Over the past week, I’ve sat in on several group therapy sessions for those coping with depression, treatment-resistant mental illnesses, and bipolar disorder. Going in, I was expecting run-of-the-mill conversations – “Hello, my name is _____, I have _____, I’m learning to cope with it.” Truth to be told, I was really skeptical as to how efficacious group therapy sessions are in the grand scheme of treatment. Are they even comparable to pharmacotherapy? Do they actually work?
The group leader of the “coping with depression” session was kind enough to keep me involved and brought up an interesting point – patients with depression have a new baseline of happiness set below most others. Unfortunately, they become accustomed to living with social isolation, internal conflict, and even hopelessness; however, when a depressed patient has a “good” week… it’s almost like they’re living in unfamiliar territory. How do they cope with this newfound feeling? ❓
There was a new member to the bipolar group session I attended. The other patients went around the room stating how long they had been coming to group sessions, their psychosocial situations, and how they’ve improved through group therapy. The new member teared up as he admitted to being able to relate to bits and pieces of stories he heard throughout the room. I was indescribably moved.
Never in my life had I seen complex emotions conveyed with words so purely and descriptively. These individuals were summarizing years of internal anxiety, suicidal ideations, social isolation, substance abuse, and loss in a manner that I, a complete stranger oblivious to their prior meetings, felt like I had known them for years.
I was also taken back by how close knit the group was. One of the “regular” attendees had not shown up which led the entire group to question his whereabouts. They laughed together. Sought comfort and advice from each other. They were essentially a family. A family bound by a psychiatric commonality and working together to progress towards happy and productive lives. 🙂
Psychiatry requires a special set of social skills. That’s for sure.