For the past year, I have been attending a group workshop programme called the Intensive Life Skills (ILS) Pathway, as part of my treatment plan for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The ILS Pathway draws from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and focuses on problem-solving, managing emotions, impulsivity, and interpersonal relationships.
I have found these workshops to be critical in my recovery, and although I still have a long way to go, I feel like I now have a lot more skills to deal with my life and my mental illness.
Lots of people (myself included) get the automatic “oh hell no” feeling when they hear “group therapy” or anything to do with having to access treatment in a group setting. At best, it feels uncomfortable, and at worst it can be utterly panic-inducing. Believe me, I get it.
However, given that working in a group setting has helped me so much, I feel like it’s only right that I share the reasons why it was so helpful, in the hope that it will encourage others to give it a go as part of their treatment plan (if appropriate), whether it is with the ILS Pathway, DBT, or another form of treatment in a group setting.
1. Meeting new people
In a group setting, you get to meet various other people who are going through similar things to you. It can be very validating to know that you’re not the only one who experiences the world the way you do. I made a couple of good friends in the group with whom I still keep in contact.
It gently pushes you out of your comfort zone whilst keeping you in a safe space that is monitored and facilitated by trained professionals, and allows you to build up your confidence around other people in that safe space. Once you have built up your confidence there, it may give you more confidence out in the world.
3. More ideas
When we’re learning in a group setting, we have the opportunity to gain more different perspectives and ideas, because although everyone there is going through similar things to you, everyone’s life is different. There is also less pressure to know all the answers than if you were in a one-to-one setting, because if there are several people there, then everyone will be getting asked questions and having their opportunity to share their ideas – some of which you may not have considered on your own.
Having a regular group meeting is a great way to establish a routine, which may have been something that you’ve been missing, particularly if your mental illness has led to you being unable to work. It gave me something to look forward to each week, and also started to slowly increase my capacity to stick to a schedule, even if it was just one morning a week.
5. New skills
The educational setting of the group means that the workshops are structured and follow a curriculum, providing resources and practice exercises that help you to work through some of the areas in life where you are struggling. I now have a full folder of resources to use to help me manage tough areas of my life.
Have you had any experience of mental health treatment in a group setting? Would you consider it? Let me know why/why not in the comments.