Since being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in 2006, I have attended numerous group therapies as part of my treatment. Group therapy offered me many benefits, the most significant being the feeling that I was no longer alone. What can you expect from group?
1. There will be someone there that is trained to facilitate a group. This person might be a social worker, a mental health worker, nurse, doctor or even a peer that has been trained. Some groups have two facilitators to help introduce topics and get people talking.
2. Most groups have a standard set of rules. These may include confidentiality (usually anything you say is confidential, however if you talk about harming yourself or someone else they may have to report it for safety), discussion around showing respect, and participation. They’re not so much rules as they are guidelines. Some groups are really strict about there being no contact outside of the groups and others encourage building relationships.
3. Arrive on time and ready to participate. Participating could mean talking yourself or being an active listener to what others are saying. Arriving on time shows the group that you respect their time as well.
4. Use an open mind. Group can be scary. All these people with their own stories to tell can be overwhelming. You may get triggered by hearing what someone has to say….and remember that you are in a safe environment if you do get triggered. Try to sit through what you may be feeling and do your best not to judge what may be happening.
5. Honesty. If you aren’t being honest in the group, you aren’t getting the benefit of the therapy. And if you aren’t being honest with the other group members, they’re being let down too. Remember honesty doesn’t mean you have a pass to say whatever pops into your head – try to think before you speak and choose your words wisely.
6. Ask questions! There is no such thing as a stupid or silly question in group. Chances are, if the facilitators can’t answer your question, someone in group might have an experience to share.
The idea of sitting in a room full of strangers and talking about sensitive subjects may be overwhelming at first, but if you can trust in the process, your mental health may improve. You can try finding groups in your area but talking to your family doctor, psychiatrist or local mental health clinic.