Different process group therapy topics exist across a wide spectrum. Group therapy, in itself, is a powerful tool to help clients grow, change, and feel connected to a community. For individuals that feel alone in their challenges, group therapy is a great resource for helping them bond with others who share their challenges. Process group therapy topics range from things seemingly simple as self-care to topics as complex as coping skills. Although each member of a group is different in complicated ways, their shared experience brings them together to process what they are going through among others that understand.
As therapists, navigating process group therapy topics can be challenging. So what are process groups and what kinds of topics might be discussed during their sessions?
“Process groups” specifically refer to groups of 5-10 individuals that meet face-to-face (or virtually) to share their struggles, concerns, fears, and challenges with 1 to 2 trained mental health providers. The hope of these groups is that their members will discover more about who they are and how they relate to others. As sessions progress, members are guided together by their mental health provider as a whole.
The first few sessions of process group therapy aim to establish trust. Therapists do this by utilizing a combo of “ice-breaker” and trust-building activities to help build comfort and familiarization. Once everyone is comfortable with one another, the therapists guide the group to start opening up and sharing their feelings while developing important relationships with others.
The purpose of process group therapy is to provide a space for clients to regularly express their emotions and discuss them with both trained mental health professionals as well as individuals with similar life experiences. The goal for therapists during process group therapy is to help their clients build meaningful connections with others while also helping them process life experiences in a safe space.
Important components of process group therapy for the therapist to consider include things like confidentiality, trust-building, honest communication, safety, and freedom for their clients to explore whatever it is they need. Below are common process group therapy topics of discussion.
Self-care is more than just bubble baths and scented candles. Everyone needs a healthy amount of self-care in order to feel centered and whole. Self-care is the process of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health (mental and physical). It is also a common process group therapy topic. As individuals explore different areas of their mental and emotional health, they can start to feel emotionally drained. Self-care discussions can help clients remember to take care of themselves in the midst of their difficult experiences. Therapists might explore different ways that each individual member could practice self-care outside of the group as well as offer some unique self-care group exercises when everyone is together.
When managing challenging experiences, emotions, and feelings, everyone copes in a different way. The instinctual way that a client copes with their experiences is either learned or developed during their formative years. Sometimes coping mechanisms are developed as a means of self-protection. Regardless, not all coping strategies are effective or healthy. Exploring healthy coping strategies and mechanisms is a common process group therapy topic.
Short- and Long-Term Goals
Each client started therapy because they thought it might help them during their life experience. With therapy comes short- and long-term goals. Therapists often implement a series of exercises or prompted discussions to help their group members identify short- and long-term goals for what they want to get out of their time together as well as what they want to change or implement in their daily life.
Process group therapy topics naturally result in the discussion or practice of communication skills. Bringing multiple people together to explore different areas of their unique lives leads to a wide range of discussions. When communication does not take place organically, the common path providers go down is to address communication skills as a whole. To develop communication skills in a process group, the therapist might consider communication activities and skill development sessions.
Process group therapy is meant to function as a support structure for individuals facing challenging circumstances or unique experiences. They are especially useful for individuals that lack external support systems. A common process group therapy topic might include talking about what external support systems exist outside of group therapy, how to strengthen them, or what healthy support might look like for each group member.
Process group therapy is an incredible tool for patients who feel isolated or alone during their unique experiences. Therapists have the opportunity to explore a huge range of topics during their sessions, but should ultimately shape each visit around the natural progression of the group. For therapists with new groups, ice breaker and trust-building activities are a great place to start.