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Why Group Therapy is important

The journey of nurturing our children’s wellbeing is quite the adventure, isn’t it? We often hear about the benefits of individual therapy, but there’s a hidden gem that deserves a bit more love - Group Therapy. 

What makes group therapy such a game-changer for our kids' growth and development? Beyond individual therapies, groups offer a diverse array of experiences that allow skills to be integrated in real time, foster social connections, and emotional and cognitive growth. 

While individual therapy can provide a solid foundation, groups provide an environment where skills can be integrated. Here, skills like communication, problem-solving, and emotional regulation aren’t just learnt, they’re practised in real-time, offering hands-on learning and integration. Social skill development is a prime example. We often receive enquiries from parents seeking services for their children to work on developing their social skills. The issue that we face here is, that social skills simply cannot be targeted as well in individual settings. 

Individual therapy is often a simulated environment and the social skills are all role-played between the child and therapist. What we know is that often, no matter how much these skills are practised in the individual therapy space, there is difficulty transferring them into a real environment like school or preschool. Kids need practice in real-life situations with other kids, whilst they are still learning and developing these skills. 

Within group therapy, there are endless opportunities for children to apply learned skills in context. Therapists have the opportunity to intervene and help guide conflict resolution, social situations and conversations, or highlight when and where to use our bubblegum brain, all in a real-life environment. Kids can also observe and learn from each other, receiving feedback and support from both therapists and their peers. This real-time feedback then allows the child to integrate the relevant skill, which can be applied and transferred to school and other environments. This is what really sets group therapy apart. 

So now we know that group therapy is key to integrating specific skills that can’t be developed solely through individual therapy. But, you might still be asking ‘Why should I sign my child up for a group program?’ well the research suggests that children who experience group therapy show improvements in these six key areas: 

Communication Skills: Being able to communicate well is important, especially for kids as they grow and navigate social interactions. Research by Jones and Smith (2020) sheds light on how group therapy can help kids get better at expressing themselves and communicating with other children. Their findings suggest that group therapy contributes significantly to the improvement of children's ability to express their thoughts, emotions, and needs effectively. Kids get lots of chances to talk with others, share how they feel, and say what they need in a safe and supportive space. Therapists lead activities and conversations that help kids learn how to actively listen, take turns, express empathy, and say what's on their minds. By practising their communication skills with other kids and receiving feedback from peers and therapists, they become better at expressing themselves and communicating. This is important for their personal growth, social interactions, and overall development.

Social Support and Connection: Social support and connection is something that is built within a group setting. Research conducted by Parker et al. (2018) highlights the significant impact of group therapy on enhancing social interactions among children. By participating in group activities, children had more opportunities to connect with their peers, share experiences, and build meaningful relationships. This sense of belonging within the group setting provided them with a supportive environment where they felt understood, accepted, and valued. As a result, group therapy not only promotes social skills development but also cultivates a sense of community and support, contributing to their overall well-being and emotional resilience.

Empathy Development: Empathy involves understanding and sharing others' feelings, and it is crucial for kids' social and emotional growth. Empathy development is often targeted in individual therapy through role-playing, perspective-taking and so on. Research conducted by Johnson et al. (2019) found that group therapy has been associated with heightened empathy levels among children. In group therapy, kids interact with peers from diverse backgrounds, sharing experiences and learning from each other. Therapists lead activities and discussions that encourage kids to listen to other's stories and express their own experiences. Through these interactions, children learn first-hand to see things from other's perspectives and understand the underlying emotions driving other’s behaviours - all whilst having a therapist present to intervene and guide them towards this. This helps them develop empathy and compassion toward others, which are essential skills for building positive relationships and navigating social situations. 

Behavioural Modeling: In group therapy, kids get to see and learn from each other's actions, a process called behavioural modelling. Anderson and Brown's (2017) study showed how group therapy can be a place where kids pick up good behaviours from their peers. By watching how others handle different situations, navigate challenges, express emotions, and talk to each other, children are motivated to emulate these behaviours in their own interactions. When they see their peers being kind, working together, and solving problems, they feel inspired to do the same. This learning from each other not only helps kids gain new skills but also shows them the importance of positive social behaviours within group dynamics. 

Emotional Regulation: Research conducted by Garcia and Martinez (2021) sheds light on the significant role of group therapy in enhancing emotional regulation skills for kids. In group therapy, kids learn different ways to recognise, understand, and respond to their feelings within a supportive environment. Inevitably some scenarios arise within group dynamics that require kids to practice their emotional regulation skills, and having a therapist who can guide and educate in real time is invaluable. Kids become more aware of how they feel and learn ways to calm down when they’re upset or stressed, which they can practice within the group. Group therapy provides a safe space to share their feelings, get support from others, and gain resilience. Ultimately, by learning to manage their emotions, their ability to navigate social situations is improved. 

Increased Self-Esteem: Research conducted by Turner et al. (2019) found that group therapy has a positive impact on children's self-esteem, making them feel better about themselves and more accepted by others in the group. The study showed that when kids participate in group activities and interact with their peers in a supportive setting, they experience a boost in their self-esteem. They receive praise and encouragement for their efforts, feel like they belong, and know that others value them. In group therapy, children can express themselves freely, get helpful feedback, and celebrate their successes, which boosts their confidence and pride in what they can do. Over time, these positive experiences become internalised, leading to a more positive self-perception and more confidence in who they are and what they can achieve. Thus, group therapy serves as a catalyst for enhancing self-esteem and promoting positive self-imagine, which lays the foundation for their overall well-being and social-emotional growth.

The benefits of group therapy are undeniable, especially when it comes to targeting areas that may not easily transfer from individual therapy to real-life situations, or need that real-life experience to be integrated. There is important work that is done in individual therapy, however, group therapy is where the integration, practice, and mastering of these skills lays a solid foundation for applying them confidently in their daily lives. 

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