Group Therapy Transitions to Virtual Opportunity for Healing

Person in the right corner viewing others on a group call on a laptop.

Group therapy thrives on members having a shoulder to lean on and a safe, private venue in which to support one another. Even though the recent pandemic has limited in-person interaction, virtual group therapy is proving to be a fitting option.

During the pandemic, people have grown accustomed to communicating with friends and family via video calls, switching to contactless processes for everyday tasks and even virtual health care visits.

Mental health care is no different. Within Monarch, receiving mental health services through telehealth has been an option for over eight years, with a simple, safe, easy-to-use format in place.

Currently across North Carolina, Monarch coordinates a number of virtual group therapy sessions via telehealth. Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving one or more therapists working with several people at the same time and creating a safe environment where members can support each other emotionally and through shared experiences.

Group therapy is sometimes used alone, but it is also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes individual therapy and medication.

Virtual Group Therapy Offers Opportunity to Connect with Others

Matthew Sills, M.A., MS, NCC, LCMHC, behavioral health therapist based out of Monarch’s Guilford Behavioral Health clinic, believes that even though face-to-face activities have switched to virtual, there are significant positives that have resulted. “Virtual group therapy allows my individuals supported to have social contact during a very stressful time,” Sills noted.

He currently facilitates group therapy sessions for depression and anxiety related concerns with a focus on assertive communication, increasing social engagement, relaxation skills to manage anxiety in social situations and increasing positive self-worth.

Virtual group therapy may add a layer of complexity, but Sills said the end result is worth it. “The main benefit of group therapy right now is to have the social contact and keep people accountable to each other to promote and maintain progress,” he explained, adding that a routine schedule of group therapy sessions provides a sense of normalcy.

Kimberly Nichols, M.S./Ed.S, LCMHC, behavioral health therapist based out of the Lincoln Behavioral Health clinic, was moved by her group’s concern for each other. “The individuals within the group seemed to have been through very different experiences of trauma and were at different places in their recovery,” she described. “However, after sharing with one another very broadly what they had experienced and how it was affecting their daily lives, I was shocked at how much they were able to relate to each other and how gently they handled communicating with each other.”

Behavioral Health Therapist Melody Urban, LCSW, based out of the Cleveland Behavioral Health site, said she was witness to group therapy successes during sessions for overcoming depression: “Everyone was respectful and supportive of the other participants and looked forward to returning next week!”

Quote box with quote from a group therapy session participant.Group Therapy Participants Don’t Feel Isolated with Virtual Connection

Robert has been a member of an in-person group therapy session for over a year, but more recently virtually with one of Sills’ groups. Virtual group therapy’s convenience while easily connecting and staying in contact with the other group members, was a draw for Robert: “I enjoy checking in with them and getting their support.”

He noted that even though he doesn’t get together socially with the other group therapy participants or have their contact numbers, he considers them his friends. “It is very enlightening and refreshing to interact with people different than me. We are all in this together, facing the same problems,” he observed.

Virtual group therapy has helped him weather some of the difficulties the pandemic has caused.

Virtual Format Allows Healing to Continue

Hunter, who is a group therapy participant in a session coordinated through the Cleveland Behavioral Health location, indicated that the virtual format enables healing mentally to continue. “It allows me to have a safe place to help me understand how to deal with different real-life situations whether it be my problem or someone else’s. Sometimes it’s better to talk about things rather than stew about them and bottle it up in your head. Group helps with that,” she stated.

Stephanie’s group therapy experience, through a Lincoln Behavioral Health based group, has allowed her to understand others can relate to her healing journey. “I really enjoy the online group sessions. I felt like having someone who could relate to how you are feeling and what you are going through is very beneficial! It kind of makes it easier to come out about things because you don’t feel like the only one going through it.”

For more information about joining a virtual group therapy or for any questions, call Monarch at (866) 272-7826.