What is group therapy?

If you’ve recently discovered the concept of group therapy, you might be wondering, “What is group therapy like?” When considering any type of talk therapy or psychotherapy, it’s important to be aware of your options and to understand the benefits and challenges associated with them. Once you have a basic understanding of what to expect, you can make an informed decision about whether or not group therapy is the best choice to address your mental health concerns and move forward with positive changes. 

What to expect from group therapy

In most cases a group therapy session will involve one (possibly more) psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or other therapist who will lead a group of approximately 5-15 patients in a group setting through therapeutic exercises and discussions on a weekly basis (either in person or online). These groups typically meet for an hour or two and can be attended as a supplemental benefit to individual therapy, or on their own. The majority of groups are specifically created for targeted problems such as anxiety, depression, chronic illness, OCD, BPD, and more. Some groups will focus instead on general mental health and personal growth, but hyper-targeted groups are generally the most successful. 

What are the benefits of group therapy

Group therapy benefits are unique and differentiated from individual therapy. In fact, many psychologists will say that your group functions as both a sounding board, an accountability group, and a support network. Your fellow group members can help you brainstorm ideas for coping with life’s challenges, and can relate directly to your experiences which helps you feel less alone. In addition, the practice of listening to and conversing with others in a constructive way helps to improve real-life relationships for people with specific conditions such as BPD, social anxiety, OCD and more. Group therapy can also help bring perspective to your life and experiences by offering a window into the diversity of personalities, worldviews, families, and backgrounds. In group therapy you will learn specific techniques and tactics to approach your mental health condition and improve your symptoms alongside the company of supportive peers and led by a licensed mental health professional. 

How to find the right group therapy

Once you’ve decided that you’re interested in pursuing group therapy, you can begin looking or the perfect group for you. Consider the following questions as you search: 

  1. How big is the group? While smaller groups offer more time to focus on each person, bigger groups bring more perspective and can help you blend in as you get comfortable with speaking up. 
  2. Is the group specific to your concerns? Finding a group that specializes in your area of mental health challenges is highly beneficial long-term and can teach you skills and coping mechanisms that will improve your day to day life. 
  3. Is the group closed or open? Closed groups start at the exact same time and run for a set length (such as 3 months), whereas open groups occur at the same time and on the same day each week but allow new members to join at any time. There are pros and cons to both open and closed groups, so ask your therapist or placement counselor about what makes the most sense for your specific needs. 
  4. Is the group confidential? ALWAYS seek out a group that promotes confidentiality as a basic ground rule for every session. If you’re going to volunteer personal information, this clause is critical to help you feel safe and comfortable in a group setting.

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