The Benefits of Group Therapy

By Nicki Line LMHC, LAPC, CST

Have you ever wondered what group therapy is, or what the point of group treatment would be for you? Depending on the issue, joining a group can be a helpful choice for making positive life changes.
Group therapy is a form of therapy where a small, selected group of people meet with a therapist, usually weekly. The purpose of group therapy is to help each person with emotional growth and problem solving. Sometimes a person can do both individual and group therapy, while others may only do a group.

According to Dr. Irvin Yalom in his book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy identified 11 curative factors that are the “primary agents of change” in group therapy:

1. Installation of Hope: People come to a group to improve their lives. Each person in the group is at a different place in their emotional growth and can offer hope and inspiration to others by showing what they have learned and overcome.

2. Universality: Many who begin group therapy may feel isolated and alone. Being part of a group can help people feel understood and have a sense of belonging. Especially if you are apart of a small niche population such as sex work.

3. Information Giving: A big part of many therapy groups is increasing knowledge of a common problem. This helps members help themselves and others with the same or similar problems.

4. Altruism: The ability to help others in the group is a source of self esteem and increases self worth, especially in those that do not  think they have anything to offer others.

5. Corrective recapitulation of the primary family: Some people in group therapy may have stress or conflict in their family. The group can become a form of a family that can offer support and acceptance.

6. Improved Social Skills: Social learning, or the development of social skills, is something that occurs in therapy groups. Members offer feedback to each other about their behavior in ways that can improve relationships both in and outside of group.

7. Imitative Behavior: The therapist models appropriate prosocial behaviors such as active listening, non-judgemental feedback, and support. Over the course of the group the members can pick up on these behaviors and integrate them into their own behaviors. This can lead to improved social skills and self esteem.

8. Interpersonal Learning: Being a group can be an opportunity for members to work on their ability to relate to others and improve relationships.

9. Group cohesiveness: Wanting to belong to a group a main motivation for human behavior. Group therapy can help people feel accepted and valued. This is an important healing factor if members have felt isolated.

10. Catharsis: The release of conscious or unconscious feelings gives members a great sense of relief. Yalom states that it is a type of emotional learning, as opposed to intellectual understanding, that can lead to immediate and long lasting change.

11. Existential Factors: Groups can explore and process issues such as death, isolation, and meaninglessness and help them accept difficult realities.

Joining a group of strangers can seem intimidating at first, however, joining a group can provide benefits that individual therapy alone may not, such as providing a support network. Other group members can help formulate solutions and hold each member accountable for change. Also talking with and listening to others can help put problems in perspective. Others may share similar struggles and give each member the experience that they are not alone. Diverse feedback is another benefit of participating in a group. Each members’ personality and background can help examine problems in different ways. Members can learn many different strategies for tackling issues.

Intern Spotlight: Meet Sara Mercier-Kennedy

M.S. Clinical Mental Health Intern

Graduated from Colorado State University with a double Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology, where I focused on Gender Identity formation, and LGBTQIA+ issues.  Specifically those in relation to the Transgender population and access to health-care and mental health counseling by knowledgeable counseling professionals and doctors.  I then went on to my Master’s at Walden University where I continued this track and become actively involved in the ACA’s ALGBTIC division and served on a the committee for making language in documentation more accessible and gender neutral.  I picked up a specialization in Crisis & Trauma after working for Hospice and volunteering at the local LGBT center’s around my hometown and university.  Eventually I made my way to Florida from Colorado.  Gamer/Neet/Anime Weeb and all around enjoyer of life’s little self-care routines.

My main mission is to provide a safe, empathetic, and understanding environment for clients to explore who they are regardless of where they have been.  Healing begins by understanding ourselves, and through exploration of those things that have brought us joy as-well-as pain.  Understanding and acceptance of ourselves can ultimate lead us to not only the most authentic version of ourselves, but  a self that can truly accept others as well.

Sara is a great addition to our Harmony team. If you would like to set up a consult or session with Sara please contact HarmonyUS Inc by calling or text 209-867-7233.

How to Identify and Provide Safe Food for Bulimics

Contrary to popular belief, bulimia does not only affect young teenage girls. Bulimia also affects adult women and young teenage boys and adult men too. Overcoming this eating disorder may take months or even years depending on the individual. One of the ways that could help a bulimic patient overcome this eating disorder is to identify safe food that they could eat on a regular basis. These foods will be non-guilty food and will also provide all the nutrition that they need.

First, ask the bulimic patient to keep a diary of food they have eaten for at least a week. The diary should be very detailed and includes everything that was consumed and the emotions that they experienced with the different food. They have to write too if they had purged after eating that food. Remind them to write in their journal immediately right after eating or purging.

Then review the diary together with the patient. Work out which food causes negative associations and which food has a positive experience.  List all the negative food under a page entitled foods to avoid. Write down all the food that patients purged on that page too. Then list down all the positive emotion food under a list entitled safe food. Work out which food that the patient has ate but did not purge and add it under that list. The safe food list should also contain fruits and vegetables the patients will enjoy.

Next, together with the patient, create a weekly eating plan made of safe food. The plan should include each meal for each day and any snacks. Work out a grocery list with instructions to purchase the right amount of safe food for each meal. Remember to limit the number of days of food that they are allowed to purchase. This will prevent them from going on a bingeing spree. You could also work out recipes that are easy to follow and fast to prepare for the convenience of the patient.

In conclusion, with this food journal, the bulimic patient will now be able to eat healthily without feeling guilty. It is a never ending process but tell them to be patient and never give in to their cravings. Be there for them!

7 Signs of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating then followed by efforts to avoid gaining weight by any means necessary. For example, a bulimic would eat large amount of food then they would feel guilty of the huge amount of calories they have just consumed. Feeling so guilty, they would try eliminating the food through purging, fasting, using laxatives, excessive exercising and crash diets. All this defines a bulimic. So what are the signs of binge eating, purging and the physical signs that a bulimic will exhibit.

Binge eating

  1. There is a lack of control when eating. They are unable to stop eating. They are usually eating large amount of food with no obvious change in weight. Furthermore, they may consume large amount of food in a short period of time.
  2. They are usually alternating between overeating and fasting. After a binge eating spree, they would feel guilty and spend the next day fasting.

Purging signs

  1. Going to a bathroom after meals. There will be vomit smell in the toilet after they have used it.
  2. They might be using laxatives, diuretics or enema. So check your medicine cabinet if any medications are missing. Or they are always frequently going to the pharmacy to purchase these medications
  3. Excessive exercising. They are always working strenuously just to lose the calories that they’ve consumed during their overeating binge.

Physical signs

  1. Discolored teeth from exposure to stomach acid. Their teeth might be yellow or ragged.
  2. Puffy chipmunk cheeks from repeated vomiting.

These are only a few of the signs and symptoms that you may see in a bulimic. If you do observe any changes in your loved ones, it might be time to seek professional help, before this problem escalates and becomes life threatening.

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