What is group-analytic therapy?
Group-analytic psychotherapy is an advanced form of group therapy that aims to facilitate significant emotional growth and self-awareness. It differs significantly from the more well know support groups and theme groups that we are familiar with (e.g. anxiety groups). The group-analytic group seeks to provide a complete cost-effective psychotherapy that is at least as effective as in-depth individual psychotherapy.
We have all been shaped by the groups that we have belonged to (for example, family, school and work) and group-analytic therapy uses this same powerful group potential to positive ends. A safe and confidential space is established where up to ten members agree to meet together with a specially trained group conductor, in order to focus on their personal development. These groups are diverse in makeup i.e. they don’t consist of a number of individuals with the same difficulty. This diversity increases the potential for growth by providing a range of perspectives to learn from. This also more closely resembles real life and so provides a more realistic environment in which to develop.
What happens during meetings?
The group meets for 90 minutes on the same day and at the same time each week. No topics of discussion are predetermined and the group is encouraged to openly share their thoughts, feelings and impressions about themselves, each other and their lives. Other members then respond freely by giving feedback or sharing their own associations. No members are required to speak or reveal intimate issues unless they are ready to do so. However, the more openly a person participates the more they stand to gain.
The group conductor listens to the conversation and looks out for what might be being said on an unconscious level. Group conductors are often quite, allow the group to flow and only contribute when they feel they have something valuable to share.
What can I expect to gain?
Ingrained and often unconscious patterns of behaviour unfold as the group starts to engage in an emotionally meaningful way. The setting aims to provide an opportunity for the members to become aware of these patterns and to act as a place in which to learn to change them and try new ways of being.
Members gain a clear understanding of how others see them and experience life. They find ways to accept aspects of them that have been difficult to acknowledge, find opportunity to work through painful past and current experiences and learn to connect in more authentic ways. This in turn leads to better emotional stability, improved relationships and greater maturity.
How long does it take?
This form of group works through establishing a safe and trusting environment in which deep connections are formed. This by definition must be a long-term process. Most difficulties we bring to therapy have formed over many years and take time to shift. How long a person spends in a group will depend on what they want to work on and their degree of commitment. It does take time to settle into a group and so you should only try to establish whether a group is really the right place for you after three months.
Who can benefit?
Group-analytic groups are best suited to adults who are intelligent, reasonably successful and both willing and able to explore themselves honestly. Members must have some social skills although they can expect to develop these skills by engaging in the group. Group-analytic groups make demands on the participants and require that they are able to tolerate emotions. They are generally not suited to individuals suffering from serious mental illness and members must be stable enough to attend and contribute in a sustained and meaningful way.
What does it cost?
Group psychotherapy usually costs between R800.00 and R1000.00 per month. All members are required to attend some (1-4) individual sessions with the group conductor before joining the group. These sessions usually cost a more e.g. R530.00 each.
Vincenzo Sinisi is a Clinical Psychologist in Kenilwoth Cape Town.