How Group Therapy Has Supported My Depression Recovery in College

When I started individual therapy two years ago, I expected the worst. I thought I would walk into a dimly lit room, lay on a couch and answer about a million questions. I was so wrong.

Honestly, I don’t even remember my first session. I wish I could tell you how I felt the exact moment when my therapist walked into the waiting room and called my name for the first time. I mean, I remember almost walking out because he was running late and I couldn’t contain my anxiety, but I don’t remember a single thing I talked about. But I remember thinking, How in the world did it take me so long to get here?

I immediately fell in love with it. I loved picking apart every piece of my life. My childhood, my friends, my family. Absolutely everything. It was pretty painful, but it felt right. I knew I had done the right thing.

After a session or two of therapy, my therapist suggested joining one of his process groups. At that point, I was desperate and I wanted to be rid of my depression more than anything, so I joined.

When I told my friends I was joining a group, they thought it would be scary to talk about my feelings in front of strangers. It was a bit scary and a little weird. But it was also one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Group therapy is a rarity. Imagine going into a room for an hour and a half once a week and being able to bare your soul to strangers without any judgment. On the off chance that there is judgment, the purpose of group is to identify the feeling behind the judgment and to understand why our feelings make us act the way we do. By doing this, you make deep emotional connections with everyone in the group. Those connections foster the conversation, keep people coming back each week and create a safe environment where every thought and feeling is valid.

I have been lucky to have four positive group experiences, and each group keeps getting better and better. I find myself connecting with people I would assume I’d have nothing in common with if I had bumped into them outside of my university’s counseling center. It is really comforting to know there are others out there you can connect with, especially when you’re on a college campus where it is easy to feel alone with so many people around you.

When I’m in group therapy, I feel much less isolated in my depression and I feel like I’m able to process my emotions more efficiently because I have seven other people to consistently support and validate my feelings. That kind of validation is something I almost never get outside of group therapy. Raw, vulnerable moments between people are extremely rare to experience in modern society. Society puts up so many barriers and tells us to keep it all inside and hide how we truly feel. It is the exact opposite in group therapy, which is why I feel like I can breathe a little bit easier when I leave group each week. I don’t have the weight of society stopping me from saying how I feel or judging me for an hour and a half, every week.

This is why I love group therapy. I’m not going to lie, being in a process group is hard and very triggering sometimes. I’ve left the group room feeling depressed, annoyed, happy — basically every emotion possible. But it’s the vulnerability, validation and meaningful emotional connections that make group therapy hard to live without. I have met so many amazing people throughout my time in group and they will always have a special place in my heart due to their support and validation.

So if you’re considering group therapy, please try it. It’s not scary at all. It’s unbelievably freeing and you will not regret it.

You never know how much you can truly relate to someone until you give them space to be vulnerable and they give the same courtesy to you.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

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