10 benefits of group therapy and 5 signs you may not be ready (yet)
The Idea of Group Therapy
Group therapy is an underutilized therapy tool for adults with acquired brain injury. I’ve found that many of my clients initially aren't aware of how much group therapy could benefit them. Some are nervous about the whole idea.
The majority of my work is with people who have suffered acquired brain injuries. These survivors are often faced with many challenges, beyond the physical, that aren't as easily seen or heard - re-establishing a sense of self and overcoming not just communication difficulties, but the hurdles created by them.
Communication difficulties come in many varieties. No matter the type of communication problem, struggling to communicate with others has a profound negative impact on the individual. They affect one's sense of self.
In my years of experience facilitating group therapy, I've been delighted to see how extremely effective it has been, in putting my clients at ease with who and where they are in the present moment. Further, group therapy has shown my clients where they want to be and has been one of the strongest tools used to get them there.
10 great benefits of group therapy
- An opportunity to practice your skills in a supportive environment
- An opportunity to receive feedback from a therapist on difficulties that arise in natural conversations with others
- An opportunity to learn to use newly practiced skills outside of structured activities (this allows for generalization** of skills)
- An opportunity to gain emotional support from others who understand your predicament --- they are going through it too
- An opportunity to gain new ideas and techniques that worked for other people in the same or similar situation
- An opportunity to see how far you’ve come and receive positive feedback from peers on your accomplishments
- An opportunity to be inspired by the successes of others in the group and promote personal goal setting
- An opportunity to be heard and listened to by people who really understand
- An opportunity to ask questions and get answers
- An opportunity to be yourself and not be afraid of being judged
5 reasons you might not be ready for a group therapy (yet)
- If you have a communication problem and have not been assessed by a speech-language pathologist yet, you should do so. We need to know how you are struggling so we can help you with strategies and provide feedback during the group sessions. Once you have been assessed by us, or by another S-LP, and we feel you’re a good fit with one of the groups we have running, you are ready.
- If you have a severe sensitivity to light or noise, the group environment might be over-stimulating for you. Some clients have had success by wearing sunglasses to the groups. We have dimmed the lights to accommodate individuals. In other cases, clients have started by attending for brief periods of time and gradually increased their ability to participate for longer durations.
- In order to participate, one needs a basic communication system. Systems can include natural speech, use of computerized speech output, alphabet boards, or other methods or combinations of methods. If you have not yet sorted out a way to communicate that works for you, you will first need 1:1 therapy with a Speech-Language Pathologist to get a system in place.
- If you experience frequent behavioral outbursts, and cannot yet calm yourself effectively when given support, you are not quite ready to join a group session with us. Working with a variety of professionals on emotional control will likely be important for you. These professionals could include Psychologists, and/or Behavioral Therapists, and/or Occupational Therapists and/or S-LPs.
- You must feel ready. For some, the idea of speaking in front of others is terrifying. If that is you, ask your S-LP to have you practice communicating with unfamiliar people in groups of 3 (you, your therapist, and one other person). Try to increase the length of time you feel comfortable doing this. Start with a short interaction --- like a conversation with a server at a restaurant you enjoy. When you are feeling a bit more at ease, please join us.
In the words of one of my long-standing clients, “Group has brought me out of my shell, and that it is such a good feeling to know that there are others out there that know how your feeling despite the severity.”
Have you ever thought about it? Perhaps group therapy can help you too.
Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.