Lorraine Kerr-Atkinson M.S. NCC, LPC

9090 S. Ridgeline Blvd, Suite 220 Littleton, CO 80129

Serving Highlands Ranch

720-437-0776

Resolutions Flagging? Try Group!

According to the newspapers, it is the time of year that resolutions start to fade. Experts recommend a variety of ways to help you stick to your your goals. But what if your goal is emotional and not tangible? What if your goal is to stop snapping at your spouse and kids? Or to be more assertive with your boss? Or finally let go of your childhood baggage? Or have less anxiety and get more things done? Do the same techniques that help you lose weight work with psychological goals?

In order to maximize your chances of reaching your goal, experts recommend that goals be broken into concrete steps. Psychological goals can be less tangible and turning a goal such as a desire to be less anxious can be difficult to make specific and concrete. Even if you do manage to make your goal concrete, there is another problem with psychological goals– what may appear to be the problem may not actually really be the problem.

For example, you could make it a goal to reduce the number of times you snap at your family. You may indeed snap less but when you do snap, it is now with more force and causes deeper emotional rifts and difficulties with your spouse and kids. Just stopping yourself from snapping does nothing to help you deal with the underlying issues around your anger. Anger is the symptom but your real issue may be the inability to set boundaries, or the fact that you are unhappy at your job, or are bored staying at home with the kids. Just as putting a band-aid over a torn artery will not stop the bleeding, stopping the symptom (anger) may not take away the problem (need for a new life direction).

So how can you stick to your guns about the emotional or psychological issue(s) that you may want to change? One way is to seek individual therapy with a therapist that can help you differentiate between the symptoms and the real issues. Another way is to follow the advice of experts and seek to work with others who also have a psychological goal. That’s right! Just as attending a group class can help you stick with your goal to exercise, group therapy can be a great way to help you achieve your internal or psychological goals.

Group therapy works on a number of different levels. On the most basic level, learning about the experiences of other group members can provide a powerful reminder that you are not alone in dealing with your issue. Feeling alone and isolated can increase your sense of helplessness and interfere with your ability to effectively problem solve. Just like going to an exercise class reminds you that are others who need to lose weight or gain muscle, so to listening to other group members struggle with their emotional issues decreases your sense of isolation. Furthermore it can remind you that you are not your problem but a human being with a problem.

In group therapy, watching others learn, practice, and model new ways of behaving or feeling can be a potent push in the right direction. Just like that super fit woman or the guy with the six pack can sometimes remind you to stick with your goals, watching others work on their goals in group therapy can motivate you to tackle your own issue. However, unlike group exercise classes where the same super fit people might also discourage us because we have a different body type and can’t bulk up or slim down as much they can, group therapy works differently. In group psychotherapy, just witnessing someone experience a different feeling or express themselves in a new way can sometimes be incredibly powerful. As a group co-leader, time and time again I have heard people describe how just listening and watching another person experience something new, has affected them profoundly. Witnessing the struggles and changes in others has inspired or motivated internal changes in many group members.

So, if your emotional goals are flagging or you desire support and guidance for your psychological goals, consider joining a psychotherapy group. Just as participating in an exercise class can be a good way to help yourself push pass the pain, learning curve, and initial resistance that inevitably accompanies the beginning of a new exercise routine, attending group therapy sessions can provide similar benefits. Group psychotherapy can help you push pass the pain of acknowledging your issue, deal with setbacks that inevitably accompany behavior change, and lean into the resistance that often accompanies change. Want to know the icing on the cake? Group therapy is more affordable than individual therapy!