Group therapy is extremely similar to one-on-one therapy, and many Americans are using it as an alternative to individual therapy. You are surrounded by members who have also recently gone through a similar experience or act and are now aligned on the same journey. Nowadays there are group therapies hosted through national organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, hospitals for cancer patients or bereavement and private wellness enterprises for domestic or sexual violence victims, as well as mental health patients, among others.
Group therapy has several benefits that one-on-one therapy does not. In groups as small as three or four, and as large as 12, participants share, learn and listen to move through their respective experiences. Research has shown that individuals heal better and faster when surrounded by their peers and those of similar experiences.
Particularly with cancer patients, a cancer diagnosis can be a lot to take in, and even beyond the diagnosis, the day-to-day of cancer treatment can be daunting, emotional, painful, and much more. But, in addition to the obvious things, there are many unforeseen things that you cannot anticipate or know about until you experience them personally. It will take some of your time and energy to attend a group but it will help you care for yourself in a unique way, and enormous strength can be found through the support of those who are going through the same thing you are at the same time.
Some advantages of group therapy are:
All in this together: Group therapy shows group members that they are not alone, and that, while every situation is unique, others are on similar journeys as you. One of the main reasons people think they do not need to join a support group is that they already have close friends and family with whom they can discuss their feelings, get advice and, receive support. And, while that is wonderful and will be very helpful, they cannot truly relate to what you are going through. Your feelings, your darkest fears, your frustrations, your happiness, and anything else will be seen through a new lens when you have a cancer diagnosis and verbalizing that in a group of people who have similar feelings or can understand where you are coming from will provide you a sense of comfort and support that cannot be found elsewhere. Treatment and illness can feel very isolating and a support group will help you realize you are not alone.
Gives hope: Young group members often can see how far older group members have come in their recoveries, which instills hope and determination for the younger ones.
Sharing information: Cancer-specific support groups allow you to connect with other people who can relate to your situation and are navigating the same day-to-day challenges. In addition to finding support and community through a common illness, you will also get the chance to develop coping strategies. The world of cancer, treatment options, pain management and more can be very overwhelming. What works for one may not work for another. Through a support group you can ask for advice or get tips on how to cope with treatment, suggestions for managing conversations with friends and family about a diagnosis, and get the sort of insider information that you need in a convenient and supportive way.
Group bonding: Members have the opportunity to encourage, help and stand in solidarity with other group members as they work toward a common goal. This can bring a sense of purpose and belonging to the group.
Research has actually shown that joining a support group is good for cancer patients. If you are like many others, just like with your treatment plan or medications, you want proof that something will work. And, even if there are many intangible benefits of support groups, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, research shows that there are tangible benefits for cancer patients who join support groups. It should be noted, however, that group therapy is not the answer for everyone and other care options are available.