Group therapy can be an excellent alternative or supplement to individual therapy. Throughout San Francisco and Marin, you can find many groups for different issues, including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, grief, relationships, and more. In this post, I describe the advantages of group therapy, as well as ways to locate groups in the San Francisco Bay Area that meet your individual needs.
Six Advantages of Group Therapy:
1. Support. Groups offer the ability to meet and gain support from others who are struggling with similar issues. Whether you’re depressed, anxious, or dealing with grief, it can be helpful and comforting to know you’re not alone and that others are experiencing the same feelings and thoughts as you.
2. Gain insight and strategies that have worked for others. When you’re part of a group, you gain the knowledge and life experience of everyone in the group—not just the therapist. For example, if you’re in an emotional place that another member has had some success dealing with (bingeing and purging, social anxiety), he or she can share helpful techniques for what worked for them. Likewise, you may have strategies or wisdom that you can share with the group and help others. And that, in turn, helps you gain a unique and valuable perspective on your own issues.
3. Affordable. Group therapy costs significantly less than individual therapy. In the Bay Area, individual therapy can range from $100-$200 for a 50-minute session. This may be money well spent, but if you can’t afford to pay that much, groups are an excellent alternative. In addition, groups usually last anywhere from 1-2 hours, so you usually get more time than in individual therapy.
4. Group therapy can be more effective for some problems. Some problems, such as social anxiety and grief, can be more effectively addressed in groups than in individual therapy. For example, with social anxiety, exposure to what you fear (i.e., other people) is one of the primary ways of overcoming the anxiety. In a group, you have built-in exposure to other people, which allows you to face your fear in a supportive and controlled environment. This can help you build confidence in your social skills, and allow you to practice skills that may be difficult to practice in less controlled and supportive settings.
5. Honest feedback. Groups allow you to receive honest and supportive feedback from not only the therapist, but from the other group members who are facing similar challenges. It can be very helpful and relieving to get feedback from outside sources to either confirm or challenge your perspective. Sometimes, when someone is going through a difficult depression, eating disorder, or anxiety, they might feel they are the only one experiencing such symptoms. Feedback from group members and the therapist normalizes their experience and helps them learn they’re not alone. This can be extremely comforting and relieving.
6. Social interaction. Many individuals that experience depression, eating disorders, or anxiety, tend to isolate from others and not engage in much social interaction. This can worsen the problem, so it’s imperative to reach out and gain social support. It can be hard to reach out to close friends and family that may not understand what you’re going through, or you may fear they will judge you unfairly. There may also be shame involved with issues like eating disorders and depression, so reaching out becomes even more difficult. Groups allow individuals to receive social support from others who are facing similar challenges and who won’t judge them unfairly.
Finding Groups in San Francisco and Marin
There are several ways to find groups in the Bay Area. Here are just a few suggestions.
Tips for an effective search:
Use specific keywords to locate groups that specifically address what you want help with (e.g., “groups for anxiety Marin” “group therapy for eating disorders San Francisco” “group therapy for bulimia San Rafael” “therapy groups in San Francisco for depression”).
2. Online Directories—This is a free, quick, and efficient way to find groups in your area.
Here are some recommended online therapy directories for the San Francisco Bay Area:
The Marin County Psychological Association has an online “Find a Psychologist” directory that allows you to search for licensed psychologists in Marin who offer groups.
The San Francisco Psychological Association’s online directory allows you to search for psychologists who offer groups in the SF Bay Area.
Psychology Today offers one of the largest online group therapy locators. Their “Find a Therapy Group” directory allows you to search for groups throughout the US and parts of Canada.
FindGroupTherapy.com is an SF-based website that specializes in helping you locate therapy groups. Their database allows you to search for specific groups throughout California, as well as in other states.
3. Get a referral from your doctor—Some doctors keep a referral list for groups in your area.
4. Ask a friend or family member—If you know of a friend or family member who’s attending a group or has in the past (especially for a similar issue), don’t be afraid to ask for the group information.
5. Inquiry with another health professional—Ask your massage therapist, chiropractor, dentist, yoga or Pilates instructor, or personal trainer if they know of a group.