What is Group Therapy?

In group therapy, one therapist leads a group of relative strangers who deal with similar issues. In these sessions, the participants can share stories with one another about their conditions. Group sizes typically range between five and 20 participants. Groups on the larger end of this spectrum may have two therapists leading the session. The therapist ensures that the conversation is productive and each person follows the community’s rules.


What Happens During Group Therapy?

What happens in group therapy is not always how it is in the movies. Some go more like one-time classes, wherein the therapist gives participants insight and techniques for coping. For example, a course may teach people with anxiety how to using breathing techniques to stop panic attacks.

Other types of group therapy include weekly or even daily meetings. The same people may attend each session, or the participants may vary. People talk about the struggles they faced since the last meeting, any accomplishments they made toward their goals, or thoughts that are on their minds. The therapist ensures that the discussions remain productive, on-topic, and safe for everyone. therapists may encourage people to participate, but they do not kick patients out for being quiet.

While each group therapy session is different, they typically rely on a few basic tenants:

  • Participants have something in common
  • They instill hope in one another
  • Patients help one another, which helps themselves in return
  • Therapists and patients share information with the group
  • What happens in group therapy stays in group therapy

Therapists typically set up group therapy sessions around a theme that all the participants have in common, like a specific disorder or life event they share. They create an air of hope, encourage participants to reach out, and ask questions. During therapy sessions, therapists may elaborate on why a certain technique worked or didn’t work for a participant. Anonymity is vital so that all participants feel safe enough to share.


Types of Group Therapy

Therapists can use group sessions to help all kinds of people. Some sessions may be for very specific populations, while others may be more general. Furthermore, some groups are open to anyone who can benefit, while therapists design others to be private for their patients. Just a few examples of group types include:

Substance Abuse Group Therapy

Groups for people with addiction are perhaps the most well-known type of therapy. In these sessions, recovering addicts gather to encourage one another and work through recovery programs. Some attendants have yet to get clean while others have been sober for years. Some groups include 12-step programs and sponsors to aid in recovery.

PTSD Therapy Groups

This is another of the types of group therapy that many people need. People who have suffered trauma or been to war zones may struggle with PTSD. These groups allow patients with this disorder to feel the community they need for recovery.

Some groups are specifically for people with PTSD from certain events. For example, some group therapy techniques apply specifically to veterans while other group therapy sessions focus on survivors of sexual assault.

Group Therapy for Grief

When a loved one dies, the event can leave people feeling lost and alone. Groups for grieving people can help them find community and strength in these hard times. Some groups focus on specific types of grief. For example, a session may specifically help parents who lost children or surviving spouses. However, other groups help people who are grieving more generally.

Other Group Therapies

Therapists lead sessions for all kinds of people. Sometimes, no such group exists, but the demand is there. Patients can ask their therapists for help creating groups as well.


What are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

Some people may understandably feel skeptical of group sessions and how well they work. However, several studies have shown that it can be an effective and affordable alternative to individual psychotherapy. Furthermore, being in a group can supplement other treatments, including individual therapy and medication.

Participants benefit from knowing that they are not alone and seeing their own struggles reflected in others. They can feel hope when they see another member overcome some of the difficulties they face and share strategies for dealing with things that they have in common.

Although several people attend group sessions, each patient can personalize their experiences. For example, someone who processes emotions best by talking can benefit from sharing with the group. However, more introverted people can opt out of sharing and still begin healing.


How to Find the Right Therapy Group

Patients benefit from group therapy most when they find the right mix of people. If you’re looking for a group setting to work through some problems or supplement your current treatment, be sure to find the best group for your unique circumstances. Sometimes it is not the first group you try, and that’s just fine. When you find the right group, the search becomes well worth the effort.

You can start your search by consulting with a therapy clinic near you for a referral. We can access our extensive network in Georgia and find the right meeting for you.

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Jami Hanneman, MSW, LCSW
Bipolar Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, OCD, and 7 more.