Workshops vs group therapy vs self-support groups: 12 Steps groups
I have received some questions by email, mostly in French, so I’ve decided to share my answers in a new article with all of you here: What is the difference between group therapy and self-support group? What are 12 Steps groups used generally for? What kind of workshops can we attend at Bestherapie, in Mulhouse, Haut Rhin, Alsace? What are the themes, the advantages to attend these groups or workshops?
Workshops can be different and organized according to each specialist or therapist, to his/her competencies, skills and approach. The therapist’s deontology and experience, being people-oriented and practicing active listening are mandatory in helping a person to choose the right method, workshop or group according to his/her objectives. We should remember that each person is “unique”, different and what makes us “different” could be used to learn and grasp new things one from another, work on our acceptance and empathy!
Bestherapie creates and offers workshops information in French and in English as the region of Alsace is close to the borders with Germany and Switzerland and there are a variety of demands, very rich cultures and mentalities.
These workshops are usually gathering a limited number of people (if the event takes place in my office) or an extended number (if it appears as a conference and becomes a topic of a large and more demanded interest by the community; I normally provide participants with materials and/or ideas that are quit useful and pragmatic, in order to start a dialogue, an exchange, sharing some interesting hands-on activities.
The workshops available at the moment in Bestherapie include themes such as :
Developing new coping skills & mechanisms (self-esteem, inner-healing, false beliefs, forgiving ourselves, nonviolent communication, NPL techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Approach: Identifying thoughts and behaviors and the role they play in our daily behavior patterns and relationships, dealing with difficult people at work, conflict management, parents & children support, single parents, parenting skills, harassment at school (teens, mindfulness and self-compassion, ) etc.
These types of workshops are very useful, they have educational, informational purposes, and they help increase awareness, motivate and encourage people to go to the next level in their research or in solving their problems (to ask for specific information, support, if necessary). Example: For parenting skills workshop I put in place specific activities so the participants have the opportunity to share their own experiences, to work on assessments adjusted to real life situations. They learn to identify their strengths and weaknesses, they learn new ways to communicate with their children and spouses etc. (NPL and NON Violent Communication tools are very useful during these type of workshops and meetings).
The other type of workshops that Bestherapie provides as a therapeutic program is more related to what in US is known as a group therapy led by a professional (therapist, counselor etc). The tools and the methods are more complex within this type of meetings; they include worksheets, diaries, psychodrama and role play activities to address specific issues.
These groups are of course different than the support groups (self-support groups) such as the 12 Steps Programs, where members provide each other with various types of nonprofessional help, for a particular shared, problem).
Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. (Such as addictions, getting over a loss, etc).
You can find below some examples of group therapy meetings that Bestherapie put together and that address to:
Single parents, dysfunctional families :
– Going through changes and offering support to people that experience grief, loss, divorce, unhealthy family environment, loss of a spouse and raising a child alone – coping with stress and unhealthy emotions or patterns of thinking ; the members of these groups are usually following another type of individual, couple or family therapy or counseling sessions with us;
– Dealing with in-laws, with step-parents, blended families
– Adjusting to major life changes such as job, school, neighborhood, city etc
– Teenage mothers and young adult singles that have problems in dealing with having un unexpected child;
– Mixed marriages, cultural différences and so on.
In some countries for these types of problems, such as bereavement after the death of a loved one, or coping with a chronic medical condition like cancer, or addictions, hospitals or community agencies often provide support groups led by a psychotherapist or other counselor. They can also advice the person that suffers to attend self-support groups, 12 Steps meetings (especially for compulsions, addictions, emotional problems etc).
In France, this type of support and therapy groups focused on a spefic problem (as well as the self-support groups) is less developed in small towns and less frequent on a high level than in US for example, where the hospitals, the legal authorities collaborate and offer support to help people choose recovery from addictions (DUI examples in court), explain that addiction is a disease that affects not only the body, but it also has important psychological and emotional impact on the person involved, his belief system, behavior patterns, mental health as well as on his family and friends.
People that attend these groups often attend individual counseling sessions related to: anxiety, perfectionism, compulsions, anger management, codependency etc.
Other examples of group therapy at Bestherapie are:
– Inner-healing, healthy relationships, saying ‘no’ to manipulators
– Professional reconversion ; retirement
– Groups for women: assuming roles, enough of being “multitask” persons, coping with stress, having a child, Emotional Intelligence, worrying too much, fear of intimacy, choosing the right partner, communication skills and marriage, depression, emotional and overeating problems etc
“Adult children” – dysfunctional families (available soon)
The main principles and advantages if you choose to attend these groups include:
– Confidentiality, right of each person to speak, to share without being judged, helping her feel in a safe and comfortable environment
– Exchanging ideas in a respectful manner, active listening, positive feedback and support from participants
– In Bestherapie office: limited number of participants in order to establish a more confidential, comfortable atmosphere and give each person the needed time to share (4 / 6 attendants)
– Adjusted and practical techniques and tools applied by the therapist to guide the members and to help increase group’s cohesion. Actually, by working in a group, the therapist can see first-hand how each person responds to other people and behaves in social situations. He can then use this information, to provide valuable feedback or specific support to each person.
– The fact that others are facing the same type of situation helps you open up, identify with other people’s problems and discuss your feelings. Different needs such as belonging, acceptance, and attention are fulfilled, so you’ll soon see the positive changes in your behavior towards yourself and towards others.
– Developing your empathy, social and communication skills.
The 12 Step Groups: are self-help support groups, fully organized and managed by its members, who are commonly volunteers and have personal experience in the subject of the group’s focus. These groups may also be referred to as fellowships, peer support groups, lay organizations, and mutual help groups. They are free of charge, open to all people that have a common problem to share, that need support.
A 12 step meeting is usually led by one of the member (members take turns in leading the meetings – opened or closed-) and works on 12 principles and 12 Traditions, commonly shared and accepted as a healthy ground rules for every attendant such as:
- admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion;
- recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
- examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
- making amends for these errors;
- learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
- helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.
The 12 Steps Groups were created in 1939 and related in the beginning only to support people that suffered from alcoholism. Over the years, these groups showed their efficiency and positive impact on individual health, recovery and social aspects so they were extended to other types of addictions, compulsions or issues such as: CoDa (Codependents Anonymous), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.), Workaholics Anonymous (WA), Al-Anon/Alateen, Al-Anon Family Groups (of Alcoholics); AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) etc
The self-support groups are an addition to other type of therapy, not replacing the professional help, but their efficiency is recognized all over the world, including in France now, where principles as ‘One day at a time’, Live and let live’, the “Serenity Prayer” are more and more spread and shared as life principles by those in need.
We all have the choice to live a happier life, to get over denial, to admit that we are humans and we need support and love. The choice for a better life, for finding the suitable solution for yourself, the courage and the motivation to change is personal and it depends on each individual. But before you make a decision not to get informed or to reject help, we suggest that you take a minute, breath and ask yourself if the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ on your list worth another look towards the positive change that you deserve. It is never too late!