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The Importance of Group Counseling: Finding Identity Through Community

Published June 13th, 2022 by Mfarin42

According to the National Mental Health Alliance, one in five US adults experiences mental health issues every year. In other words, if you are struggling, you are not alone. As the stigma around getting help continues to decrease, more and more people are seeking mental health services.

One helpful option may be group counseling. These groups allow you to receive help from a trained professional while also developing a supportive community of people who understand what you are going through. Keep reading to find out more about group counseling and a few reasons why it might be right for you.

Shared Identity

There are many types of group counseling to choose from. Choosing a group based on your identity, diagnosis, or other issues could be beneficial.

Options could include grief counseling groups or LGBTQ group counseling. Other groups might focus on specific issues, such as bipolar disorder, addiction, self-injury, etc.

The reason this is so important is that this shared identity will help you forge a deeper community within these groups. Once you have a strong community to support you, it is much easier to face any of these issues. Additionally, being around people who truly understand what you're going through can help you feel less alone and hopeless.

Several studies have shown that being part of a community consistently improves mental health. Some studies have found a direct link between social support and decreased stress. This can also improve mental health. 

Furthermore, this is important because many people in minority groups feel extremely isolated. This can lead to hopelessness, depression, suicidality, and other issues. However, being able to hear from people who have gone through similar things can make a serious difference.

New Perspectives

Another reason why group counseling can be effective is that it allows you to hear from other people. They might be from a different walk of life from you, and you can learn from their lived experience.

Other group members might have also experienced what you are going through now and have some words of advice to offer. They might also be able to offer comfort that your situation will end, as they are proof that it is survivable.

In group counseling and in life, everyone has a story to tell, and it's a story worth telling. You never know what you might learn from listening to someone and their story. This also means you will have the opportunity to share your story, which could be important for someone else to hear.

Group Vulnerability

When seeking out mental health services for the first time, many people are concerned about how they will open up to a therapist. However, one of the benefits of group counseling is that it can be a little easier to begin to share your thoughts and experiences.

One of the reasons it can be difficult to open up in a one-on-one counseling session is that any vulnerability is one-sided, as the counselor should remain professional. However, it can be hard to be the only person being vulnerable.

In group sessions, other group members will be sharing their struggles as well, so you don't have to be the only one. What's more, other people in the group have likely felt the same way you have, and being vulnerable becomes easier when you have others around you to say they've been there too.

Another advantage of group counseling can be that you can open up at your own pace. If you don't want to share your darkest moments with the group during the first session, you don't have to. While you are expected to participate, you can move at your own pace.

Guidance From a Mental Health Professional

The unique advantage of group counseling is that you have access to a mental health professional, but you can also enjoy the benefits of a group. It can be hard to admit you might need help from a professional, but if you are experiencing some of these signs, it might be helpful.

The group leader is usually a certified therapist. They are there to guide the discussion, suggest healthy alternatives, and help you notice patterns of thought and behavior. They will not judge you or give you all the answers, but simply provide guidance when necessary.

Learn to Support Others

An advantage of group counseling that might not be immediately obvious is that you learn to support others well. As you listen to the other group members and begin to validate their experiences and show them compassion, you will likely find yourself starting to better support the other people in your life.

Participating in group therapy can also improve your active listening skills. It can be easy to listen to respond rather than listen to truly understand the other, but in group therapy, you can strengthen your ability to genuinely focus on what someone is saying and validate their feelings. This will make you an even better partner, parent, friend, etc.

Normalize Sharing Your Struggles

Many people who experience mental health issues are uncomfortable talking about their struggles with their friends, family, partner, or whomever they are close to. However, as you become gradually more comfortable sharing in a group setting, it could give you the confidence to include your loved ones in your mental health journey.

It is important to note that not every person is worth opening up to and you don't owe the details of your story to anyone in your life. However, there are likely people in your life who want to love and support you in your struggles, and going to group counseling might be the first step towards learning to let them in.

Ready to Try Group Counseling?

Now that you know a little more about group counseling and its benefits, are you ready to take advantage of this mental health service? It can be intimidating at first, but your mental and emotional well-being are certainly worth it.

If you are located in New York City, Westchester, or Long Island and are interested in finding out more about group counseling, please contact us today. We would be more than happy to partner with you in your mental health journey.

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