We have sure had some group therapy woes around Utah Eating Disorder the past couple weeks. Whew, eating disorder groups are hard to run! The way I always summarize it for my group is this: "Let's see, let's take a bunch of people with social anxiety, put them in a room together, and try to get them to talk! Right!" Oh, it's a battle because everyone is so scared of offending one another, and what everyone thinks about them, and is it their turn to talk or not. The anxious thoughts seem fairly non-stop in the minds of the group members. I feel for them, as this whole group must be quite torturous at times.
But, if it is so torturous, and I know this, why in the world would I recommend it, even require it? That's easy to answer. More often than not, I have seen group have a greater impact than individual therapy. Us individual therapists can be easily discarded by the eating disorder. What we say can be thrown off because, for just a few reasons, 1) we don't really know what it is like to have an ED, 2) we "are just saying that," 3) we are just the "doctor," and on and on. But, when you get a group of women together that actually have the disorder, wow, they have a lot of power with one another.
In some groups, that power isn't very well managed, and the group results in everyone sinking into the abyss together. But, when a group is set on getting well and holds one another to that standard, then, THEN!, there's a ton of power. What an individual therapist or dietitian says that has minimal impact has so much more impact when it comes from a peer. Women who are used to being in the background, ignored, forgotten, suddenly are able to see that what they say matters, that it positively impacts others. Bonds are formed when the ED has made it so there are no connections. And, suddenly, all that initial anxiety was worth going through.
So, if you are in a group, and avoiding participation in some way, I encourage you to reconsider that. Group can be such a powerful and positive experience once you survive that initial anxiety (that, admittedly, can last quite a while). And if you are running and ED group and feeling at a loss for how to get the group process going, hang in there. Keep pushing the women to interact and overcome that anxiety. It will happen, and it will be worth it.