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Group therapy – a powerful tool for growth and change

Group therapy is increasingly being viewed as a powerful tool for growth and change!

There is a lot of literature and research that demonstrates that sufferers of complex trauma stemming from child sexual abuse, violence, and attachment face many challenges forming and managing interpersonal relationships. They will also experience a broad range of psychological and interpersonal difficulties encompassing mood, anxiety, trauma and personality.

And while many people realise the benefits of therapy in recovery from trauma, this therapy is generally seen as a one to one activity between one client and one therapist. But research shows that group therapy can be just as, if not more, effective than individual therapy in helping sufferers of complex trauma. It can assist people suffering complex trauma to grow and connect in a safe, supportive space.

In what are known as “process groups”, 5-10 individuals meet face to face to share their struggles and concerns in a group with two trained group therapists. The power of process groups lies in the unique opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in safe and confidential environment. These interpersonal interactions can provide group members an opportunity to deepen their level of self-awareness and to learn how they relate to others. Through identifying patterns, personal presentations, unrecognised attitudes, and inconsistencies, participants gain an array of interpersonal and social skills that help them in their daily life.

For survivors of complex trauma, breaking the secrecy and overcoming the stigma and shame is especially effective in the group context. The experience of sharing and reliving common experiences powerfully facilitates entrance into the world of adult relationships. It creates connectedness, helping to overcome any disconnection previously felt.

Unexpressed feelings can be a major reason why people experience difficulties and distress. As individuals in process groups begin interacting freely with other group members, they usually re-experience or recreate some of the interpersonal difficulties that brought them to the group in the first place. As the group develops, participants increase their self-awareness, develop new ways of relating to people, and learn new adaptive behaviours and they make progress towards their personal goals that brought them to the group.