Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists that are working with several individuals at the same time. Sometimes, group therapy is used alone, but it’s also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan, which will include individual therapy and medication.
Group therapy sessions will help individuals work through their problems by interacting with a therapist and a group of other individuals with the same struggles. Held in a safe, confidential setting, each group shares his or her personal experiences, feelings, and issues while receiving feedback and positive support from the other group members.
The group therapist leading the session may draw from a variety of different therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic, and humanistic.
Some other group therapy sessions may involve:
- Social, cultural and educational group activities
- Support or training groups
- Expressive therapies like art, drama, poetry, and dance
- Integrative therapies like yoga and acupuncture
- Educational lectures or workshops
Group therapy sessions will last 1 to 3 hours, with a group of 6 to 12 individuals with one or two therapists. Group therapy sessions occur either once a week or multiple times per week in residential treatment settings. Depending on the individual needs, group sessions may be co-ed or gender-specific.
Principles of Group Therapy
Some vital therapeutic principles that have been written from reports individuals testimonies given during the group therapy process include:
- The Installation of Hope: Group members will come about at different stages of each of their treatment processes. When individuals are recovering, it’s a boost of confidence being around others who have already progressed through the therapy process.
- Universality: Being in a group therapy session with other individuals who have had the same experiences will help individuals understand that what they’re going through, others have gone through also and are there to support them.
- Imparting Information: Group members will help and assist each other by sharing final information.
- Altruism: Group members share their strengths and assist others in the groups to help boost self-esteem and confidence.
- The Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Group: The therapy group grows into a family in some ways. While in the group, each member can explore how childhood experiences contributed to their personality and behaviors. They may also educate each other on avoiding practices that are destructive or unhelpful in the real world.
- Development of Socialization Techniques: In a group setting, it is one of the better places to practice new behaviors. The group setting environment is safe and supportive, which will allow group members to experiment with new behaviors without the fear of failure.
- Imitative Behavior: Individuals will observe, monitor, and then imitate the behavior of other thriving members of the group therapist.
- Interpersonal Learning: It is essential to interact with other individuals from the group to get feedback which will give you a greater understanding of how you’re perceived.
- Group Cohesiveness: Group members will gain a sense of belonging and acceptance when the mission of the group is a united, common goal amongst each other.
- Catharsis: individuals who share their feelings and experiences with other group members may find relief through their pain, guilt, or stress.
- Existential Factors: Working in a group will offer support and guidance, but group therapy will help individuals realize that they are responsible for their own lives, actions, and choices.
How Group Therapy Works
Groups may be a small 3 to 4 individuals, but group therapy sessions will often involve around 8 to 12 individuals or more. The group will typically meet once or twice a week for an hour or two per day.
The minimum number of group therapy sessions is usually six, but a full year of courses is more common to guarantee success. These group sessions may be open or closed. In open meetings, newer individuals may join the group at any time. In a private group, only a closed group of individuals become members and can participate in the group.
In most cases, a group therapy session will happen in a room where the chairs are arranged in a large circle so each member can see the other individuals in the group. A therapy session may start with members of the group introducing themselves and sharing what brought them into group therapy. The members may also even share their experiences and progress since their last meeting.
The precise manner in which the session is conducted will depend mainly on the goal of the therapy group and the style of the therapist leading it. Some therapists will encourage a more freeform style dialogue, where each member is encouraged to participate as they see fit. Other therapists will have a more specific plan for each session that may include having an individual practice new skills with other members of the group.
Benefits of Group Therapy
There are many benefits to group therapy; here are a few examples:
- Group therapy gives you the realization you’re not alone: Most individuals entering therapy will believe that what they’re going through is different from everybody else and is very specific to them, but they will find that they are not alone in their own struggles. Individuals become wired to think that they cannot care for others, and others cannot care for them, so the early group therapy sessions will encourage everybody to know that they are not alone.
- Group therapy encourages giving and receiving support: It highly encourages the individuals in the group to turn to each other for support, feedback, and connection, rather than only getting those forms of encouragement from the therapist. For the group members that feel isolated and lonely, other members will embrace and encourage them to give them the hope and support they need.
- Group therapy may help you find your voice: Group therapy sessions will encourage individuals to recognize their feelings and to talk about it freely. When individuals find it difficult to interact with others, that’s when the group encourages and leads by example, so everybody feels comfortable with sharing their emotions.
- Group therapy can help you relate to others in healthier ways: The safe atmosphere of group therapy will allow members to give and receive honest feedback from others who care about them. The group will provide the opportunity to see how individuals relate to others at the moment and how they refer to themselves. The group members will be encouraged to try other ways of relating like instead of just giving advice, share what motivates you to give that advice.
- Group therapy provides a safety net: Some members will struggle with being authentic and speaking up for themselves outside of the group in their daily lives. Within the group, they must practice the skills to build their confidence and be encouraged to practice them outside of the group. It is consistently repeated that the group is your safety net if you were to fall into encouraging you to take that leap.
- Group therapy will help you strengthen your relationship skills, reduce isolation, and find your voice, but it can also help individuals who are dealing with depression, social anxiety, and other life transitions. Group therapy is not for everyone at every stage of life. It will take strength and some recognition of the needs of others to be able to function in a group therapy setting. It is often most helpful to attend both group and individual therapy sessions.
Effectiveness of Group Therapy
Group therapy is an effective method for treating depression. Study shows that 44% of the patients who are in group therapy showed more significant improvements than the individuals who don’t. The individuals who are suffering from depression will receive group cognitive behavioral therapy where the group treatment drop rate was roughly every one in five patients had quit that form of treatment.
Group therapy will also meet the efficiency criteria which is established by the Society of Clinical Psychology for bipolar disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, and substance abuse.
What Conditions and Disorders Does Group Therapy Treat?
Group therapy is used to treat a wide range of disorders which include:
- Emotional trauma
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- Communication and social skills deficits
The group therapy format is also highly beneficial for struggling teenagers who were more often influenced by the opinions and experiences of their peers than a parent, therapist, or other adults.
Reasons and Benefits of Group Therapy
Reasons and principle advantages of group therapy will include:
- Group therapy allows individuals to receive support and encouragement from other group members. Individuals participating in the group will see that others are going through the same thing, which will help them feel like they’re not alone.
- Group members will serve as role models for other individuals in the group. While observing an individual successfully coping with an issue, the other members of the group will see and realize that there is hope for recovery. As each individual progresses, they may also serve as a role model and a figure for others. This can help with the feelings of success and accomplishment.
- Group therapy is very affordable. A therapist can devote their time to a much larger group of individuals instead of just focusing on one patient at a time.
- Group therapy offers a haven for individuals struggling. The group therapy setting will be set for individuals to practice behaviors and actions within the safety and security of the group supervised by the therapist.
- While working in a group, the therapist can see firsthand how each individual responds to other people and behaviors in social situations. Using this information, the therapist will provide extremely valuable feedback to each patient to help them with continued progress.
Research has shown that the effectiveness of group therapy is vital to treat a variety of conditions. Some benefits of group therapy will include:
- A safe and supportive setting to discuss upsetting emotions and experiences
- Feeling less isolated and lonely when surrounded by others that share similar circles.
- Interactions with others will quickly bring issues to the surface and allow them to be resolved under the guidance of a therapist.
- Improves self-awareness and gives a motivation to change
- Constructive feedback from others in the group can be hugely influential.
- Helps improve interpersonal and communication skills
- Helps build trust and self-esteem
- The group is an ideal setting to practice new skills and behaviors, amongst others.
Individuals must be willing to participate during group therapy to gain maximum benefits and results. Individuals who are open and honest will get the most out of the group therapy experience. Group therapy is most useful when combined with individual therapy.
Choosing the Right Group Therapy
When it comes to therapy options, it is not only essential to combine group therapy with individual therapy, but also to do this with an experienced team of treatment professionals. Here at Ken Seeley Rehab Center, we have short term and long-term rehab centers, outpatient and inpatient rehab centers, and other options. Our team can provide several different types of treatment, such as group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, relationship therapy, psychotherapy, dual diagnosis/mental health treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more.