Group therapy involves several individuals working together on issues that they share. A therapist leads the session, facilitating the sharing of stories by the individuals involved. A group can range in size and format, with some groups being open-ended/support based, and others following a structured curriculum. The therapist’s role includes ensuring that the conversation is constructive and on focus and that all participants respect group rules.
Group Therapy Basics
The idea you see in films of group therapy does not always reflect how these things work in real life. Many group therapy sessions function like instructional classrooms, with the counselor dispensing knowledge and techniques such as breath control, as an example, during a panic attack.
Some meetings may take the form of what are essential discussion groups on a weekly or daily basis. Participants may stay the same or vary. During one of these sessions, the participants share stories from their lives about how they are coping with the issues shared by the group. The therapist makes sure that everyone feels safe and encourages everyone to share, though sharing is not a requirement.
Guidelines can vary from group to group, but in general they can include:
- Participants should support others and encourage hope
- Both therapists and clients share
- Clients focus on group commonalities
- Clients maintain privacy for everyone
The issue of anonymity is a crucial one in group therapy, since all participants should feel safe to share. A group therapy session should always focus on the safety of its participants and focus on hope in dealing with whatever issue the group shares.
Types of Group Therapy
Group therapy helps individuals with a wide range of issues. A therapist may focus a session on a private group of clients or may have a more open session for anyone who shares a disorder or life event with the group. Group types can include:
- Behavioral modification training for parents of oppositional/defiant children
- Mindfulness based stress management
- CBT for insomnia
- Post Partum depression
- Digital health
- Positive parenting
- Emotional coping skills groups
- ACT for anxiety
- Adult emotional wellness groups
- Mens’ groups
- Health aging
- Overcoming depression
- Reducing alcohol use
- Smoking cessation
Group Therapy for Substance Abuse
Many are familiar with group therapy for substance abuse via organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous. These types of groups can be a mix of those who have been sober for a while and those still in the depths of addiction. Participants share their narratives, and groups may leverage techniques such as step programs or sponsorship to foment recovery.
Additional Group Therapies
A counselor can lead a group for any number of situations or issues. If a group does not exist for a particular issue, a patient can always ask that a therapist consider leading a group on that topic.
The Benefits of Group Therapy
Studies have shown that group therapy is a viable solution for many, offering cost-effective and productive intervention for those dealing with mental health issues. Group therapy also serves as an effective supplement to other interventions such as medication or one-on-one therapy.
A key benefit of group therapy is that it helps individuals realize that they are not isolated in their suffering. Knowing that others are dealing with the same things and sharing strategies can give sufferers hope and help them envision a path to wellness.
People who do not share easily or speak in public readily should not feel that a group therapy session won’t work for them. The healing process can come from the simple act of listening, as well.
How to Find the Right Therapy Group
Finding the right combination of participants is key in finding the group that works for you. Do not think that you have to stick with the first group you find. Sometimes finding the right therapy group takes time. It is all about balancing the personalities in the room and ensuring that the focus of the group resonates with you.
Psychology publications can offer some guidance in your search. Psychology Today, as an example, offers a search interface for those looking for group sessions on particular topics. You can also contact us to facilitate your search, since national publications do not always have access to the full list of local groups.