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How are Therapy Groups and Support Groups Different?

How are Therapy Groups and Support Groups Different?

When you are invited to join a therapy group, you may wonder how it will be different from a support group and what benefit you could gain from the therapy group. Here are some differences and things you can expect..

Both types of groups tend to have ground rules that make progress inside the group happen  more smoothly.  One example is confidentiality which is sometimes summed up as:

What is said in the group stays in the group.

This establishes an atmosphere of safety and allows group members to speak more freely.  There is usually a set time to begin and end.  

Most support groups focus on a particular issue.  It may be a group designed to support people who have a particular illness.  It could be a group that has a focus on helping its members make the transition from marriage to divorce.  Or the group could be intended to support those who have lost a child.  In a support group, the discussion usually centers around the issue the group members have in common.  Sometimes there is a group leader, sometimes not.  The group may choose topics relevant to their particular issue and ask speakers to come and give them information about strategies for dealing with the issue at hand.  Problem solving may be a focus for the group.  

A therapy group does not usually convene around a particular issue, though it can.  Typically, a therapy group is designed to examine the underlying issues that each member brings to the group. Through discussion, feedback from group members, and guidance from the therapist who leads the group, individuals have the opportunity to discover patterns in their behavior and interactions with others that no longer serve them.  In this safe environment, they can try new ways to communicate and interact with others.

Occasionally, a group is formed that has characteristics of both kinds of group.  For example, a therapy group designed for people with a chronic illness may have characteristics of a support group and still function therapeutically.  The support offered could be in the form of information about the particular disease and group sharing of experiences with diagnosis, medical personnel, and ways to relieve symptoms.

The therapeutic side of group meetings could include examining individual methods for coping with the disease and finding ways to accept the diagnosis and resume living as full a life as possible.  As with any therapy group, members are encouraged to tell their story as group members get to know each other.  They may discuss behavior patterns and how their interactions with family and friends have been affected by the onset of disease.  As with any therapy group, the group tends to take a deeper look at issues than support groups.  The group leader guides and supports this process.

If you have questions or wish to find a therapy group suited to your needs, talk to your therapist or get in touch with a Vermont Talk therapist.

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