What a T-Shirt Taught Me About Group Therapy
My brother recently posted a picture of a T-shirt that read "It's an Oberg thing. You wouldn't understand." This struck me as funny because our last name is not exactly common. It got better when I started reading the comments--all these other people with the last name Oberg who thought they were the only ones was intriguing enough, but my favorite comment was, "Has anyone else spent their life going 'No, it's not Irish, there's no apostrophe?" I loved the whole thread.
It taught me an important lesson about group therapy--namely, it can be just as effective as individual therapy.
Group Therapy Teaches Us We Are Not Alone
Group therapy teaches us that we are not alone. This is vital since one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is fear of being alone, as well as feeling alone. Another person with BPD can remind us that we are not the only ones who feel the way we feel.
When I was first diagnosed, I was the only person I knew with a mental illness. When I reached out to my church for help and support, they turned away because they were taught my mental illness was due to low moral character at best and demonic at worst. Entering group therapy introduced me to other people with mental illness, and we were able to help each other just as much as the facilitating psychologist helped us. We could love and support each other.
There are fellow borderline travelers who share the road with you. You are not alone.
Group Therapy Helps Dispel Mental Illness Stigma
When I was first diagnosed, I believed a lot of the stigma about mental illness. All I knew is the way I was feeling wasn't good or healthy. My non-mentally ill friends recommended more spiritual activities ranging from prayer to exorcisms; they were in denial that a chemical imbalance in the brain can manifest in the emotions. Meeting other people with mental illness helped me to overcome the stigma of mental illness in general and borderline personality disorder in particular.
Group therapy gave me another worldview. I learned from other mental health consumers that most things are possible. It is possible to earn your degree--I did it. It is possible to hold down a job--I'm doing it. It is possible to get better--I'm living proof. A label is just a label. The contents of the package are what counts.
Once I overcame the stigma I had internalized, I began to recover from my illness. I got to a point where I wasn't suicidal every day. I faced my alcoholism and self-injury and identified them as negative coping skills that needed to be replaced.
The flip side is also true. When I bought into the stigma and hid my symptoms, I got worse--to the point of a nervous breakdown. But by facing the stigma and overcoming it, I got better.
Group Therapy Allows Us to Learn from Each Other
I believe that everyone who comes into your life will teach you something. This goes double for group therapy.
When I started group therapy, I tended to stuff everything in. When I saw people recovering by talking about the unspeakable, it gave me the courage to give voice to that which I had silenced. The other people in group therapy taught me how to give sorrow words and how to cope with my pain.
One person taught me it was okay to cry. Another taught me that crying often signaled a breakthrough. A third taught me that we should always be honest about how we feel, even if we fear we're bringing the group down. These are all lessons I might not have learned on my own.
In short, group therapy can be helpful in many ways. If you have a mental illness, you should join a support group and see what you can learn.
Oberg, B. (2014, July 15). What a T-Shirt Taught Me About Group Therapy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2014/07/what-a-t-shirt-taught-me-about-group-therapy