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Group Therapy

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. A licensed therapist leads sessions and usually consist of 5 to 15 members.

Most groups meet for 1-2 hours once per week. Group therapy sessions can take place in person or online.

Group therapy (also known as group psychotherapy or group treatment) can be an effective tool for helping individuals struggling with similar issues. Typically, every therapy group session has a specific topic focus.

Some of the more common issues that group therapy targets include: 

Group Therapy Techniques

The group therapist often determines how a group runs. Usually, group members have opportunities to participate in active discussions.

Individuals may share their reasons for joining group therapy or discuss their progress since the last session. The group works together to understand participants’ motivations and triggers.

Some group therapists may employ other evidence-based psychiatry techniques to help participants identify and reframe negative thoughts and behaviors.

The most common therapy techniques used during group therapy include:

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 Substance Use Disorder Treatment

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.

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Group Therapy VS Individual Therapy

During individual therapy, you will have the privacy to work one-on-one with your therapist 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 leader usually leads a group discussion about a group member’s problem.

Some of the most common topics covered during group therapy sessions include:

  • Addiction recovery and sobriety
  • Anger management
  • Coping skills
  • Social skills
  • Self-esteem

In addition, there are a few different types of group therapy. Each form of group therapy aims to meet specific mental healthcare goals.

Some of the common types of group therapy 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 teach patients how 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?

You can start by attending an open group session to see how the environment feels. Open group meetings are scheduled for anyone to attend, while closed group meetings are for current members only.

Group therapy programs usually advertise whether the meeting is a closed or open group session, but you can always ask beforehand if you are unsure.

Benefits of Group Therapy

One key benefit of group therapy is that it provides interpersonal learning to participants. Individuals benefit socially from participating in a group setting, and 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
  • Accountability
  • Experiencing a sense of belonging
  • 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 it than they could have imagined.

Potential Drawbacks of Group Therapy

While group therapy 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 usually 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? Your primary care doctor or mental health professional can refer you.

You can also utilize the SAMHSA SAMHSA’s online program locator or call them at 1-800-662-4357 to see what group therapy options are available in your area.

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Group Therapy FAQs

What is the main goal of group therapy?

The key to group therapy is offering people a way to process emotions with the support of peers dealing with similar issues. Group therapy can provide a sense of support and community while also offering accountability and structure.

What is the difference between group therapy and support groups?

While similar, group therapy is not the same as a support group. Group therapy is considered mental health treatment, while support groups are more about forming bonds around a shared experience.

Group therapy utilizes evidence-based techniques (like cognitive-behavioral therapy), and a licensed therapist usually leads sessions.

A peer often leads support groups and can be much more informal than group therapy sessions.

Who is group therapy for?

Group therapy is ideal for almost anyone in need of therapy and/or wanting to improve their mental health in some way.

Since group therapy tends to focus on specific issues—from addiction counseling to managing grief—individuals looking for therapy can often find a specific group to meet their goals.

What can I expect from my first group therapy session?

While every group will have its own unique vibe, most group therapy sessions involve 5-15 people and are led by a licensed therapist of some kind.

Most groups meet for about an hour each week (sometimes more), and participants may be asked to share or discuss ongoing issues. The mental health clinician leads the discussion and utilizes psychological tools to help participants address the issues that brought them there.

Is group therapy as effective as individual therapy?

Yes. Many studies indicate that group therapy is just as effective as individual therapy. Some studies even showed that participants in group therapy sessions showed even more improvement than people attending individual counseling sessions.

Chris Carberg is the Founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Chris Carberg Founder & Mental Health Advocate

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Chris Carberg is a visionary digital entrepreneur, the founder of, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. American Psychological Association. (2019, October 31). Psychotherapy: Understanding Group Therapy. American Psychological Association.
  2. Ezhumalai, S., Muralidhar, D., Dhanasekarapandian, R., & Nikketha, B. S. (2018, February). Group Interventions. Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
  3. Faridhosseini, F., Baniasadi, M., Fayyazi Bordbar, M. R., Pourgholami, M., Ahrari, S., & Asgharipour, N. (2017, January). Effectiveness of Psychoeducational Group Training on Quality of Life and Recurrence of Patients with Bipolar Disorder. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry.
  4. Malhotra, A. (2022, December 13). Group Therapy. StatPearls [Internet].
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2005a). 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy [Internet].
  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2005b). 2 Types of Groups Commonly Used in Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy [Internet].

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