By Karen Williams, MS, LAC Intensive Outpatient Program Clinical Manager at Promises Scottsdale Group therapy works because it creates connection and reduces toxic shame through open, honest communication. Many aspects of the group dynamic contribute to the reasons why group therapy works. Here are 10 of them: 1. Hearing Your Story The first time people attend group, they may tip toe into the room timidly. Most times what happens is that they hear their story in someone else who has had a similar experience. Maybe it\u2019s what they went through\u2013the misery quotient that got them here. Whatever the parallel circumstances may be, this helps the individual realize they are not alone. There\u2019s often a sense of buoyancy, a feeling that \u201cHey, I might be a ship in a rough waters, but I\u2019m not in the water by myself. I have crew members.\u201d They start to feel that they must be in the right place. 2. Finding Solutions Another thing people new to group therapy may notice is potential solutions to their problems. If they remain open-minded, they\u2019ll discover a variety of tools they might not have tried to the fullest and get a sense of \u201cdo-ability.\u201d When they see themselves in someone else and identify with the problem that person has successfully overcome, the issue doesn\u2019t seem so daunting. They hear what works for others and get ideas about what needs to happen in their own life. 3. Humor The best groups I run\u2013the ones that seem to hum along and make good progress\u2013are those that have a good sense of the \u201cI can laugh at myself and the world around me\u201d component. Humor is one of the traits that sets us apart from other living things. It\u2019s what makes us really human. When someone can laugh at themselves, they can also have compassion for themselves. When I know that quotient is present in group, I know there\u2019s potential for some real work. There\u2019s something very positive about the restoration of a person\u2019s sense of humor. It\u2019s a sign of their mental health recovering and their ability to draw insight. If you can draw insight, purpose and meaning, and laugh while doing so, you\u2019ve really found something special. 4. Feeling Safe About Being Vulnerable The protection of a safe environment where group members can feel vulnerable and use it as a laboratory for skill-building is critical. Safety is a huge part of why people feel secure in group and how they heal. One of the ways I help facilitate this feeling is by providing group guidelines and reviewing them frequently, especially when we have a new member. This way we appropriately set the tone. I never say, \u201cThese are the rules,\u201d but rather, \u201cThese are the things I think help groups work best.\u201d We define what cross-talk is and the circumstances where that might be a helpful communication style. We talk about showing up on time, confidentiality and respectful communication. 5. Exploring Shame There are two kinds of shame. One is toxic, low density shame that is unhelpful. It\u2019s the part that tells yourself that you are not worthy and have no value. It\u2019s a lie we tell ourselves and most times comes from our family of origin.\u00a0 The second is \u201cgood shame\u201d\u2013we don\u2019t yet have vernacular for it. This shame helps us see ourselves in context. We\u2019re \u201cright sized\u201d to things that are bigger than us. It\u2019s that sense of awe we get from standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon\u2013the overwhelming beauty that draws us in and helps us realize we aren\u2019t the totality of the universe. This second type of shame and awe is available to us when we start to operate within a group. When people see and hear themselves within the context of a group, they realize they aren\u2019t the end-all-be-all. They come to understand that they are only a part of the bigger picture and that they can find answers about their unhealthy shame. Group reactions and interactions take power away from the negative. 6. Direct Intervention Group therapy can provide a life lab of sorts. People can bring specific issues to the setting and get honest feedback and input. They see how others relate to them and bounce solutions off of them. Role playing is one way this can be achieved. Many times we can help clients process a problem by having other members of the group play different roles. Afterwards, we ask how everyone felt in that \u201ctake one\u201d and the client can choose to use what they\u2019d like from it and work on aspects that would improve communication. Another client may notice they have the same issue and they now have some scripting available to them. 7. Compassion Being around others experiencing similar struggles can help in the quest to finding self-compassion. Feelings towards other group members often arise for a reason. One of those can be a disowned part of the self. When people allow themselves to explore why they are having a strong reaction to another group member, whether that is dislike or idolization, they may find that this person represents a part of them they\u2019ve tucked away because they found it unacceptable for whatever reason. Learning to accept and support other people that remind us of our \u201cunacceptable\u201d parts can help us learn how to acquire compassion for ourselves and our struggles. 8. Camaraderie Group therapy can be more effective than individual therapy because some people find it less intimidating. They find it more emotionally spacious and warm. Depending on the willingness of the individual, it may take several sessions for a therapeutic alliance to be established in individual therapy. In a group setting, it\u2019s human nature to immediately prop up the facilitator as the leader. People also recognize themselves in those surrounding them and aren\u2019t as intimidated. There is a type of fellowship that is unique to a group setting. 9. Learning to Show Up You can hide in group, but you\u2019re harming yourself when you\u2019re not fully engaged. Some people are just not ready yet. They may be overcome by fear and discomfort with the level of honesty. It\u2019s always nice when a group member stops hiding. You see the difference from when they first came in and were coated in self-protective armor. They become like the first-row sitters in an AA meeting. They get it. They share. They\u2019re the ones that encourage the message and help the newcomer. Their whole self is in it. That\u2019s an effective group member that can transform themselves while helping others. 10. Natural Progression There is a transcendent nature to group that is unexplained. It moves and grows and takes shape on its own. I don\u2019t really know what direction a group needs to go until I\u2019m in it that day. For example, the other day I showed up with my beautiful codependency lesson all laid out. But someone threw down the gauntlet and turned the group into another discussion about parenting. I must be fully engaged to notice it. A departure from the script almost always presents itself and we go down a different path of learning for the day. The members rule these groups and the result is powerful.