Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. This type of therapy is widely available at a variety of locations, including private therapeutic practices, hospitals, mental health clinics, and community centers. Group therapy is sometimes used alone, but it is also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes individual therapy and medication.
How Does Group Therapy Work? Groups therapy generally involve around twelve individuals (although it is possible to have more or less participants). The group typically meets once or twice each week for an hour or two. The minimum number of group therapy sessions is usually around six, but a full year of sessions is more common. Manor also notes that these sessions may either be open or closed. In open sessions, new participants are welcome to join at any time. In a closed group, only a core group of members are invited to participate with a specific start and end date.
So what does a typical group therapy session look like? In many cases, a session might begin with members of the group introducing themselves and sharing why they are in group therapy. Members might also share their experiences and progress since the last meeting.
The specific manner in which the session is conducted depends largely on the goals of the group and the style of the therapist. It could be free-form style of dialogue, where each member participates as he or she sees fit. Or have a specific plan for each session that might include having clients practice new skills with other members of the group.
The Effectiveness of Group Therapy. Group therapy can be very effective, especially in certain situations. Studies have shown that group therapy can be an effective treatment choice Also research proofed that group therapy is as effective as individual therapy.
Reasons to Use Group Therapy; the key advantages of group therapy include
• Group therapy allows people to receive the support and encouragement of the other members of the group. People participating in the group are able to see that there are others going through the same thing, which can help them feel less alone.
• Group members can serve as role models to other members of the group. By seeing someone who is successfully coping with a problem, other members of the group can see that there is hope and recovery is possible. As each person progresses, they can in turn serve as a role model and support figure for others. This can help foster feelings of success and accomplishment.
• Group therapy is very cost effective. Instead of focusing on just one client at a time, the therapist can devote his or her time to a much larger group of people.
• Group therapy offers a safe haven. The setting allows people to practice behaviors and actions within the safety and security of the group.
• By working in a group, the therapist can see first-hand how each person responds to other people and behaves in social situations. Using this information, the therapist can provide valuable feedback to each client.
What Should I Expect?
Group therapy involves one or more therapists to lead the group. Typically, groups meet for an hour or two each week. Some people attend individual therapy in addition to groups, while others participate in groups only.
Many groups are designed to target a specific problem, such as depression, obesity, panic disorder, social anxiety, chronic pain or substance abuse. Other groups focus more generally on improving social skills, helping people deal with a range of issues such as anger, shyness, loneliness and low self-esteem. Groups often help those who have experienced loss, whether it be a spouse, a child or someone who died by suicide.
Benefits of Group Therapy
Joining a group of strangers may sound intimidating at first, but group therapy provides benefits that individual therapy may not. Group therapists say, in fact, that group members are almost always surprised by how rewarding the group experience can be.
Groups can act as a support network and a sounding board. Other members of the group often help you come up with specific ideas for improving a difficult situation or life challenge, and hold you accountable along the way.
Regularly talking and listening to others also helps you put your own problems in perspective. Many people experience mental health difficulties, but few speak openly about them to people they don’t know well. Oftentimes, you may feel like you are the only one struggling — but you’re not. It can be a relief to hear others discuss what they’re going through, and realize you’re not alone.
Diversity is another important benefit of group therapy. People have different personalities and backgrounds, and they look at situations in different ways. By seeing how other people tackle problems and make positive changes, you can discover a whole range of strategies for facing your own concerns.
More Than Support
While group members are a valuable source of support, formal group therapy sessions offer benefits beyond informal self-help and support groups. Group therapy sessions are led by one or more therapist with specialized training, who teach group members proven strategies for managing specific problems. If you’re involved in an anger-management group, for instance, your therapist will describe scientifically tested strategies for controlling anger. That expert guidance can help you make the most of your group therapy experience.
Joining a Group
Each client must complete an individual assessment
When choosing a group, consider the following questions.
Is the group open or closed? Open groups are those in which new members can join at any time. Closed groups are those in which all members begin the group at the same time. They may all take part in a 12-week session together, for instance. There are pros and cons of each type. When joining an open group, there may be an adjustment period while getting to know the other group attendees. However, if you want to join a closed group, you may have to wait for several weeks until a suitable group is available.
How many people are in the group?
Small groups may offer more time to focus on each individual, but larger groups offer greater diversity and more perspectives. Talk to your therapist about which choice is better for you.
How alike are the group members?
Groups usually work best when members experience similar difficulties and function at similar levels.
Is group therapy enough?
Many people find it’s helpful to participate in both group therapy and individual psychotherapy. Participating in both types of psychotherapy can boost your chances of making valuable, lasting changes. If you’ve been involved in individual psychotherapy and your progress has stalled, joining a group may jump-start your personal growth.
How much should I share?
Confidentiality is an important part of the ground rules for group therapy. However, there’s no absolute guarantee of privacy when sharing with others, so use common sense when divulging personal information. That said, remember that you’re not the only one sharing your personal story. Groups work best where there is open and honest communication between members. Group members will start out as strangers, but in a short amount of time, you’ll most likely view them as a valuable and trusted source of support.