Q:

 

Dear Doctor George...

I think I might want to see someone about some issues in my life. I was wondering: Are group sessions as effective as one-on-one time with a therapist?

... Wondering About Therapy

 

A:

 

Dear Wondering...

First of all, Doctor George wants to acknowledge you for exploring possibilities in your life. Even if you decide to not join a group or get into therapy, Doctor George thinks it's great whenever people consider avenues for their growth.

Both approaches are considered to be equally effective for helping people. It depends what you're looking for. For instance, groups (which typically have 5 to 10 participants) are great for...

  • Meeting other people in a setting where you will get to know them on a more intimate level (than normally occurs in ordinary social interactions)
  • Learning about other peoples' lives and seeing your own life in relation to theirs (which can give you new perspectives on yourself)
  • Saving money (because they are often less than a third of the cost of individual therapy -- for instance, Doctor George leads 75-minute therapy groups that meet once a week for $45 per session)
  • An opportunity to give and receive feedback from other people about how you come across in relationships (introducing you to your blind spots you would not have been able to see on your own)
  • Discovering that other people have feelings and problems similar to your own (and that the thoughts and feelings for which you often indict yourself aren't as unique as you usually think)

One-on-one therapy is ideal for...

  • Revealing things that you are not prepared to share with others
  • Learning about your unresolved emotional issues (in a more gradual way than might happen in a group)
  • Having dedicated time to specifically work on your issues and share your feelings
  • Uninterrupted attention from a therapist (who is focused on only you)
  • Following an agenda specifically designed to address your problems

A combination of both techniques, undertaken either simultaneously or sequentially, can also be very helpful. Seeing an individual therapist, while you are also in group, allows you to process and discuss your feelings and interactions from the group with your therapist individually. Going to a group first may alert you to some issues that you'll want to go into in more depth in individual therapy. Likewise, going to individual therapy, before entering a group, can educate you about yourself and your key relationship issues (that could come up when you interact with the other participants).

In both group and individual therapy you can build a level of intimacy and trust that replicates that wonderful feeling of connectedness one gets in a good family. The group and individual therapy, that Doctor George offers, blends life-coaching and therapeutic process. This helps you move from your "old survival system" to being more authentic, truthful and heartfelt (by discovering the emotional obstacles that block you from facing the unresolved issues from your past and keep you from being your best self).

A person's "survival system" is a natural defense against a dysfunctional family. For example, let's say that a child was never allowed to express anger. As a result, the child might grow into a person who literally loses the ability to recognize their own anger. Instead, they find themselves acting unassertively and overly-nice (because, in childhood, this was necessary to please the parents). While this techinque helps the person get through their own childhood, and perhaps is still used as an adult to continue getting parental approval, it leaves the adult feeling depressed and resentful. Both group and one-on-one work causes these behaviors to rise to the surface (and get resolved).

Doctor George hopes that whether you opt for group or individual therapy, or a combination of both, you will benefit from understanding yourself more deeply and that you will develop vital and life-affirming connections with others.

Sincerely,
   Doctor George