Solutions that individual therapy or antidepressants can’t offer.
Depression is one of the most diagnosed conditions in the United States. In fact, in the last decade, antidepressant prescriptions in the U.S. have jumped a whopping 65%, with one in eight Americans reporting that they have tried antidepressants. (Center for Disease Control).
For many people, antidepressants help relieve the symptoms of depression, but are there other interventions that address the possible causes of depression?
The Group Therapy Solution
In my experience, few interventions dismantle depressive symptoms faster than group therapy. In nearly 25 years of leading therapy groups, I have witnessed people break free of lifelong patterns of depression and be transformed by the power of a positive group therapy experience. (See “Types of Group Therapy Available“)
What makes group therapy so effective? Group therapy targets three leading causes of depression: isolation, unhealthy relationships, and negative self-talk. By uprooting these causes, group offers solutions that individual therapy or antidepressants can’t. Let’s see how.
1. Social Isolation
Isolation breeds depression. The more isolated you are, the more likely depression will take root in your life. While individual therapy offers understanding and insight, group therapy offers a chance to break out of isolation by joining a community of supportive peers. Nothing is more powerful than a group of people committed to each other’s growth. As I’ve watched as group members cheer each other on and celebrate emotional breakthroughs, I’ve realized that individual therapy and antidepressants can’t offer that kind of encouragement.
2. Unhealthy Relationships
Unhealthy relationships are often rooted in low self-esteem. Depression distorts perception, making you unable to judge a good friend from a bad one. Group brings to light unhealthy relationship patterns by working through problematic tendencies in group. As group members develop healthy, supportive relationships, members begin to recognize how unhealthy relationships continue to undermine their self-worth and confidence. (See “How Group Therapy Empowers You in Relationships.“)
3. Negative Self-Talk
Group therapy exposes negative thinking patterns that promote depression. In group, members are encouraged to challenge their negative self-talk, such as, “I’m an outsider”, “No one understands me”, “I’m stupid”, etc. When negative core self-beliefs are put into words and shared with the group, they are instantly challenged. Group members are quick to point out how inaccurate these self-attacks are. As new group members begin to internalize new, positive self-talk expressed by their fellow group members, they begin to evict negative self-talk that feeds their depression.
Sirena’s Group Therapy Breakthrough
Throughout high school, Sirena suffered bouts of depression. She had trouble maintaining friendships and worried constantly about what her peers thought of her. Antidepressants were helpful in lessening her symptoms, but she still felt isolated and alone. When Sirena finally went off to college, she did well academically, but still remained isolated and alone. She wasn’t depressed, but she wasn’t happy either.
When I suggested Sirena join one of my therapy groups, she said, “A bunch of people sitting in a circle relating to one another? Sounds like my worst nightmare!”
After some coaxing, Sirena agreed to sit in on a group, but only as an observer. After the watching group members share their insecurities and support one another, Sirena had a change of heart. She was amazed by how friendly and welcoming group members were to her and agreed to join the group. “I can’t believe that there are people just like me!”
Six weeks later, Sirena reported fewer symptoms of depression than she had in years. Group helped her to break her social isolation and establish healthy relationships. When she shared her negative self-talk (“I’m unattractive.” “People think I’m strange.”) the group showered her with positive affirmations. Gradually, with the groups support, Sirena began to internalize their new, positive voices and develop more confidence and trust in herself. Antidepressants helped her control her symptoms of depression, but group therapy gave her the tool for a more satisfying life.
Ready to Join a Therapy Group?
If you’ve tried individual therapy and antidepressants and still feel stuck, group could be the solution you are looking for. Take your time, sit in on a few groups, find one that you enjoy. Like Serina, you may discover that you’re not alone in your struggles and gain the tools you need to break free of your depression once and for all.