What do group therapists do?
Generally, a group therapist is someone who runs a therapy session in a small group of six to ten individuals. The trained professional intends to provide an environment of trust in which all of the participants in the group are comfortable relating their anxieties and issues to one another in a supportive and growth promoting environment. As many of the issues that people come to therapy for relate to how we interact with groups, it is very beneficial to be able to recreate the group situation in a therapy session. This group though, especially when run by a great group therapist, will provide the patient with a positive environment to vent those anxieties or issues that will allow them to resolve them safely.
The group therapist needs a very special set of skills to be able to do well in that position. Where any therapist needs a great deal of schooling, patience, and sympathy to do well in their position, the group therapist is required to have much more than that. A single patient can appear to have an overwhelming number of issues for a therapist to try to contend with simultaneously in a single hour session. A group therapy session is then that many more people who not only have their own extremely complicated mental states, but then there is the unspoken third party that is the group mentality itself. The group therapist needs to have a keen awareness about how to maneuver as both leader and follower of a group so that they can direct the group to create the most beneficial outcome for all of the patients involved. That being said, the group may also even do some of the therapists work for them as they inquire about the patient’s issues or relate to the patient by expressing that the other members of the group may also share that issues or fear.
Frequently, group therapy sessions are directed toward a specific shared problem that all of the patients may be experiencing simultaneously so that they can share those experiences with one another. As a result, the group therapist also needs to be well-versed in a number of specialized areas of therapy to allow for those specializations.