended, with members coming and going, attending only when they feel the need. While support groups often have leaders or organizers, they often do not have clinical training and simply act as facilitators. Support groups provide a great support network—participants can find other members in similar circumstances with similar feelings with whom they can share in an open and unedited fashion. The group allows them to be where they are and validates and normalizes what they are feeling. Imagine how powerful and validating it would be to be surrounded by people who not only support you, but understand what you are feeling and going through! These groups help people feel less alone with their problems and in the case of addiction, can provide a powerful level of accountability.
Individual therapy is powerful and empowering for the individual as it allows for more in-depth work. It enables him or her to go out and make changes in his/her world–or to their perspective of the world. Group therapy and support groups, however, foster connection that is like nothing else. Oftentimes that connection comes with a price–meaning that it can be painful to confront the truth/reality of each other’s choices and actions. Just beyond those difficult conversations, however, is a beautiful, deep connection that was hard-earned. Seeing each other’s vulnerabilities, working through them, and maintaining love and support is a powerful buoy to relationships in troubled times. It can become a literal lifeline for someone struggling with addiction or other mental issues.
If you are in search of a particular online or in-person group, ask a therapist for recommendations, search the internet, contact local centers (community centers, libraries, churches, etc.), or ask someone you know in a similar situation for their suggestions. A support group is a powerful reminder that we’re all in this together. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences and find comfort in knowing others have walked a similar path–which enables them to offer understanding and empathy. It is comforting to know we are not broken, just healing, and that we do not need to go it alone. Help is out there! You and/or your loved ones are not in this alone. Please contact me today for recommendations on group options or to schedule a session.
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
- American Psychological Association: POWER IN NUMBERS
- Cluff Counseling: ALCOHOL ANONYMOUS: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
- Cluff Counseling: CHOOSING THE RIGHT THERAPIST FOR YOU
- Cluff Counseling: CREATING CONVERSATION AROUND YOUR MENTAL ILLNESS
- Cluff Counseling: THE MOST FORGOTTEN OF THE HUMAN NEEDS
- Cluff Counseling: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: SUPPORT GROUPS
- Cluff Counseling: SUPPORTING A LOVED ONE THROUGH ALCOHOL ADDICTION
- Desert Health: SUPPORT GROUPS AND THERAPY GROUPS: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
- FSM Statistics: QUOTES ABOUT SUPPORT GROUPS
- Life Stance: Group Therapy vs. Support Group: What’s Right for You?
- MayoClinic: SUPPORT GROUPS: MAKE CONNECTIONS, GET HELP
- PsychCentral: 5 BENEFITS OF GROUP THERAPY
- VeryWellMind: WHAT IS GROUP THERAPY AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
- WebMD: WHAT ARE SUPPORT GROUPS FOR ANXIETY?
- WikiPedia: SUPPORT GROUP, TYPES