Like many therapists, you may have never given serious thought to referring your clients to group psychotherapy. Yet much might be gained by a referral to group therapy, not only for your clients, but also for you professionally.
If you are a therapist with the usual mix of patients, your clients fall into 3 categories: those who are moving along solidly in their work, those who are at something of a plateau where for sometime there has been relatively little therapeutic movement, and those who are at best minimally engaged in treatment and possibly on the way out. Unless you are also a group therapist, it may never have occurred to you that your work with clients in all three categories could be invigorated by concurrent group psychotherapy.
Advantages for Clients of Joining a Therapy Group
For clients, group therapy adds an additional source of support beyond individual therapy. It also adds another vehicle for learning about themselves, in an arena in which the interpersonal issues that are being described in individual therapy can actually come alive.
The therapy group is a ‘live learning laboratory’ in which people walk in important aspects of themselves, providing a rich forum for interpersonal feedback and increased self-awareness. This can augment the work of individual therapy, making it livelier and richer as the patient brings back ongoing interpersonal experiences from his or her work in the group.
Advantages for the Therapist of Placing a Client in Group Therapy
The individual therapist, as well as his or her client, can benefit by the presence of another set of trained eyes and ears. For the therapist, it means another trained professional who is viewing your patient, but through a slightly different lens — a respected colleague who can give you a different take on your client. And for the client, this provides an opportunity for the coordinated input of two collaborating therapists.
Along with this, is an important side benefit for you — the possibility to enhance your own sense of colleagueship and to add to your professional network. In my own practice, I find that the people who refer patients to me for group therapy often become part of my referral network for individual or couples work, or for some areas of expertise that they are known for that are not a part of my own practice.
In short, referring a patient to a group can add not only to the richness of your patient’s life and psychotherapy experience, but to your own as well.
How to Find a Suitable Group
To find a suitable group for a client whom you think might benefit, you may begin by consulting the registry of certified group therapists provided by the American Group Psychotherapy Association or a local affiliate such as the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy.
Additional Relevant Reading
Dr. Marsha Vannicelli is an internationally recognized author and lecturer who has written two highly acclaimed books and many articles about group psychotherapy. She has also given scores of workshops and lectures on this topic, and has trained and supervised 100s of clinicians in the effective use of this treatment modality.
© 2021 Marsha Vannicelli