The Importance of Group Therapy in the Mental Health Recovery Process

Recovering from mental health challenges is a multifaceted process, and group therapy is one of its cornerstones. By breaking free from isolation, you can acquire a fresh perspective on mental health that will shape your understanding of both others’ and your own, setting the stage for an integrated recovery founded on both professional and peer support.

“We human beings are social beings,” said Lhamo Dondrub, the 14th Dalai Lama. “We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”

A shoulder to lean on when you’re stressed, a friend to go out with when you’re feeling down—from when we’re children on through old age, we rely on others every day of our lives for happiness, for support, for empathy. The comfort of having someone there for you, someone to talk to in your worst moments—someone who not only listens, but understands—is invaluable.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there without a shoulder to lean on. They go through their lives with little to no support network, and many times these people are the ones who need one the most: those suffering from mental health challenges. Being isolated in this way can make you feel lonely, perhaps even different from others, as if you belong on the outskirts of normal society—or simply don’t belong anywhere at all. And yet, you’re not alone. Many others feel much the same way.

If you’re struggling with mental health challenges alone and in silence, you might have trouble seeing hope for recovery. But no matter what kind of struggle you are going through, there is always a lifeline to other people who are struggling with the same feelings of isolation as you. Connecting with these people will remind you that you are not alone and will demonstrate the value of this connection for both your recovery and theirs.

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Breaking Free from Isolation

Never before have humans been more isolated from one another. Current figures suggest that 25% of Americans have absolutely no social support network. The cause could be our increased reliance on technology keeping us in our homes, or perhaps our longer work hours—we’re not really sure yet. What we do know is that social isolation is a risk factor for mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, meaning it’s something that we need to be paying attention to.

Social isolation can be a depressing experience when you’re already living with anxiety, depression, and other problems. It can make the pain of these feelings worse and suppress your desire and motivation to seek help. It can make you feel too embarrassed to ask for help, or ashamed to try and place the weight of your burden on someone else’s shoulders.

It’s important to remember that, despite how you may feel, there is no shame in sharing your burden and finding (or creating) a support network to help you bear it. There are numerous group therapy treatments out there made up of people who want to listen, and who were in the same position as you at one point in their lives. In fact, sharing your experiences will not only benefit you—it’ll help others in similar situations find hope and guidance on their own roads to recovery.

“I have learned that I am NOT alone and that there are others who are in my corner encouraging me to go on,” said one member of a peer support group. “I have also learned that by serving, by helping, by listening; that there is healing for me. It is kind of a selfish thing, but when you help others, you in fact are helping yourself.”

Group therapy can take you from a place of isolation to one of filled with a sense of inclusion and belonging, full of people who will listen to you and connect with you, providing you with multiple supports that will act as a solid, reliable foundation for your recovery moving forward.

A Fresh Perspective

The benefit of individual therapies in the progression of your treatment and recovery is indisputable, but therapy in a group setting offers a unique perspective that professionals who don’t live with mental health challenges simply don’t have access to. These groups are made up of people who have been struggling with their mental health for years—some of them may have the same problems as you, while others may have disorders vastly different from your own. Regardless, they’ve made it this far, and you can learn a lot from the decisions and skills that they have used to do so. It’s a source of knowledge and inspiration that you can only get from someone who has firsthand experience living with (and overcoming) their own personal mental health challenges.

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An Integrated Recovery

Understanding that you are not “broken” or alone, that there are others out there experiencing similar struggles as you, can help you on your journey to recovery while at the same time helping others do the same. Both professional and peer support are equally as important, but the strongest residential treatment programs are the ones that integrate elements of both; that way, when you enter treatment, you have the opportunity to connect with and solidify as many supports as possible, laying the foundation for a successful recovery with a strong foundation of social support.

Bridges to Recovery offers group therapy in a comprehensive residential treatment setting for people living with a number of mental health challenges and co-occurring addictions. Contact us today to learn more about how you, too, can reach out to others and begin building healthy, empathetic connections to support you through the recovery process.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Ben Duchac