What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy was adopted as a treatment approach in the period after the second world war, when there was a sharp increase in the number of people requiring mental health services but not enough practitioners to provide them. Due to its effectiveness, it remains an efficient and affordable form of therapy, still widely used today.
Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy, where one or more trained therapists lead a group of people – typically 5–12 participants. The group meetings normally run for a few hours each week, and may be set for a fixed number of weeks, or continue over a full year.
While group therapy is still sometimes used as a standalone treatment, it is now more common to find group therapy sessions integrated into wider treatment plans where they are used in addition to one-on-one therapy sessions, medication and other types of care.
Some group therapies are ‘open’ and new participants are welcome to join at any time. Others are ‘closed’, where all participants join at the same time, and only these core group members attend sessions.
Unlike individual therapy sessions, group therapy offers participants the opportunity to interact with others with similar issues in a safe, supportive environment. Participants can try out new behaviours, role-play scenarios, and engage with others to give and receive valuable feedback and insight.
The content of the group sessions is always confidential; what members talk about or disclose is not discussed outside of the group.
There are many different types of therapeutic groups, but most therapy groups can be divided into two main approaches:
Groups work best when there is open and honest communication between participants, which means confidentiality is a hugely important part of the ground rules for any type of group.
Depending on the nature of the content, group therapy can be an ideal opportunity for addressing concerns and making positive changes in our lives, providing a valuable and trusted source of support.
Many people find it helpful to participate in both group therapy and individual one-on-one sessions. Participating in both types of psychotherapy has been shown to significantly increase the chances of making valuable and lasting changes.
What are the different types of Group Therapy
Group therapy can play a significant role in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders, including depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and some process addictions.
There are many types of group therapy treatments now available, including:
- Psychotherapy Groups
- Cognitive Therapy Groups
- Modified Dynamic Group Therapy
- Relapse Prevention Groups
- Mutual Self-Help Groups
- Network Therapy
There are many other types of group therapy, with techniques adapted to best meet the needs of group members and the goals of treatment. There is also a growing number of specialised group therapies, to support specific patient populations, including female-only, adolescents, LGBTQ+ community members and the elderly.
What are the benefits of Group Therapy?
While discussing personal problems in a group setting may seem a bit intimidating at first, many people find that once they have overcome these concerns, they really benefit from meeting and sharing with other people.
Research shows that people in group therapy improve not only from the interventions of the therapist, but also from their interactions with other group members. While the group format does not provide the same one-on-one attention of individual formats, it can offer a wide range of benefits, including:
- Group therapy is often more affordable / cost effective
- Group therapy provides a safe haven
- Group therapy offers additional support and connection
- Group therapy can foster new insights
- Group members can serve as role models
- Group therapy can help participants find their own voice
- Group therapy can help to improve interpersonal skills
- The ability to thrive in a ‘community’ greatly impacts mental health
While certain forms of treatment may be better suited for specific issues or individuals, a review of the research literature on individual and group therapy found that they are generally equivalent in effectiveness.
In many situations it is most helpful to attend both group and individual therapy, so we can talk about what comes up for us in the group with our individual therapist and potentially make greater strides in our progress.
There are clinicians and researchers who claim that the group psychotherapy process produces stronger and longer-lasting results for many people compared to individual psychotherapy.
If group therapy sounds like something that could benefit you or a loved one, please contact us to find out more.