Should I Return to Group Therapy?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Recently I started this group program which is for women who have been sexually abused. This is such a huge step for me as i’ve never spoken about it before and no one knows im doing it. I’ve attended the last three sessions, when I’m there though I totally shut down and can’t respond. The room we do it in is like a reference library, so I usually just count the books on the shelves… am I nuts? we had the opportunity this week to share our story, I started to panic and wanted to get out of there, finally they got to me and I just couldn’t do it. Its like I just can’t get it out. I started to shake, i got a like a stress rash on my neck and felt physically sick. It’s like this intense fear comes over me, like i’m being choked and cant get the words out. The facilitators were really good and said it was ok, but then i feel bad cause the others had the strength and courage to share and I didn’t. Even hearing their stories, although different to mine made me just wanna get out of there and block my ears. I feel so detached from my emotions, my friends at work say I’m really distant and like a zombie. It’s like I know I should be sad and angry but I just feel numb. What do I do? I almost feel as though it is making me worse, I can’t sleep, I cant eat, i’ve lost almost 15kgs since the start of the year. To be honest I just wish that I could go back in time and not start this whole process, I kinda feel like i had it all under control, well it was controlled enough, at least I could function. I am in two minds as to whether I should return this week or not. I feel so overwhelmed as well, there is just so much stuff to deal with, the S. abuse, physical, emotional, abandonment, betrayl,my eating and just a messed up stuff. It seems so big, I don’t think I can do it.

A. You may be being too hard on yourself. You have only attended the group three times and you’ve essentially concluded that you’re a failure because it’s been a struggle for you to share your story. Yes, the other members spoke in the group but we have no idea how many years or number of meetings they had to attend before they were able to speak about their experiences. It’s possible that many of those group members spent months or years in silence unable to share their story. Try not to be so hard on yourself. As you said, it was a major accomplishment when you began attending the group. Give yourself credit for this.

The concern with you stopping the meetings is that you could essentially train yourself to be continually afraid and may never be able to speak in any group. If every time you want to speak about the abuse fear stops you and then you leave the situation, you may actually be feeding your fear. That is, leaving when you’re really scared might actually reinforce your fear and help it grow. This is exactly what you don’t want to do.

Is it possible for you to attend the group and not talk? Does every group member have to speak? Is there a group leader you can speak with about your difficulty sharing with the group? If so ask if it’s okay to listen and observe. The idea here is that maybe you can still attend the group but don’t have to speak.

As difficult as it is for you to attend the meetings I do think you should return. If you continue there is a good chance that you may eventually feel safe enough to speak. It might be helpful for you to listen to the stories of others. I hope you decide to continue. It might be a really good chance for you to begin your healing. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Should I Return to Group Therapy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/02/23/should-i-return-to-group-therapy/

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