Group Therapy

Privacy and Group Therapy

At two separate points in my life, I’ve had friends observe that I seem to spend a lot of time going to the doctor.

They weren’t wrong. I do spend a lot of time with doctors—and nurse practitioners, and psychologists, and counselors, and neuropsychologists, and psychiatrists, and the occasional graduate student. A great number of those visits were bi-weekly or weekly sessions of therapy groups, which is a lot like fight club in that the first rule about it is that you’re not supposed to talk about it.

The reasoning behind this is simple enough: not everyone is open about their participation in the mental health space, and speaking publicly about someone else’s therapy is a violation of their privacy and individual rights.

I didn’t interact much with people in any of my therapy groups outside of therapy, though I have maintained a Facebook friendship with some of them. I had to be careful about what I said and who I said it to, lest I accidentally give away to someone that a casual acquaintance was met through group therapy.

This got harder to do as time went on, because I tend to try and be more open about my history of mental illness. As I stated in the opening line, I’ve had friends observe the sheer amount of time I’d spent dealing with my medical issues. I had one major practice that I kept up from before I even attended my first group session: I practiced saying “We had a psych class together”.

It was a perfect out, though one I never had to actually use. The idea was a layover from my childhood practice of saying “my cat scratched me” and “I’m just tired”. It was simple—if I practiced saying these little white lies to myself,  I could say them to someone else more convincingly.

I took a couple of psychology classes in college, and these were the kind of 101 classes with 200 people in a giant lecture hall with a professor who didn’t bother to learn anyone’s names. If I had ever needed to deploy the decoy, this one made the most sense.

Luckily, I never had to use this, and my friends accepted the explanation that I did, in fact, need to go to the doctor more often than other people. Whether or not you share that you are attending or have attended group therapy is up to you, but there are definitely ways to maintain everyone’s privacy in the process.

What about you? Have you ever had to explain (or dodge an explanation) to friends or classmates? How do you balance honesty and privacy? ❀

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