Importance of Groups

Groups are crucial in the treatment setting. Their importance can’t possibly be overemphasized.

The Group ExperiencE

Treatment groups represent a small society. Groups are made up of individuals from different backgrounds, life experiences, cultures, races, ethnic groups, religious groups, sexual orientations, and genders…each with a wide range of interests, values, hopes, and goals. (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

Groups provide an atmosphere for personal growth. A person can begin to see the value of individual contributions of other group members as well as their own. The process of learning to accept others includes recognizing, respecting, and honoring the individuality of each person in the group. When a person accepts others, they also begin to develop their own sense of self-identity, self-respect, and self-acceptance. (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

The group process is an excellent place to learn and practice new skills like self-disclosing with others, giving and receiving feedback, developing trust, and practicing good communication skills. As a person practices these skills and behaviors in group, they are able to use them in their interactions with others outside the group. (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

Benefits of GrouP

The benefits of the group process are vast, and can include (Adapted from Berger, 1990): (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

  1. The realization a person is not alone in the problems they are experiencing.
  2. A safe place to experiment with things a person has never tried before because there is no such thing as failure, only new experiences to grow from and learn about.
  3. The opportunity to be more open and discover a person’s undiscovered potential.
  4. An excellent start toward a life of honesty and openness.
  5. An opportunity to talk to someone in a way never tried before.
  6. An atmosphere that allows a person to see through their blind spots as the group helps a person see things in themselves they have never realized before.
  7. An opportunity to express fear, sadness, anger, or an emotion never expressed before with the support of others.
  8. The experience of trying new, healthy behaviors that lead to learning how to trust oneself and develop self-awareness by acknowledging one’s own unique abilities.

Of course, individuals in treatment benefit from individual sessions. However, it is in the group where a person can learn and practice the skills necessary to live in the community, which is a major therapeutic goal of all treatment (Galanter, Gastenda & Ferman, 1988; Regier, Farmer Rae, Locke, Keith, Judd & Goodwin, 1990).

Getting The Most Out of The Group ProcesS

Each person gets out of group what he or she personally puts into it. The benefit of the group process only comes about by becoming involved in it. People learn to socialize, problem solve, and develop connections with others when they practice interacting with one another, practice communicating with others, practice listening skills, practice taking responsibility, and practice validating each other or sharing concerns. (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

In other words, they learn to be a part of a community, which is exactly what their interactions outside of group are all about. Interacting also allows people to learn things about themselves and have insights into their strengths, self-defeating behaviors, and areas they might wish to improve upon to enhance their relationships with others. (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

These skills don’t come naturally to anyone who has been isolated from others because of Psychiatric or Substance Disorders. If you wait to have a better relationship with yourself and others without practicing the skills of respectful interaction, it simply won’t happen. It takes practice (Excerpt from THE BASICS)

Psychoeducation Located in THE BASICS

The curriculum in THE BASICS, Second Edition covers a vast amount of topics and content of the skills that can be practiced inside of group and then transferred to living in the community as well as managing symptoms of psychiatric and substance use disorders outside the group. Just a very few of these include: 

  1. Focusing on similarities and not
  2. Exploring barriers to change.
  3. Weighing the “I want to” and the “I don’t want to” of change.

From Rhonda McKillip to Service Providers:
It’s a great honor to have a person share their “story” with us. To tell us their fears, struggles, accomplishments, and secrets – their successes, embarrassments, hopes, and dreams.

To let us know how life is today and how it would be if all the problems magically disappeared. Motivational Interviewing Exercise (Sources: Miller, Scott D., Duncan, Barry L. & Hubble, Mark A., 1997; Miller, Scott D., Hubble, Mark A., & Duncan, Barry L. (Eds.), 1996. Sciacca, Kathleen. 2002):

Miracle Question?
Suppose one night, while you are asleep, there is a miracle and the problem that brought you here is solved. However, because you are asleep you don’t know the miracle has already happened.

  1. When you wake up in the morning, what will be different that will tell you that this miracle has taken place?
  2. Now imagine a time in the future when the problem no longer exists…What will it be like for you?
  3. How will your life be different?
  4. Who will be the first to notice?
  5. What will he or she do or say?
  6. How will you respond?

This type of exploration allows us to be an ally in their journey of the “in between” of getting from the “here” to the “there” of their personal vision or goals. It helps each person realize that treatment is about practicing skills – where there is no right or wrong – because practice is what makes every skill like learning to fish or cook or ride a bicycle actually become a skill.    Best wishes, Rhonda McKillip

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