Group therapy is a beneficial technique used to treat many issues, from mental disorders to substance abuse. Group therapy offers individuals a healthy support group of peers in similar situations and provides valuable opportunities to learn beneficial life skills and develop healthy new behaviors.
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What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy conducted in a small group setting. Group therapy sessions are led by a licensed therapist and usually consist of 5 to 15 members. Most groups meet for 1-2 hours once per week.
Group therapy (also known as group psychotherapy) can be an effective tool for helping individuals struggling with similar issues. Typically every therapy group session will have a specific topic focus.
Some of the more common issues that group therapy targets include:
- Substance use disorder
- Eating disorders
- Stress disorders
- Anxiety disorders
Group Therapy Techniques
The group therapist will often determine the way a group runs. Usually, group members will have opportunities to participate in active discussion. Individuals may share their reason for joining group therapy or discuss their progress since the last session.
Some group therapists may employ other psychiatry techniques, such as implementing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tools to help participants identify and reframe negative thoughts and behaviors.
Participants in the group work together to understand their motivations and triggers.
Effectiveness of Group Therapy
The American Psychological Association has conducted extensive research about the effectiveness of group therapy.
After more than 50 clinical trials and additional studies, they concluded that group therapy is highly effective and comparable to the efficacy of individual therapy.
In some cases, they note that group therapy may even be more effective than one-on-one therapy for some individuals.
Group Therapy and Treating Substance Use Disorder
For individuals participating in inpatient rehab or outpatient substance abuse treatment, individual and group therapy sessions are often part of the treatment program.
Group therapy is especially effective for those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Humans are naturally social beings, and group therapy provides a critical social element that is helpful during all stages of recovery.
Group therapy also offers recovering addicts an opportunity to see others succeed in their recovery while providing a support system of accountability. The positive peer pressure of group therapy can help members remain sober and avoid relapse.
Research shows that individuals who participate in group therapy are more likely to abstain from substance abuse than those who do not.
Group Therapy VS Individual Therapy
During individual therapy, you will have the privacy to work one-on-one with your psychotherapist to uncover more about your struggles with mental health or substance abuse. However, group therapy offers an opportunity for interpersonal learning through working with peers in a small group setting.
What to Expect in Group Therapy
The group therapist will usually lead a group discussion centered around a group member’s specific problem.
Some of the most common types of group therapy topics include:
- Anger management
- Coping skills
- Social skills
In addition, there are also a few different group therapy types. Each form of group therapy aims to meet specific goals.
Some of the common types of group therapy types include:
- Process groups. As the name suggests, process groups are geared at helping group members process emotions. Sessions help individuals work through trauma to comprehend what they have been through or are currently experiencing, such as newly-discovered sobriety.
- Skills development groups. A skills development group aims to teach members essential tools, such as learning and practicing healthy coping mechanisms during stressful moments.
- Psychoeducational groups. Psychoeducational groups teach patients more about their mental health conditions, including substance use disorder. These groups help patients learn to avoid negative behaviors and replace them with more positive habits.
- Support groups. All group therapies offer a support system beneficial to a person’s recovery, but specific support groups will focus more heavily on peer-to-peer support. Facilitators may encourage group members to share similar experiences—including struggles and successes—with one another to show that nobody is alone in their journey.
Is Group Therapy Right for Me?
When seeking assistance for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, you will find many different types of therapy to consider. But how do you know if group therapy is the right choice for you or your loved one?
Benefits of Group Therapy
One of the key benefits of group therapy is that it provides interpersonal learning to participants. Individuals benefit socially from participating in a group setting, but they also have the opportunity to see other individuals succeed in recovery or their overall wellness journey.
Additional benefits of group therapy include:
- Experiencing a sense of catharsis
- Reducing isolation
- Learning essential social skills (especially for adolescents)
- Gaining a new perspective on your issues
- Exposure to diverse individuals and experiences
- Gaining a solid support network
While group therapy may seem intimidating, many people discover that they get much more out of group therapy sessions than they could have imagined.
Potential Drawbacks of Group Therapy
While group therapy certainly has many benefits, it might not be the ideal setting for everyone. For instance, someone with severe shyness or social anxiety might struggle in a group setting.
Other drawbacks might include:
- Personality conflicts between members
- Some members may be there by court order (and not eager participants)
- Less confidentiality
However, for many people, the benefits of group therapy often outweigh the possible drawbacks, and they find they get a great deal out of their group sessions.
Find Group Therapy Near You
Are you interested in group therapy? You can speak to your doctor or similar healthcare provider for a referral or utilize the SAMHSA program locator to see what group therapy options are available in your area.