How could group therapy help me?

Most people have heard of some type of group: a grief group, AA, divorce group, prayer group, feminist group, support group, maleness group (with drums!), looking-for-work group, singles group, a yoga group and so on. Each of these groups has merit and can be helpful to some folk.

A psychotherapy group is different from these others, and can provide particular benefits for many people. For one, a therapy group is led by a professional therapist, usually a PhD psychologist or masters level counselor, who has extensive training in group therapy. He or she understands the complex dynamics present in a group and can maintain the boundaries necessary to ensure each member receives maximum help with his or her issues.

In the protected and confidential situation of the therapy group (only first names are used and the relationship between members is kept within the group) the person can present their relevant history, old sacred oaths, repressed fears, and family secrets without fear of reprisal or condemnation. In addition, each member can relate to the others in an authentic and open way not possible in most social settings.

A therapy group has unique power to help people give and receive feedback on how each person relates to others. Is he afraid to be open with women? Does she see other females as a threat? Is his view of another man based on his father’s stern behavior? Does she need to use sex to feel valued? Is his drive for money to compensate for his feeling inferior? These and many other dynamics become clear in the process of group therapy, allowing each person to make changes and ensure healthier relationships. In addition, each member can learn how important she or he is to other group members and appreciate how valuable she or he can be in relationships.

Finally, group therapy can be an economical way to make the changes you desire, especially in important relationships in you life. Fees typically run from one-third to one-half those for individual sessions. If you currently have a therapist, ask him or her if a group is right for you.

If you are interested in exploring how a therapy group might help, give me a call at 512-346-2332. Or our office manager Cathy can schedule a time for us to meet.

Dr. Tom (to many of my clients)

4 Signs of a Troubled Marriage

The country’s foremost relationship expert, John Gottman, PhD, has discovered through years of research four things that some couples do which reliably predict divorce ahead for them unless they recognize and change these things.

  1. Harsh Startup
  2. The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse”
  3. Flooding
  4. The Body Language of Emotional Distress

Let’s look at each one.

Harsh Startup

In a discussion or disagreement, someone gets negative, sarcastic, condescending or accusatory in words or tone in the first three minutes.  “I don’t know why I bother talking to you about this, but would you please pick up your damn socks!”

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

These are four negative behaviors that are lethal to a relationship.

  1. Criticism – “What is wrong with you?  I’ve told you not to do it that way.”
  2. Contempt – name-calling, sneering, eye-rolling, mockery, laughing at in a hostile way.
  3. Defensiveness – “Me?  I haven’t’ done anything wrong!  You’re the problem!”
  4. Stonewalling – one partner simply tunes out,  walks away, refuses to answer or acknowledge and disengages emotionally and physically from the other.


There is so much criticism, yelling, name-calling, contempt, blaming or general hostility from one spouse that the other feels overwhelmed, hurt, angry, helpless, often to the point where he or she just shuts down.

Body Language of Severe Emotional Distress

  • Heart rate elevate to >100 beats per minute
  • Adrenaline kicks in, ready for fight or flight
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Sweating
  • Higher thought processes (necessary for creative  problem solving) shut down

These behaviors tend to build upon each other, says Dr. Gottman, such that one leads to another in a mounting storm.  The good news is that you can learn to recognize and stop this pattern.  A good first step is to admit to yourself (and your partner) what role you might play in this kind of interaction.  Are you the one who starts it, so fed up that you can’t help taking a jab? Are you the one who gets outraged and defensive because the accusation seems so unfair?

Deep-seated emotional reactions like these usually take professional help to alter.  However, in my next article we’ll look at some of the important changes that make a big difference.  And, you can always look for one of Dr. Gottman’s excellent books for a complete explanation.