Finding Strength in Numbers: The Power of Group Therapy
Individual talk therapy, or one-on-one therapy, is one of the most common forms of therapy people understand. You speak with your therapist about what you’re experiencing, and they help you navigate it. However, another form of therapy that can be just as beneficial is group therapy.
But What Is Group Therapy?
If you ask someone what they know about group therapy, people may think of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or something they’ve seen on TV. These examples are accurate to a certain extent, but there is one important difference between a group like AA and traditional group therapy.
What is that important difference? A licensed therapist leads group therapy. In contrast, AA or other groups have leaders who either attend the meetings or want to support group members. AA has its place as a support group, but it differs from group therapy. An advantage of group therapy is the therapist’s ability to utilize the same therapeutic interventions used in individual therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Although topics differ by group, certain parts of group therapy are similar for all groups. The main components of group therapy are:
- Capacity is often capped to around 5 to 12 people
- Runs for one to two hours weekly
- Can be ongoing or have an established end date
Groups can be open or closed. If it is an open group, anyone can join anytime, even after the group starts. These groups are typically ongoing and don’t have a set end date. Closed groups mean new persons are not allowed to join the group once the group starts. These groups typically have a set end date and are shorter.
Although virtual group therapy is newer than in-person and the connection is different, it can be as effective as in-person therapy. Someone may benefit more from in-person than virtual groups, but the therapist(s) will typically conduct a consultation to ensure group members are a good fit for the group.
Is Group Therapy Effective?
Research suggests that group therapy is just as effective as one-on-one therapy. In a group format, the group members lead the conversation, but the therapist still facilitates the discussion and provides tools for group members to use outside the group. Same as they would in individual therapy.
The group’s effectiveness isn’t just on the therapist. It is also based on the group itself. If you are in a group where no one shares about themselves, then this isn’t going to be a very effective solution. There will be some initial hesitation to share in the group, as with individual therapy. Still, eventually, the group should reach a point where members are comfortable sharing. This is why a consultation before joining the group is important.
When choosing a group, you should consider how comfortable you are sharing information related to that topic. Topics can range from mental health diagnoses such as anxiety and depression to life stressors such as divorce or entrepreneurship.
This option can especially benefit those struggling with social anxiety or communication. It is a safe space to practice social cues and healthy communication skills. You will also be in a group with others who struggle with social anxiety, so it can help you feel comfortable talking in front of others. A benefit of addressing social anxiety in a group is feedback from both the therapist and group members is given in real-time rather than being explored later in sessions with a therapist.
One common topic group therapy is known to be beneficial for is grief. Grief can alter our lives in ways others may not understand. Being in a space with others struggling with grief can help group members navigate the grief process. This has mainly been proven true for children.
The Other Benefits
Group therapy is often cheaper than individual therapy because the time is shared with group members. With a reduced cost, therapy becomes more accessible for those who need it but maybe cannot afford individual therapy. This setup also allows the therapist to provide services to more people than if they saw them individually. Some people might have been referred to someone else or be placed on an endless waitlist if this option wasn’t available.
It can also reduce the stigma and shame associated with experiences and mental health diagnoses. It can be isolating when we are experiencing something we don’t feel comfortable sharing with others for fear of their reactions. Sharing those experiences with others dealing with something similar reduces the feeling of isolation.
Finding The Value In Connection
In conclusion, group therapy is a valuable form of treatment that offers many benefits to individuals struggling with mental health issues or life stressors. By providing a safe and supportive space to connect with others who are going through similar experiences, group therapy can help reduce feelings of isolation and increase social support.
It can also be more affordable and accessible than individual therapy, making it a great option for those who may not have the resources to access one-on-one treatment. If you’re considering therapy, it’s worth exploring the different types of group therapy available and how they might benefit you. It is not only effective but also an empowering way to heal and grow alongside others.
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