Although group therapy may seem intimidating at first, its benefits far outweigh any reservations you may have. Group therapy provides tremendous benefits for any age and varying situations. From offering a sense of validation amongst peers to helping family members thrive with a child with autism, group therapy can be insightful and rewarding for all participants. Let’s explore the similarities and differences between group sessions and ABA therapy.
- The Focus of Group Therapy
- Top Benefits for Group Therapy
- Benefits of Group Therapy for Children
- Benefits of Group Therapy for Adults
- Benefits of Group Therapy for Families with a Child with Autism
- Parents of Children with Autism
- Siblings of Children with Autism
- Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy
- Group Therapy and ABA Therapy
The Focus of Group Therapy
Let’s first take a look at what group therapy is at its core. Group therapy typically combines one or two professionally trained therapists who work with a small group of patients at a time. Group therapy addresses specific issues and goals, such as social anxiety, depression, coping skills, or grief and loss. Each group has its approach and length of time, according to the focus, needs of the patients, and the group’s progress.
Top Benefits for Group Therapy
Age and focus aside, there are phenomenal benefits of participating in any group therapy session. Group therapy provides tremendous help and comfort, including:
1. Shared Support:
Groups allow each member to give and receive support. This form of therapy encourages the members to share and interact with each other as much as they would with individual therapists. Yet, it revolves around each member, adding their feedback to enrich others’ experiences. They find support, connection, wisdom, and validation in knowing their peers can give and take alongside the therapists’ input and assistance.
2. A Safe Space:
Group therapy provides the same confidentiality and support that individual therapy offers, with the bonus of knowing they can relate to members in the group who experience similar feelings, complications, and situations. They can feel secure in their environment while they express their concerns and offer priceless insight to others.
Validation from group therapy offers substantial boosts in self-esteem. As bonds form, acceptance within the group boosts one’s self-esteem. Providing feedback and sharing experiences allow members to take ownership of the sessions, promoting self-confidence as they contribute to the growth, success, and support of others.
4. Social Skills:
While social skills don’t always come easy to some, group therapy sessions allow them to develop and blossom. Participation in groups helps create and strengthen social skills, including eye contact, interacting and sharing, relating to others, taking turns, and developing their listening skills.
5. A Voice:
Group therapy offers each of its members a chance to participate and be heard. While individual therapy encourages this, group therapy provides a safe setting among peers, allowing each member to express themselves openly and honestly without the fear of judgment, ridicule, or silencing.
Relating to others is essential during therapy, and the group offers the opportunity to create connections with others in similar situations. Connection promotes acceptance, understanding, and trust within the group. Whether you’re the one asking or receiving advice at the moment, all members of the group can connect and take away valuable knowledge. Group sessions also help others see themselves from another point of view. By connecting through similar circumstances, they gain additional insight, experience empathy, and feel worthy.
Benefits of Group Therapy for Children
The structure of group therapy for children will look a bit different, depending upon the age range in each group. Younger children express themselves best through natural and structured play.
This may include:
- Art therapy
- Games and activities
Older children can express themselves and their emotions through words, making traditional talk therapy more ideal. Groups for older children allow peer support, feedback, and often encourage participation in various activities to help explore and express themselves.
Group therapy allows children to understand their feelings and experiences are universal. Groups help them understand they are not alone and realize others are learning to cope with similar difficulties. Groups offer validation and freedom from feeling alone in their struggles.
Regardless of a child’s age, group therapy offers an array of benefits, including:
- Enhancing social skills
- Relationship building
- Coping strategies
- Building trust
- Ability to share
Benefits of Group Therapy for Adults
For adults, the benefits of group therapy sessions can be quite similar. However, differences may include additional considerations, such as the cost of attending individual therapy. Adults may benefit more from attending therapy with peers, allowing them to have a sounding board. Some adults are more open to the thought of group therapy if they are not ready to open up and share immediately. Listening to others gives them a chance to realize they can relate and even contribute to another’s feelings or struggles. Groups also encourage others to improve, try new methods, and interact on a social level by engaging, trusting, and bonding. Feedback from peers tends to help one self-evaluate realistically and see themselves from another point of view.
Benefits of Group Therapy for Families with a Child with Autism
Attending family therapy sessions has an extensive list of benefits to offer each member. This style of group therapy focuses on the family dynamic as a whole and each relationship. Therapists explore the relationships, hardships, and accomplishments within each subgroup and how they affect the family as a whole unit. Sessions seek to explore communication, mental health, coping techniques, and cohesiveness within the family. Family members receive encouragement to share their frustrations, expectations, and wins to find what works and what needs further assistance.
Each family member plays a unique role in helping children with autism thrive in their natural environments. In combination with ABA therapy sessions and techniques, your child can learn to grow and adapt to changes with the support of their family members and successful strategies.
Children with Autism
Kids with autism, particularly high-functioning autism, benefit greatly from group therapy sessions. Studies have shown encouraging progress by incorporating group therapy in conjunction with their ABA therapy programs. Groups have been able to:
- Strengthen their social skills
- Help them build trust and lasting bonds with peers and adults
- Allow them to relate to others
- Normalize their feelings and experiences
- Cope with the demands of everyday life
Group therapy for children with autism may even be as simple as enrolling in art therapy sessions. These group therapy sessions add an extra social component to your typical art class. Children can experience freely and thrive in a social setting that requires bonding with an adult and interaction with peers. Children with autism begin to learn how to recognize, read, and react to social cues, explore and develop self-esteem, and express their wants and needs through art. Additional benefits may include enhancing their:
- Eye contact
- Verbal skills
- Attention span
- On-task behaviors
Parents of Children with Autism
Group therapy, such as support groups for parents, allows them to connect with others facing similar struggles, worries, and situations. Connecting with other families of children with autism can encourage while offering additional insight into raising a child with autism. Parents are often the best resource for community events, medical referrals, school, ABA therapy programs, and more. Group therapy for parents allows them time to express concerns and frustrations in an open and relatable environment. It gives parents a chance to explore their feelings, learn from others, and gather ideas for new techniques they may not have thought of.
Group therapy for parents of children with ASD also helps them learn to deal with the stress, anxiety, and feelings they experience. New parents, in particular, can benefit from what other members bring to the group. They may offer coping skills, self-care strategies, and techniques to help siblings thrive in the home environment. Groups may also offer social events and educational meetings for parents to benefit from.
Group therapy encourages parents to feel free to share their frustrations, exhaustions, and deepest fears. The group environment encourages sharing similar experiences of what works as much as what hasn’t worked, to offer a multitude of methods for other families to try. By providing this group sounding board, parents find they learn to recompose, accept, and grow by sharing and listening to others in a similar situation.
In particular, Moms tend to carry the weight of the stress when parenting a child with autism. They may suppress feelings of anxiety and depression while trying to manage home, and work demands with the challenges that parenting a child with autism can bring. Relating to other parents can promote relief, understanding, and a sense of accomplishment during sessions.
Parents often report seeking therapeutic benefits, including:
- Relief from guilt
- Dealing with burnout
- Finding a support system
- Emerging from isolation
- Fears of having additional children
- Ways to deal with frustration and anger
- Handling feelings of resentment towards their child
- Dealing with and finding help with financial difficulties
- Finding proper care, medical care, and ABA therapy programs
- Ideas and strategies for talking to siblings about autism
Siblings of Children with Autism
Siblings of a child with autism often have a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility on their shoulders. Siblings may feel an excessive amount of being overwhelmed, a burden of responsibility, or even resentment towards their sibling. Group therapy sessions provide a safety net for them to openly release their emotions and share their feelings and concerns. Group therapy offers siblings validation, strategies, and support they may otherwise not have access to. Hearing others’ experiences and emotions helps them feel they are not alone while learning to deal with anger and guilt.
Group therapy also offers a time to help educate siblings on autism, what their role as a sibling may entail, and what their brother or sister experiences. It helps strengthen their knowledge base of what to expect, how to help, and ways to support the family unit. Discussing autism regularly is essential, and often, parents feel inadequate. While their therapy sessions are beneficial in strengthening their skills in this area, group therapy for siblings is a helpful reinforcer in this area. Therapists help siblings learn to foster positive, lasting relationships, embracing their responsibilities and roles in the family unit. Group sessions explore concerns and misconceptions and allow them a chance to share their experiences and frustrations with others in their situation.
Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy
While group therapy offers benefits to all ages, it does not replace individual therapy. Individual therapy sessions can and sometimes should be in combination. Every situation is unique, and your child’s ABA therapy team will be able to evaluate your child and family, making the best recommendations on which course of action will suit your child’s needs and goals. The ABA therapy team will consider your child’s comfort levels, ability to relate, bond, and express themselves. Group therapy often enhances a child’s social skills, making group therapy an ideal option to explore.
Group Therapy and ABA Therapy
While there are undoubtedly many similar benefits to gain from group therapy and ABA therapy, one does not replace the other. ABA therapy and group options are, however, complementary to each other. ABA therapy is vital in the success of children with autism, with early intervention being ideal. Group therapy is specific to a particular area of struggle, while each ABA therapy plan is individualized to a specific child. ABA therapy revolves around creating or strengthening new, more desirable behaviors and skills through positive reinforcements, while groups naturally enhance new skills and behaviors in children through the exposure of peer interactions during sessions. Groups are ideally for children with high-functioning autism, as ABA therapy concentrates on creating a foundation to build upon for critical areas such as speech, language, and behaviors.
Many group therapy sessions complement ABA therapy, including art therapy, to enhance self-expression and bonding. Through ABA therapy, the incorporation of play therapy is often useful early on to enhance speech, language, and social skills. As your child progresses through ABA therapy goals, play therapy with other children of similar age and goals will help by offering opportunities for modeling, eye contact, communicating wants, and sharing toys.
Whether you’re searching for ABA therapy programs or group therapy options for your family, Blossom Children’s Center is here to help you navigate through the process. Our Blossom Method offers an all-encompassing approach to ABA therapy and beyond. We invite you to explore our resources and schedule a consult with our highly trained staff today.