Bob Newhart's groups were as funny as they were inaccurate portrayals of what can occur in in a well-run group. When each member is ready--i.e. is willing to give honest feedback to others, willing to set their defenses aside as they listen to others' feedback, and willing to be fully authentic with themselves and the others, group psychotherapy is the most effective format psychotherapy has to offer.
Recent research has shown that the brain can literally rewire and restructure itself by repetitive positive interpersonal connections (Daniel Siegel, The Developing Mind). Because the group setting is primarily focused on interpersonal process and interpersonal connections, it is truly an ideal and opportune mode of psychotherapy. Increased opportunities for interpersonal experiences actually accelerate the growth of healthier neurological pathways in the brain that allow us to free ourselves from prior ruts and/or dysfunctional behavior patterns.
Most individuals do at least some individual psychotherapy before they join a therapy group. Group psychotherapy allows us to take a “here-and-now” approach that focuses attention on the nature and meaning of interactions between group members as they occur in real time. The members receive and give feedback, and the group ultimately becomes a microcosm of the real world. Group therapy involves “communicating in different ways about the same experience and having different experiences about the same communication.” (Counselman, 2008)
It provides an invaluable opportunity to appreciate and understand the impact of our assumptions and behavior on others-- and to similarly learn to appreciate and understand the impact of others’ assumptions and behavior on us. Although the very thought of group therapy can at first feel intimidating, group members consistently describe their weekly group therapy sessions as "a safe place where we can be truly authentic with ourselves and with each other.”
The group setting asks that its participants be fully authentic with themselves and with the other group members. The resulting felt experience can be extraordinarily rewarding for all members. Group psychotherapy is its own unique, precious experience that reaches us in ways that other forms of therapy can’t.