PSYCHOEDUCATION GROUP THERAPY FOR TEENS
WHAT IS GENDER DYSPHORIA?
Group therapy is an experience where people with similar issues and struggles gather in a shared space. These therapy sessions are led by a trained mental health professional. Group therapy is a valuable part of the treatment plan for many mental health diagnoses, addictions, and interpersonal struggles. There are groups tailored to specific age groups as well, including teens.
Research shows a 73% improvement in teens involved in group therapy compared to other therapies. This is because adolescents and teenagers are, by nature, social beings. This distinct developmental stage is a time where most begin to explore different types of relationships. They start to refine social skills and abilities. Thus, the group environment is a natural setting for teens.
APPROPRIATENESS OF GROUP THERAPY
Group therapy is an ideal choice for teens. During the adolescent and teenage years, individuals experience a high level psychosocial vulnerability. Social interaction supports this vulnerability and is a primary part of development. Because most socialization occurs through the observation of others (social learning), group therapy (of any kind) is a great fit for adolescents and teenagers.
PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL GROUP THERAPY
There are many different kinds of group therapy. But one of the most common, psychoeducational group therapy, often works for teenagers and adolescents. Psychoeducational groups can provide teens with information to help them learn about their struggles. It helps them make better choices and cope in more effective ways. Psychoeducational groups foster a supportive and empowering environment for teens. Psychoeducational groups also:
- Provide a safe and encouraging setting
- Promote active participation
- Endorse personal responsibility – for their learning and their recovery
- Educate – about the specific mental illness or struggle, coping strategies, stages of change
- Provide resources – resources not only for the teen, but also his or her family members/caregivers.
HOW YOUR TEEN CAN GET THE MOST FROM THE GROUP SETTING
Getting your teen to attend a psychoeducational group is a good first step. Yet once they are there, certain things can help him or her get the most out of the experience.
- Commit – if your teen is motivated to feel better and manage his or her struggles effectively, it is important for them to make a commitment to the group. This means understanding what is expected of him or her throughout the therapeutic process.
- Share – when your teen actively shares personal experiences, it is helpful to not only them, but also other group participants.
- Participate – just as important as sharing is listening. If you teen can practice active listening, he or she will be able to walk away from each group having learned something.
BENEFITS OF PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL GROUP THERAPY FOR YOUR TEEN
- Normalizing – being around others who share similar struggles, your teen can gain a sense that what he or she is experiencing is “normal.”
- Process time – although psychoedducational groups are primarily focused on education, there is often opportunity for processing. Processing in group therapy is sharing one’s experiences, feelings, struggles, etc., and receiving feedback on how other’s can relate.
- Positive peer support – hearing from others who struggle in similar ways to that of your teen can help him or her feel less alone. This can be a relief to many.
- Coping skills – part of the educational aspect of psychoeducational groups is teaching effective coping skills and providing tools. Teens can then begin to incorporate healthier approaches to coping with difficult emotions, thoughts, and interactions.
- Goal setting – part of any therapeutic process is a treatment plan that includes goals. It is important your teen’s goal is specific, realistic, and attainable.
- Decreased isolation – if your teen struggles with anxiety, depression, or another mental illness, you may notice he or she begins to pull away from social outlets. They tend to spend less time with family and friends. Joining a psychoeducational group can help your teen begin to pull out of his or her isolation, and interact with others.
- Social skills – not only do groups facilitate decreased isolation, but it can also promote reintegration and re-engagement with others. Group therapy can help your teen hone appropriate social skills.
- Witness others’ recovery process – witnessing peers’ progression in recovery can increase your teen’s motivation to work on his or her struggle(s).
- Feedback – group therapy often serves as a sounding board for participants. Hearing from others can be helpful to your teen in terms of seeing situations from different perspectives and outlooks.
- Price – group therapy is often less expensive than individual psychotherapy.
PRINCIPLES OF GENDER AFFIRMATIVE CARE
Seeking mental health care for a teen struggling with gender identity can be difficult. It is important your child feels comfortable and accepted, and receives gender affirmative care. Gender affirmative care means care that:
- Acknowledges the individual’s perception of their gender as being real – this is integral to providing gender affirmative care. Instead of the mental health professional assuming they are the “expert” on the client’s gender and identity, they support and encourage the individual’s own experiences of self.
- Does not assume or rush to conclusions – as a parent, watching your child struggle with gender identity can be hard. Often times, parents are seeking concrete answers from mental health professionals. Yet, gender identity is not something to be rushed. It is vital for the teen to have the time and space for their authentic gender to emerge naturally. There isn’t a fast answer. Those around the individual struggling with their gender identity may need to find ways to manage the discomfort of uncertainty.
- Celebrates the child’s strengths – questioning one’s gender is not a “problem.” But many teens think it is viewed in a negative light. It is so important to acknowledge the individual’s strengths and successes during this difficult time.
- Supports the child and family in navigating the fear – if a teen is struggling with gender identity, then most likely their loved ones have some fear. This fear stems from worry about how others will respond/react. It is important for mental health care providers to not only acknowledge these fears, but assist in navigating through them.
DRAWBACKS OF PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL GROUP THERAPY FOR YOUR TEEN
Although psychoeducational group therapy has a long list of advantages, there are specific criticisms as well. Critics tend to say group therapy, in general, can be:
- Unfocused and/or impersonal
- Ineffective for those who struggle with social phobias
- Potential for conflict
- Possibility of being present but not actually participating
Just because some individuals do not advocate for the use of group therapy with teens, that is not to say that it wouldn’t be a good fit for your child. To find out more about psychoeducational group therapy, contact the experts at Polaris at 1-844-836-0222.