How Does Group Therapy Work? Alex Explains…

Alex, who graduated a few months ago, shares her experience of group therapy in her recovery…#inspired

When I first started groups at Recover I didn’t really understand their point. I thought perhaps it was a way of lots of clients seeing a therapist at the same time, perhaps to save money. I got why people talked to the therapist in the room but when people started talking to each other I always felt I was missing out on the therapist’s words of wisdom and longed for the conversation to end.

That was until I started ED Process Group. I still didn’t really understand how not talking about issues outside of the group could help me with my problems outside of the group. But gradually the point became clear to me. Groups and relationships are part of our every day life, from family to friendships to work, and to work on my role within a group was an opportunity you wouldn’t normally get.

For example, as I gradually started being self-aware during these groups I realised when I was intimidated, when I felt less important and when I felt engaged. Other group members gave me feedback and although it was terrifying being told how other people felt around me, it always gave me insight into the energy I put out.

Every group I went to was different. Some days I was angry, some days sad and some days happy. But no matter what the feeling, it was explored without being approved or disapproved of. If someone felt anxious that was their feeling and that was explored with them. Above all, the groups taught me that our feelings are our responsibility, and no person’s feelings and thoughts are worthless – we all need and deserve to take space.

Slowly and then all at once, my personal life started to transform. Peoples’ reactions weren’t about me anymore – I could bring what I wanted to share and see other peoples’ reactions as interesting, rather than scary or my fault. I noticed how I felt in conversations too and rather than judging myself I set out to explore the feeling and how it related to my personal fears and worries.

Then about two years later, after graduating from Recover, I entered the world of work and meetings. Meetings which once would have been terrifying. My new job involves talking to people from all across the company and sitting in meetings with them. Often I am the most junior member of staff sitting in with ‘high up’ people.

Before I would’ve stayed quiet, not contributing. On one level I would’ve felt self-conscious: am I wearing the right thing? Am I the fattest person in this meeting? What about that spot on my chin? Secondly, I wouldn’t have believed my opinion was worth hearing. Surely it wouldn’t sway peoples’ opinions? My job is far too unimportant. Anyway, the meeting will be over faster if I say nothing.

Sure, except now I can’t stay quiet. I say what comes to my mind because it may well be important. It’s that thing your mum tells you about school – if you’re confused then other people in the room probably are too. I learnt to rely on myself and value my intuitions – now if I have a burning question and ignore it, I feel I’m ignoring and invalidating a part of myself. Speaking out liberates my inner self and frees me up to come up with even more ideas.

A recent diary entry I made:

“There used to be all these thoughts and feelings that stopped me from talking in group situations, like ropes wrapping around me somehow. Those ropes just aren’t there anymore. Nothing stops me like it used to. I am free.”

What’s next?

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