04 Apr Why Groups are Good for your Mental Health
To explain why therapy groups are good for your mental health, I first need to tell you some basic things about your evolutionary history, your brain, and your nervous system.
As mammals, we’re wired to live in social groups
We evolved that way because we were a weak little animal. We needed social cooperation to promote the survival of our young in the big bad world.
Because of this, the social environment we develop in as we mature has a huge impact on our brain. Our brains are literally not completely developed, in other words, the DNA is not all there, until we are somewhere between 18 months to 2 years old.
That means that during the period between the last trimester of pregnancy and the second year of your life, 70% of the DNA content of your cerebral cortex was being developed and added. Your brain was directly influenced by early environmental and social experiences.
What that means for you on a practical level
Much of who you are, how you respond to the world, and how you feel inside is a direct reflection of the social group you were part of during the time you were 0-2 years of age. In other words, what you don’t remember matters.
Thankfully, your brain is “plastic”, meaning that neural connections can be forged and refined or weakened and severed by new experiences. These changes in your physical brain manifest as changes in your physical, emotional and interpersonal abilities.
Now let’s talk about why therapy groups are good for your mental health
Like all psychotherapy, therapy groups give you an emotionally safe space to be authentically you. A space where you can experience all the feelings and thoughts that you haven’t been “allowed” to have anywhere else. And a group of people who are all doing the same work as you.
These people won’t be judging you, or ridiculing you. They won’t be wondering why you aren’t being “stronger”. They will be helping you by “seeing” you, and feeling your emotional experiences with you. And after you’ve gone through what you might experience as one of your most “embarrassing” moments, they will look you in the eye with care and affection.
They won’t shame you for being authentically you, as you were once shamed in childhood for your needs and feelings. The therapy group’s social environment will provide you with reparative emotional experiences. These new experiences will replace the painful, damaging social experiences of your childhood. You will have a new, strong foundation with which you will move through the world.
Your negative self-talk, your second-guessing, your inability to do what you say you want to do, or inability to stop doing what you say you want to stop doing, all these things will change when you have an internal emotional foundation that is supportive of you as a creative, pleasure seeking, emotionally flexible individual.
Therapy groups are faster, more affordable and, dare I say, potentially more effective than individual therapy for some people.
Want to know more about how to get into group therapy? Call me, we’ll talk.