Here’s a snippet of interaction from a recent teen group:
Laura: He broke up with me through a text message! I was totally blindsided.
Allison: That is so wrong! What a wuss!
Lisa: He didn’t even have the respect to talk to you in person.
Laura: I know. I don’t know what I did to deserve that.
Allison: What makes you think you did anything? What about him? He is the one that broke up with you by cell phone. Cold!
Julia: My parents won’t pay for texting. They only let me use my cell phone to call them when I need a ride.
Megan: Hello. Julia. Stick with us here. Laura’s really upset about her boyfriend. She needs our support.
Laura: That’s OK.
Allison: No, it’s not OK. Julia, how would you feel if your boyfriend broke up with you through a text?
Julia: Not good. Sorry, Laura. I got random again, didn’t I?
This brief anecdote highlights in a small way how group therapy works. In individual therapy, a teen or young adult is able to talk about relationship issues in the presence of a nonjudgmental, caring adult who offers needed support and guidance. Groups provide peer support and acceptance at a critical developmental juncture. In a group, a member doesn’t just talk about an issue, but plays out these issues within the group itself.
In the example above, Laura has the courage to share a personal problem in her therapy group. For girls in particular, interpersonal agency and effectiveness is critical for the development of self-worth. Laura might typically let her needs go unmet. But Allison doesn’t allow this. And, for Julia, hearing feedback and a gentle lesson on perspective taking from Allison means she can make amends and see her own behavior more clearly without having to suffer the consequence of the silent treatment.
This group, in essence, becomes a mini social microcosm; displaying in the moment the social obstacles that group members face in their daily lives. Through peer feedback and practicing new ways of being, group members experience a corrective emotional experience. The benefits of group therapy? Priceless.