Group therapy isn’t for me, you might think. Maybe you think you won’t get the attention you need in a group. Maybe you have social anxiety or squirm at the thought of being vulnerable in front of others. Or maybe you’re afraid of what others in the group will say about you outside of the therapy session.
People have many notions about therapy–and group therapy in particular–that, while understandable, simply aren’t true. Let’s take a look at some facts about group therapy and the benefits it has for everyone involved.
What is Group Therapy?
Most commonly, group psychotherapy is led by a certified psychotherapist and brings together 8-12 people who share similar emotional struggles. Groups can form to address substance use disorder, anxiety, PTSD and trauma, and many more mental health disorders. Group therapy is most widely practiced in hospitals and behavioral health or substance rehab facilities.
“Invented” in 1905 by Joseph Hersey Pratt, group therapy was first used among tuberculosis patients to discuss their shared struggles with the illness. Throughout the early 1900s, group therapy was used among prison inmates, former psychiatric patients, people with alcohol dependence, war veterans, and more.
Today, group therapy comes in several varieties:
- Cognitive behavioral groups, which help group members identify distorted thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and work to change them
- Interpersonal groups, which help group members connect with each other and learn about the importance of relationships and social interactions for mental health
- Psychoeducational groups, in which group members learn more about their disorders and how to develop healthy coping skills
- Skills development groups, which help people develop skills that their mental health disorder has made difficult to learn (for example, people with social anxiety might practice interacting with others while using self-calming techniques)
- Support groups, in which members share their stories with each other offer support (typically these groups are not led by a certified therapist but by peers)
Groups can be either open (anyone can join at any time) or closed (the same group of people meet every time for the duration of the time in therapy).
What Happens in Group Therapy?
People in the group are invited to sit in a circle of chairs so they can more easily see each person in the group. The therapist leading the group may invite each member to share a little bit about their background at the first meeting; future meetings may open with each person sharing their successes and challenges since the previous meeting. Beyond these basics, how the therapy session proceeds will depend on the therapist. Generally, though, if you are in group therapy, you can expect to share your story, answer questions posed by the therapist, and hear feedback from others in the group.
Just as with individual therapy, what happens in the group therapy session should remain confidential. However, this rule can’t be strictly enforced with other group members, so it’s wise to be somewhat cautious with details, especially when talking about other people in your life.
What are the Benefits of Group Therapy?
According to the APA (American Psychological Association), group therapy is just as effective as individual therapy for most symptoms and conditions, and is also more efficient and cost-effective. This allows more people to have access to the therapy they need but could not afford to pay for individually.
In fact, groups can often be more effective than individual therapy because they allow group members to see that they are not alone in their struggles. Talking to other people helps you put your problems into perspective. Group members can help each other feel valued and supported, and many times friendships are formed that last after the group has disbanded.
Group Therapy at Miramont Behavioral Health
Here at our facility in Middleton, Wisconsin, we give our clients the benefits of both individual and group therapy. You can expect to meet others who understand what you’re going through and to build a sense of community as you talk with, listen to, and support others in the group.