Group Therapy – Creating a Circle of Support for Adolescent Girls

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Introduction

Is your teenage daughter struggling with her mental health, standing up for herself, social stress and/or other challenges of adolescence?

My Voice: Empowerment for Girls is a support group for middle school aged adolescent girls and girl identified adolescents at Sentier Psychotherapy. In this unique space for teens, girls and female identified people discuss topics relevant to them, such as finding their authentic self, navigating peer pressure, tackling body image, everyday life stressors, maintaining healthy friendships and dating relationships/navigating relationship issues, exploring gender and sexuality, practicing healthy communication, and more. smiling teens blog

Common Challenges for Adolescent Girls

Adolescence is a beautiful time in a person’s life, though is often also a difficult time. Girls frequently struggle with poor self image, feelings of rejection from peers, isolation, peer conflict, and peer pressure and experience negative emotions in response to these life stressors (Venter and Uys, 2018).

Group Therapy

Group therapy refers to a setting in which a trained facilitator provides therapy to at least three unrelated individuals at a time, often who are all facing similar life challenges. Group therapy is different than family therapy and can be an adjunct to individual therapy sessions or be utilized as a stand alone intervention. In the My Voice: Empowerment for Girls Group, group members are able to talk about their challenges in a safe, fun and supportive environment with other girls who can relate, thereby creating a sense of connection and community.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy has a numerous benefits. A big reason people participate in group therapy is to be around others who have had similar experiences. Talking about important, sensitive topics in a group can help teens feel validated, supported, and remind them that they are not alone.

Participants might not have other spaces where they feel comfortable sharing their feelings or complex emotions. Group therapy can give group members this safe space and help people to feel seen and understood. A felt sense of acceptance and trust with other group members can be critical to weathering difficult adolescent years. As My Voice group members share their experiences, other girls who relate may say things such as “that’s happened to me too!” and that simple statement alone can be a powerful realization and validation.

Teen group therapy for girls can help them build social and communication skills and healthy relationships. We like to think that adolescents have these skills intact due to intentional parenting, but socializing in today’s world has many complications. Another helpful part of this group is that it can help early adolescents build an emotional vocabulary in order to effectively communicate their emotions. As they practice showing empathy and understanding to others during group sessions, their relational skills will expand.

Even when group members share something that not all group members can relate to, other members can still show empathy and support. Research has shown that positive peer-group relations contribute to positive outcomes. For example, adolescents who spend time with others who have good emotional and social skills acquire the same skills (Venter & Uys, 2018).

Sometimes group members can provide input about how they have effectively navigated a difficult experience, difficult emotions or personal mental health issues, which in turn can help another participant with a similar situation in their own life. Cherry (2023) notes that group members can be important role models for each other, such that, when one group member copes with something successfully, other members observe that and feel hope. unhappy teen girl blog

When group members implement what they learn in the group, they can feel a sense of accomplishment. Cherry (2023) indicates another benefit of group therapy – how the facilitator, a mental health professional, can observe how group members interact with their peers. The facilitator can then gently share their observations and problem-solving skills tailored to the group’s dynamic, things which group members may not otherwise have been made aware of. In this way, group therapy programs can help participants with introspection and building and understanding of their identity (Venter & Uys, 2018).

As the facilitator of My Voice: Empowerment for Girls, I’ve watched the benefits of group therapy unfold firsthand. Group members tend to be a little quiet at the start, though as the group therapy sessions go on, the girls start to open up more and I can see the bonds begin to form. The girls really seem to enjoy the group and having a trusted community with which to share their experiences. I get to witness girls at ease talking to other teens who “get it.”

Tools and Activities

This group is held in the welcoming group room here at Sentier Psychotherapy. Snacks and fidgets are provided in abundance. Various activities are utilized such as meditation, discussion, art therapy, and crafts and group members have the opportunity to do outdoor activities most weeks, depending on weather. Incorporating activities into group therapy has been shown to help clients have fun and feel more comfortable opening up (Paone, Malott, & Maldonado (2008).

Coping Strategies

Individuals in group therapy often struggle with emotion regulation and using healthy coping skills. Content in groups could end up being triggering to group members at times. The group facilitator teaches coping skills to group members during the beginning of the group so they are equipped with skills to ground themselves if needed. Overall, the primary goal of teaching this skillset is to help clients learn to manage many types of mental health concerns and everyday life stressors.

Group members have opportunities to practice coping skills throughout the course of the group. Group members also find that the act of discussing their problems in a safe environment is a coping skill in and of itself. As mentioned above, when one group member copes effectively with something, other group members can observe and apply that to their own lives as well. Group members are able to generalize coping skills learned in the group into their daily lives. This is part of what makes makes My Voice a powerful and effective environment for change.

Conclusion

Teen group therapy is a great supplement to individual therapy work or can be a treatment on its own. In My Voice: Empowerment for Girls, teen girls get to discuss topics that are important to them, while feeling seen and supported by their peers in a safe space. The group empowers girls to build their sense of self, have more self compassion and confidence, and learn coping skills for a wide range of everyday mental health conditions.

Group therapy has many benefits, such as feeling supported, having a sense of belonging, learning social skills to help with relationship issues (skills such as effective communication and showing empathy) learning coping skills, and identity formation. I recommend My Voice: Empowerment for Girls Group to any middle school girls who are struggling with the normal ups and downs of adolescence, need to build confidence, or are trying to find their true selves.

To learn more about the group My Voice: Empowerment for Girls, please see our website. If you are interested in the group, please contact our Client Care Coordinator, Ellie, at [email protected]

Blog written by Sentier therapist and My Voice group facilitator Andrea Schroeder, MS LPCC.

 

Sources:

Cherry, K.(2024, January 12). What is group therapy. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-group-therapy-2795760

Paone, Malott, & Maldonado (2008). Exploring group activity therapy with culturally diverse adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 3(3), 285-302. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/15401380802347962?needAccess=true

Venter, E. & Uys, H. (2018). Group therapy for early adolescent relationship problems between teen girls. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 24(2), 213-223. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02673843.2018.1509794

 

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