Group Therapy is Not Torture!
By: Christy Aloisio
August 19, 2011

You should see the look on my clients faces when I suggest they go to group therapy. You would think I asked them to jump into a tank full of sharks with a cut on their leg. Rarely do I have a client run to group therapy with excitement and optimism. Whenever I do, I consider myself lucky, because it saves me having to convince someone why group therapy is a good thing. The simple fact is clients that go to group do much better with their work and recovery than those who do not. It works!

The story I share most about how group can help you involves Nikki and Joe. Nikki was reactive, angry, and suffers from abandonment issues. Every time she perceived her husband as abandoning her, she would yell, scream, and even hit him because “he did not love her.” Even simple things like him going to the grocery store and forgetting one thing that she had asked him to get would result in these outbursts. Nikki sat in my office week after week acting the same way. I told her over and over again, “You are being reactive. This is your abandonment. Do you see how you are treating your husband?” Week after week she did not hear me. I thought there was a pretty good chance each week when they left; I would never see them again. But sure enough, they kept coming. I had been encouraging group therapy for Nikki, and she finally joined.

There was a guy John in the group that Nikki joined. His story was very similar to hers, the only difference was he was like Joe and his wife was like Nikki. Nikki did not put this together at first. They were in group together for many weeks and Nikki really started to connect with John as a therapy buddy. They were friends and she cared about his well being. One day in group, she was sharing a story about one of her blow ups with her husband because he “had not heard her.” She shared how out of control she had gotten, but that if Joe would have just listen to her these blow ups would not happen. John was really relating to what Joe might feel like because his wife would do the same thing to him. He looked at Nikki and said, “You are a bully.” I thought I was going to have to go over to her and pick her mouth up off the floor. She was shocked that someone would say something like this to her. She isn’t a bully! Or wait, is she?

Some people would gasp at the fact someone would say something of this magnitude. That it would be hurtful and hinder someone’s recovery. In fact it did the exact opposite. Sometimes we need to hear things we do not want to hear. That’s the whole point. To have someone tell us something we do not like about ourselves, to see the truth, can be life changing. The truth of who we are. Only then can we change it, when we know what we need to change. I had been telling her this for weeks. She needed someone who was in her husband’s situation that she cared about to help her with this insight. Sitting in group with John, Nikki would always feel bad for John when he was sharing stories about the way his wife would rage on him, but she could never make the connection that she was doing the same thing to her husband. I could have said the same thing for many more weeks, or even years. She needed someone to “smack her over the head” so to speak and John was just the guy to do it. She would have most likely never changed or been able to do much work on herself without this experience. It catapulted her recovery in amazing ways! She is very seldom “a bully” with her husband anymore. He feels safe with her and able to open up more and share with her. Their marriage is improving in great ways!

Everyone is nervous the first time they go to group. I would be worried about them if they weren’t. But group is a place to make connections, and to have a safe place to be vulnerable and to be able to work on you. Run don’t walk to group therapy! Be ready to change your life!

I run two groups during the week at Family Tree Counseling. One group is Tuesday 5:45-7:15 pm and one Thursday 7:15-8:45 pm. Please call or email me for more information on these groups!
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