Group Therapy

The most beneficial type of psychotherapy is the one that best meets the patient’s specific needs. Many forms of therapy will take advantage of privacy. Still, sometimes the best resource for dealing with particular obstacles or personal concerns is when individuals connect with others who have shared similar experiences.

Group therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that utilizes personal interaction with individuals who have similar experiences and can help each other to cope and grow. There are many different versions of group therapy, including grief counseling, drug rehabilitation, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support.

What is Group Therapy?

The definition of group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a group of patients will meet to discuss a common issue. Group counseling sessions will take place under the supervision of a mental health counselor or a psychologist. A group therapy session will be structured from the therapy leader, who will give the group a set of rules and guidelines to help each individual to connect with each and grow in a healthy way.

There are multiple sizes of therapy groups; the number of participants is not a significant factor when assembling a group therapy session. The most important goal is that the individuals who’ve joined will all have beneficial experiences. Sharing personal information with the group and learning from others will be the catalyst for a successful group therapy session.

Individuals sharing similar experiences is just one of the ways that group therapy differs from couples therapy. Group therapy works best when you’re helping other individuals reach out of their comfort zones end social circles in order to start connecting with strangers that are dealing with similar issues.

Who is a Candidate for Group Therapy?

Group therapy can help individuals work toward and meet a multitude of goals. At times, the therapist may suggest group therapy over any other forms of treatment. The reason being is that it is a good fit for an individual or a better choice for treating their concerns. Therapy groups can also help individuals whose mental health makes it challenging to get through daily life. Others may not have significant concerns but still attend for training or support. Some topics that are addressed in group therapy include:

  • Grief
  • Abuse
  • Divorce
  • Anxiety
  • Parenting
  • Addiction
  • PTSD
  • Suicide
  • Depression
  • Anger management
  • Eating disorders
  • Communication issues
  • Addiction and dependency
  • Low self-esteem
  • Communication deficits
  • Relationship issues

Some therapists may not recommend group therapy as a proper treatment option in the beginning. A reason for this is that it may be difficult to share personal information in a group setting when an individual is in the beginning stages of substance abuse treatment.

The Role of Group Therapy

The goal of group therapy is slightly different from the purpose of individual therapy. Group therapy is likely to be more beneficial for individuals who are working through issues that affect many people. This type of therapy is highly recommended as part of a more significant therapeutic strategy, which helps to encourage bonding, sharing, and coping.

The two primary types of goals in group therapy are:

  • Outcome goals
  • Process goals

Outcome goals are defined by behavioral changes which the individual achieves by participating in group therapy sessions. Process goals relate to the process of understanding the concerns of others and making a connection to other individuals during a group therapy session. This is referred to as the healing process.

The goal of a group therapy session is to bring a sense of belonging and relatability through understanding everyone’s similar issues by sharing everyday experiences with each other.

Group therapy is highly effective when specific concerns are addressed commonly to all members of the group. The group’s ability to embrace and relate to one another is critical to each member’s success.

Other group therapy goals include:

  • Encouraging individuals to identify coping strategy behaviors.
  • Helping others in the group having emotional difficulties with positive feedback.
  • Offering a support system for individuals with similar experiences.
  • Calming down the individual’s feelings of loneliness by bringing everyone together with shared experiences.

Psychoeducational vs Process-Oriented Group Therapy

There are various types of therapeutic groups, but most can be divided into two main approaches. They are psychoeducational group therapy and process-oriented group therapy. 

Psychoeducational

This form of group therapy provides members with information about specific issues. It also educates members on unhealthy coping skills. These therapy groups are led by a qualified therapist who can help direct the sessions and set goals. The bond between group members isn’t as necessary here because the therapist conducts the group therapy session through instruction. The therapist takes on more of a teacher role in this type of group therapy.

Process-oriented therapy

This form of therapy group will focus on group experience. The therapist is still in the group discussion but he or she acts more as a facilitator rather than an instructor. The counselor is careful, making sure that he or she doesn’t become the center of attention. The group members participate by engaging in group discussions and activities. Sharing amongst each other in these events can lead to a sense of belonging and an increase of self-confidence. The group members are more in charge of their sessions in process-oriented group therapy.

Individuals who are looking to gain skills like caregiving, parenting, or stress management can benefit from psychoeducational group therapy. Others who seek personal growth to deal with a significant life transaction like a divorce, retirement, or aging can benefit from process-oriented group therapy.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Enlisting with a group of strangers sounds intimidating at first, but group therapy provides benefits that individual therapy cannot offer. Psychologists state that group members are usually surprised by how rewarding a group therapy session is.

Group therapy acts as a support network for all individual members enrolled. Other members of the group can speak up to assist you with specific ideas to improve its challenging lifestyle situation and hold you accountable until the goal is reached.

Constantly talking and listening to others in the group will help you put your problems into perspective. Most of us experience mental health difficulties, but not many will openly speak about them to people they don’t personally know well. Oftentimes, you’ll feel like you are the only one who is struggling, but you are not alone. It is a significant relief hearing others’ discuss what they’re going through and realizing that you all relate to these issues.

Diversity in a group therapy setting is another great benefit. All individuals have different personalities and backgrounds, and they all look at situations from different perspectives. By witnessing how others tackle problems and make positive changes, you’ll also discover a whole range of methods and strategies to facing your own concerns.

A Typical Group Therapy Session

A group therapy session is usually led by one or two therapists who were trained and certified to lead therapeutic groups. Group therapy sizes range from 6 to 12 members. This type of therapy is most successful when it is restricted to no more than a dozen members at once. 

A typical group therapy session will meet for one or two hours each week and address concerns shared by all of the group members. The recommended minimum number of courses is 6, but many individuals may attend for a full year. Group therapy sessions are held in a variety of settings like therapy offices, hospitals, community centers, libraries, churches, or a member’s house. Some people will go to individual therapy in addition to group therapy sessions. People who have received mental health treatment may choose to only participate in group therapy.

Most groups meet in a quiet room with all the chairs arranged in a circle so everybody can see the whole group. Therapy begins with members introducing themselves, discussing their progress, or sharing their reasons for being in group therapy. Group activities will depend on the style of the therapist running the session. Some therapists will have a planned out lesson for each session scheduled. Others promote a more freeform discussion style amongst the group. Group therapy meetings can be both open or closed.

  • Open groups: New members may join the group at any time.
  • Closed group: All members join simultaneously only they are allowed to participate in the sessions.

Although it is easier to join an open group, it’ll take longer for new members to get to know the other members. Members of a close group learn each other simultaneously but may wait longer to find a group that works for them.

Group Therapy Activities

Engaging in activities during group therapy sessions will promote communication, trust, and personal growth. The activities can be dialogue-driven, like reading and sharing stories. They may also be physically engaging, like team focus exercises. Activities during group therapy sessions are great ways to break the ice amongst the new members and help them get to know each other informally.

Physical activities like dancing and cooking are great for bonding the members because they require working together while achieving a goal. These activities and exercises work to build trust and respect amongst the members. Other activities, like music, acting, and painting, are often used amongst group members to promote their creative expression.

Playing sports, going on hikes, and exercising together also builds greater trust between the members. These activities can help group therapy members develop the confidence back into themselves and other people outside of therapy.

Choosing a Group Therapy Treatment Center

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 therapy treatment professionals. Here at North Jersey Recovery Center, we have short-term and long-term rehab centers, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation treatment centers, and other options.

Our licensed and experienced team can provide several different types of treatment, such as group therapy, individual therapy, family counseling, relationship therapy, psychotherapy, dual diagnosis/mental health treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. 

Contact North Jersey Recovery Center today and allow our team to give you the answers you need to help assist you with getting the correct treatment options. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.