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Stay emotionally fit with group therapy

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Benefits of group therapy

Have you cut back on expenses by bidding your hair stylist, barrista and weekly psychotherapy sessions good-bye? Though you can't "share" a hair cut or want to split your morning coffee fix with a friend, you can take advantage of group therapy and stay emotionally fit without breaking the bank. Here are the financial and mental health benefits of group therapy, according to leading New York City-based psychologist Dr Stacey Rosenfield.

Group Therapy

Cut back on expenses, but not on your healthcare

Dr Rosenfeld, who has a private practice and is on staff at Columbia University Medical Center, is concerned that people are not taking care of themselves as a result of cutting expenses. "People are giving up their psychologists and personal trainers, and neglecting their physical and mental health due to the recession. [However], now more than ever, people need to manage their stress with professional help," the mental health expert explains. Dr Rosenfeld, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, addictions, and sports psychology, and is also certified as a personal trainer, suggests thinking more about "groups" when it comes to both professional therapy and fitness training.

Group therapy is an economic way to manage your mental health

According to Dr. Rosenfeld, group therapy sessions can cost less than 40 percent of an individual session, and, in the current economy, tending to your mental health is ever more important. She says, "Recession-related anxiety is on the rise -- job loss, losing homes, relationship struggles, alcohol/substance abuse, emotional overeating - - and people need professional support. But because of the recession, people cannot afford it. Groups led by an experienced health professional not only have a financial advantage, but also a host of other benefits."

Benefits of group therapy

In addition to the financial benefits of group therapy, there are many other advantages to going from one-on-one sessions to a group setting, according to Dr Rosenfeld.

1. Group therapy is universally appropriate. Group therapy can help people who have addictions, unsatisfying relationships, difficulty with assertiveness, social anxiety, issues with loneliness, trouble communicating emotions, and difficulty handling conflict. Group therapy can also prove effective for those who simply want to improve their interpersonal relationships and learn about themselves in the process.

2. Group therapy gives you the opportunity to relate to others. Participation in group therapy and group training offers comfort in the knowledge that others experience similar struggles, challenges and hurdles. It's nice to know you aren't alone and that the things you are going through are normal.

3. Group therapy offers feedback. In group therapy, there is the possibility to learn from other group members — both from the feedback they provide, as well as by hearing how they have addressed their own concerns.

4. Group therapy improves your coping and communication skills. Group therapy offers a "microcosm" of the real world and provides a safe place in which to try out new ways of interacting with others.

5. Group therapy can help improve your relationships. Group therapy provides the ability to develop relationships in the room and to try out new ways of being in these relationships -- of expressing emotions, asserting oneself, and dealing with frustrations or conflicts as they arise. Positive things you learn in group can then be applied to other relationships in your life.

6. Group therapy provides motivation. Like group fitness training, group therapy can offer increased motivation through camraderie. Your group members provide accountability as well as support, giving you more reason to not only attend the sessions but to also make your mental health a top priority.

Find a group

If your therapist can't reduce the cost of your individual sessions, let her know you'd like to try group therapy. She may already have an appropriate group in place or be able to direct you to another mental health professional who does. You can also check with other mental health care providers in your area to learn more about the existing groups or ones that may soon be forming.

It may seem daunting to go from a one-on-one situation to sharing your thoughts and feelings with a number of people, but remember they are likely in the group for reasons similar to yours and have some of the same goals. And, if a group doesn't feel right to you after you've given it a try, simply find another group.

To learn more about group therapy, visit StaceyRosenfeld.com.

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