Purpose of group therapy

Psychotherapy Guide: Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy

The American Psychological Association offers this formal definition of psychotherapy:

“Psychotherapy is the informed and intentional application of clinical methods and interpersonal stances derived from established psychological principles for the purpose of assisting people to modify their behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and/or other personal characteristics in directions that the participants deem desirable.”

Essentially what this means is that of psychotherapy involves the use of psychological principles applied by an individual who is formally trained in the use of these principles to assist others in modifying their behavior or thinking, or in dealing with their emotions or with other significant events/issues.

References to using various types of talking cures have been found as far back as ancient Greece. English psychiatrist Walter Cooper Dendy introduced the term psycho-threpeia in the 1850s to describe a type of talking treatment. The person that is generally acknowledged as the founder of modern psychotherapy (just referred to as therapy in this article) is Sigmund Freud. Freud developed psychoanalysis around the beginning of the 20th century, and following his work, many other schools of therapy were formed.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is generally acknowledged as beginning when the physician J. H. Pratt began group sessions to instruct individuals in the care of tuberculosis. Pratt found that the groups benefited the members emotionally due to supporting one another in shared experiences. Pratt eventually began referring to his sessions as group psychotherapy. Group psychotherapy began to increase in popularity following World War II when groups of combat veterans were treated together, and specific benefits from these group sessions were observed.

What Is Individual Therapy?

Individual therapy consists of a therapeutic situation where one individual (termed the client for purposes of this article) is involved in the therapeutic process with at least one therapist. A therapist can be anyone professionally trained in the use of therapy, including a psychologist, social worker, counselor, psychiatrist, marriage and family counselor, etc. For the purposes of this article, we will define the therapist as someone who has received formal training in therapy and is licensed by the state they practice to do therapy. Thus, therapy differs from getting advice from friends, family, acquaintances, etc., as it is a professional service provided by a trained professional.

Individual therapy offers several advantages:

  • The confidentiality of the client’s issues is most easily maintained in individual therapy.
  • The client receives one-on-one attention from the therapist, and this allows the therapist to be very thorough in understanding the specific problems of the client and in developing an individualized approach to helping the client.
  • The level of analysis and treatment can be much more intense and comprehensive in individual therapy compared to group therapy.
  • The pace of the therapy can be tailored to the specific client. It can be sped up in cases where clients can handle more focused and intense interventions, or it can be slowed down in cases where clients need time to adjust and move slowly.
  • The therapeutic alliance, which refers to the working relationship between the client and therapist, is strongest in individual therapy. Research investigating the components of effective therapy have consistently pointed out that the therapeutic alliance is a key component of a successful therapy intervention.
  • Individual therapy allows for the development of self-awareness by discussing issues and getting feedback from the therapist.
  • The client can arrange a time for the therapy sessions that is most conducive to their schedule.
  • Therapy sessions can be arranged rather quickly, if needed.
  • Individual therapy allows for the development of communication skills in individuals who need help with these skills.

A couple of relative disadvantages of individual therapy include:

  • Individual therapy is typically more expensive than group therapy.
  • Some clients may have a strong need to identify with other individuals who share similar problems/issues. This need can be best addressed in a group situation.
  • Clients in individual therapy need to be motivated and are obviously in the spotlight. Clients who are not committed to changing, doing the work, and applying principles learned in therapy may struggle when they are the center of attention.
  • The research supports the notion that individual therapy is generally effective for treating most nearly every different psychological disorder, condition, and problem that is generally addressed in a therapeutic environment.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is loosely defined as having more than one client treated at the same time by at least one therapist. Some groups will have more than one therapist; if this is the case, most often, there are two therapists addressing the group at the same time and very rarely more than that. Group sizes can vary depending on the type of group therapy being employed. For example, couples therapy, a type of group therapy that typically treats romantic partners, consists of two clients (most often), whereas certain types of groups, such as substance abuse groups, may feature 10-12 clients in a session. Researchers who study the effectiveness of group therapy generally recommend that the ideal maximum number of clients in a group is somewhere between 6 and 12; however, some groups have even larger numbers of clients in them.

There are a number of advantages to being involved in group therapy. However, it is important to note that many of these advantages represent actual strengths of the group process as opposed to trying to make and evaluate a comparison that group therapy is better than individual therapy.


Some of the advantages that occur in group therapy include:

  • Group therapy assures individuals that they are not alone and that other individuals share similar problems and struggles. The famous psychiatrist Dr. Irvin David Yalom, one of the acknowledged gurus of group therapy, terms this the principle of universality.
  • Group therapy offers the opportunity to both receive support from others and to give support to others. Both of these notions are important in treatment. Receiving support from others is part of the bonding or therapeutic alliance that occurs in groups, whereas giving support to others allows for growth and learning.
  • The therapeutic alliance that occurs in groups is broader than the alliance that occurs in individual therapy. This allows for the incorporation of many different points of view.
  • Group therapy helps individuals develop communication skills and socialization skills, and allows clients to learn how to express their issues and accept criticism from others.
  • Group therapy allows individuals to develop self-awareness by listening to others with similar issues.
  • Sharing one’s experiences with others with similar problems is often itself therapeutic.
  • Group therapy provides a broad safety net for individuals who may otherwise be hesitant to discuss their feelings, perceived weaknesses, etc.
  • Individuals in group therapy can model the successful behaviors of other individuals who have gone through similar experiences. Modeling is a form of learning where individuals learn by copying or imitating the actions of others.
  • Group therapy is typically less expensive than individual therapy.


Several disadvantages to group therapy are:

  • The client is not the focus of attention. In many groups, the old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” seems to apply. Thus, the level of intervention is not as focused and intense for any single person as individual therapy.
  • The level of confidentiality in groups is far less secure than it is an individual therapy. Although group members are generally instructed that the information and events that occur in the group are to be held confidential and only to be shared with group members during therapy, the potential for a breach of confidentiality is far greater in group therapy.
  • The notion of social loafing is a problem with all group efforts. Some individuals in groups do not actually make changes but simply ride on the success of others. Groups may allow unmotivated individuals to hide their issues and avoid accountability.
  • Although the therapeutic alliance is broader, it is not as focused and strong in group therapy as it is in individual therapy.
  • Groups typically meet at specific times. There is less opportunity to fit the therapy into the one’s personal schedule.
  • Group therapy may be inappropriate for certain types of individuals, such as individuals who are extremely antisocial, extremely shy, impulsive, passive-aggressive, psychotic, etc.

Sometimes, certain alliances form in groups, and these subgroups target and denigrate other group members. An experienced and competent therapist is able to avoid such alliances that are detrimental to the overall group; however, it is inevitable that certain individuals in the group will identify more strongly with one another and not identify with other members.

Which Is Better?

The answer to the question, “Which is better: group or individual therapy?” is actually relatively straightforward: “Neither.” Both have advantages and disadvantages that are suited for specific types of individuals and for specific problems.

In general, the research finds that both group therapy and individual therapy are relatively equivalent in their effectiveness in addressing a large number of issues. Thus, there is no real answer to the question of which is better.

This is an individual choice that can be made by clients who are able to try both types of therapy and decide for themselves which is best for them.

The best-case scenario is to try and get involved in both types of therapy at the same time. Unfortunately, this can be relatively expensive and time-consuming for some individuals.

Nonetheless, both formats of therapy have advantages and disadvantages. Deciding on which one to engage in is a personal choice that depends on one’s personal issues, goals, and the types of therapists/groups that are available.

The Differences Between Individual vs. Group Therapy

What are the Differences Between Individual and Group Therapy?

Group therapy was originally conceived by a physician who attempted to instruct groups of individuals regarding the care of tuberculosis. This physician, Dr. J. H. Pratt, noticed that individuals in groups began to support one another, and he actually began referring to his educational sessions as group psychotherapy. Group psychotherapy became increasingly popular after World War II when groups of combat veterans were treated together.

In essence, individual therapy occurs when one or more therapists work with a single individual in the same session, versus group therapy which is defined by treatment delivered by one or more therapists to one or more individuals in the same session.

Group Therapy: Advantages and Disadvantages

As mentioned above, group therapy consists of a number of different conditions where one or more therapists treats at least two individuals in the same session. Typically, the number of therapists running group sessions is one or two; however, some special cases may require more therapists or assistants to run particular types of groups. The size of the group being treated will vary, depending on the type of therapy being delivered and on several other factors. For example, most often, marital therapy (a type of group therapy where spouses are being treated) typically consist of only two clients. Group therapy for substance use disorders may consist of 10 or more individuals, depending on the therapist. In general, research indicates that the most effective groups typically have a maximum number of 6-12 clients; however, depending on the nature of the group, there may be more than 20 individuals.

Group therapy offers some specific advantages that make it attractive for both the therapist and the clients being treated. According to scholarly sources, such as The Handbook of Group Counseling and Psychotherapy, these are benefits of individuals working together in groups and do not necessarily indicate that group therapy is superior in any way to individual therapy (see below).

According to Dr. Yalom, there are various benefits that can occur as a result of group processes:

  • Individuals begin to understand that they are not alone in their issues, and other people have similar issues and struggles. This results in the development of a sense of identity, belongingness, and the release of tension and stress.
  • The therapeutic alliance refers to the bond between the therapist and the client that allows them to address the client’s issues effectively. This is an extremely important factor in positive therapeutic outcomes. According to Dr. Yalom, the therapeutic alliance occurring in group therapy is broader than the alliance that occurs in individual therapy.
  • Individuals in group therapy receive support from other people and are also able to give support to other members. Receiving and giving support develops a broader therapeutic alliance and a shared sense of goals that fosters improvement.
  • Individuals in group therapy find that they often have fewer reservations about discussing their issues with others because they can identify with the members of the group.
  • Individuals in groups develop insight into their own issues and greater self-awareness by listening to others who have similar problems.
  • Being in a group fosters the development of communication abilities, social skills, and results in individuals being able to learn to accept criticism from others.
  • Group therapy sessions are generally more affordable than individual therapy sessions.
  • Individuals in groups often make lifelong connections with other members of the group.

One of the most accomplished researchers and writers of how group processes contribute to group therapy outcomes is the psychiatrist Dr. Irvin D. Yalom who published extensively regarding group processes in therapy and about the advantages of having clients working in groups.

While there are some advantages to the group therapy process, there are also some weaknesses associated with the group therapy.

  • The attention of the therapist is spread across the members of the group. This means that individuals will not receive focused treatment, and some individuals may take up disproportionate amounts of time with their own issues.
  • People in group therapy sessions risk having other confidential issues spread by other group members outside the group. Although it is continually emphasized that what is discussed in the group needs to remain in the group, there is no guarantee that some individuals will adhere to this confidentiality.
  • Even though the therapeutic alliance in the group therapy environment is broader, it is not as focused on any single individual.
  • Because group therapy sessions must accommodate many individuals, there is less opportunity to fit the therapy sessions into one’s personal schedule.
  • Some individuals in groups may not be motivated to participate and will simply let the others in the group contribute.
  • Whenever there are groups of people, there is the chance that certain subgroups will form within the larger group. If the therapist does not check this, the development of small alliances within the group can impede the group’s progress.
  • Certain individuals are not appropriate for group therapy. Often, individuals who are extremely manipulative, aggressive, shy, impulsive, or suffering from active psychosis are not appropriate for groups. In addition, some individuals are not appropriate for certain types of groups. For instance, a blue-collar worker may feel out of place in a group full of physicians and college professors.

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Individual Therapy

As mentioned above, individual psychotherapy occurs when there is one individual being treated by one or more therapists. There are several advantages to participating in individual therapy sessions.

  • The client receives the full attention of the therapist and is able to work with the therapist on a one-on-one basis. This results in a very focused and intense therapeutic experience.
  • The client gets direct feedback on their progress from the therapist, and the therapist has a more complete understanding of the client’s progress.
  • The therapeutic alliance is strongest in individual sessions.
  • The client can be assured that the therapist will maintain the confidentiality of the treatment sessions and that no one else will learn about their issues.
  • Treatment in individual sessions is much more comprehensive and intense.
  • The pace that the therapist and client work at can be tailored to suit the needs of the specific client. This cannot be achieved in group sessions because the pace is often adjusted to meet the needs of the slowest members.
  • Meeting times for therapy sessions can be arranged to fit the client’s schedule and can be adjusted depending on specific circumstances, whereas this is not the case for group sessions.

Some of the relative weaknesses of individual psychotherapy follow:

  • Individual sessions are typically more costly than group sessions.
  • While being the sole focus of attention can be considered an advantage to individual sessions, it can also be disadvantageous to some individuals. Some people may wish to have a little “camouflage” initially until they can adjust to the therapeutic environment.
  • Some individuals who have issues with motivation may struggle when they are the sole focus of attention.
  • The client only gets the viewpoint of the therapist and does not get multiple viewpoints.

The Effectiveness of Individual Therapy vs. Group Therapy

In general, the majority of the research suggests that individual therapy and group therapy are effective for treating nearly every type of problem, psychological disorder, or issue that is addressed within a therapeutic or counseling environment. Some individuals may be more suited to working in groups based on the above discussion of the strengths of group therapy, whereas others may be more suited to working in individual situations. In addition, a number of different therapeutic paradigms, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, use both group and individual therapy, and individuals benefit from both.

The choice to become involved in group or individual therapy will depend on a number of different factors, including affordability, one’s comfort level with discussing problems in front of other individuals, and the type of intervention being used. Neither form of therapy is “better” than the other, but both represent different approaches to reaching the same goal.

You may be overwhelmed with the prospect of becoming involved in group therapy, but there are actually numerous advantages of group counseling that may appeal to you. These groups are typically comprised of between 4 and 15 people. They’re led by a qualified facilitator or two. These group leaders are usually social workers, psychologists or other mental health professionals who are trained in both group dynamics and the specific issue of focus. Sessions occur once or twice per week on a short-term basis, up to a few months, or long-term, continuing for years. While groups vary in type and format, a common thread is that members have the opportunity to work on improving their lives in a supportive, structured environment. Continue reading to discover some of the ways group counseling is beneficial to participants.

1. Belonging

Perhaps the biggest advantage of group therapy is the opportunity to see that others are struggling in similar ways. Individual counseling doesn’t offer this kind of personal insight into the experiences of others. Your feelings of isolation will likely become lessened as you begin to hear the stories of others and realize they struggle, as well. Whether you’re dealing with anger management issues, anxiety, depression or other life struggle, group counseling offers a space of validation and understanding.

2. Interpersonal Interaction

Group sessions are the perfect place to practice interpersonal relations and to improve social skills. It’s quite common for those dealing with mental health issues or other life struggles to experience difficulties in their relationships. During group work, you will be able to interact with other members, with the facilitator helping to process the interactions. This processing enables members to gain an understanding of others’ points of view and to learn healthy ways of communicating or resolving differences. Through observing the actions of members, along with your own, you can gain tremendous insight into your own behavior, too.

3. Support

Group sessions can be even more powerful than individual work with a counselor because you are able to receive support from more than one source. This is one of the primary advantages of group counseling. In group therapy, the counselor isn’t the only one to offer feedback. Instead, the group facilitator encourages members to offer feedback, suggestions and support throughout the session. The support of multiple people can be quite effective in motivating change and validating feelings.

4. Perspective

The members of your therapy group can become your sounding board. They can provide you with feedback that helps you to see a situation more clearly or realistically. It’s human nature to perceive things through your on lens. For example, you may be harder on yourself regarding a perceived mistake than is actually necessary. Your newfound therapeutic support system can help you to reframe the incident, seeing it in a more realistic light. It’s important to note that group members won’t simply tell you what you want to hear. It is typical to expect honest responses from members, but this type of counseling teaches everyone involved how to do so in a constructive, helpful way.

5. Motivation

As you get to know your group, you may begin to notice that you find yourself thinking of them and how they may react to various scenarios you encounter each week between sessions. This realization can cause you to reconsider the ways in which you would normally react to a particular situation. This desire to want to report positive outcomes to your peers can be incredibly motivational.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to expect from group work. The advantages of group counseling are many, as are the rewards.

See also: All Inclusive List of CACREP Accredited Online Master’s Programs, Ranked by Affordability 2016

The Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling

Updated November 27, 2019

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

Source: pxhere.com

Group counseling is typically a small group of no more than 10 participants and 1-2 group leaders, usually therapists, engage in a psychosocial form of counseling. Small group counseling is held 1-2 times per week and involves talking and listening to each other’s concerns and progress. Participants usually feel open to express their beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, without fear of judgment or retaliation.

Group therapy has proven to be just as effective as individual therapy and even more effective with certain age groups such as teenagers who have an easier time opening up to and taking advice from peers than adults, doctors, or authority figures. If your therapist or psychologist is suggesting group therapy, there are 10 tremendous benefits to group therapy you should consider.

10. Support System -Group counseling is a wonderful way to give support and receive support. Therapists who lead group counseling encourages the participants to learn to lean on each other, share things they are struggling with, and help each other find ways to overcome. Participants can give each other advice and feedback in a way that is positive and uplifting. Support groups are especially helpful for people who are experiencing grief, domestic violence, or trauma.

9. Help Move Forward -One of the things people struggle with is moving forward in their life after suffering a loss, or when they are going through something traumatic. Group counseling can help people move forward because participants can encourage and support each other. Participants are also more likely to move forward when they know other people in the group are holding them accountable for achieving their goals.

8. Learn Social Skills -Some people struggle with social situations and conversations. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders may find it especially difficult to exhibit socially acceptable behavior at times. Group counseling teaches social conversation skills and helps patients to develop crucial listening and understanding skills. Some patients who have anti-social disorders or phobias can slowly integrate into group therapy as their progress in individual therapy goes on.

7. Cost Effective -Group counseling is significantly cheaper than individual therapy. Although costs will vary from office to office, most mental health care practices are able to bill for much less during group therapy. This is because more participants insurance can divvy out the cost of the session.

6. Revealing -Many people learn more about themselves in group therapy because so many other topics may get brought up with all the varying perspectives in the room. Something you may not think to bring up in individual therapy may be triggered by a participant in group therapy. Group counseling can also help you to find your voice, figure out what your beliefs and opinions are, and what goals you should have for yourself.

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5. Building Healthy Relationships -Not only do participants in group counseling learn social skills, but they also develop good, healthy friendships that tend to last and extend outside of therapy. Meeting people that you can communicate well with, who may have experienced the same things you have, means that you can build bonds with people you can relate to. Friends participants make in group therapy are also great listeners, keep private matters private, and will let you know when you are making a bad choice or behaving in a way that is may be destructive to your progress.

4. Safe Place -Being afraid to express your beliefs and opinions is never healthy for anyone, however we live in a climate today that makes it hard to communicate all the time with people who may believe differently than you. Group counseling programs ensure that all participants can talk about their individual experiences, opinions and beliefs without ridicule, retaliation, or disrespect from other group members or therapists.

3. Learning From Peers -Sometimes it is hard to believe that a therapist can relate to what patients are going through or what they are feeling. When participants are able to connect with others who they can relate to, they are more likely to learn new ways of dealing with their problems and more willing to take advice. Therapists also benefit because they can have an easier time trying to convince someone of a specific strategy if another group member can verify it was indeed worth it or worked for them.

2. Trust in Therapist -Group Counseling helps participants have trust in their therapists. When patients in group counseling are able to see that the therapist is giving other people the same strategies, telling the same thing to everyone, it makes the therapist or group leader seem more credible. Some participants may have been in therapy longer and able to testify to their own experiences with the therapist.

1. Unity -Just knowing there are other people in your community that suffer from the same disorder as you do, who are grieving like you are, who have been through trauma, etc. can be a very powerful tool in recovery and overcoming life’s obstacles. Knowing that you are not the only one, that you are part of a collective can be very therapeutic for many patients.

Disadvantages of Group Counseling

Group counseling can be challenging because opening up to people is hard. Most patients do not know or have already established and trusting relationships with the other group members. For some patients, this makes opening up and showing vulnerability easier, but for others, it can make it much harder. There is also a risk of group members clashing or not getting along with each other. Sometimes we may not feel comfortable talking to people with personalities that are much different than our own and that can be disadvantageous to therapy.

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Group counseling is not typically recommended for people with intense social phobias. Group therapy is also not always recommended for patients that exhibit violent tendencies or do not have an understanding of interpersonal relationships.

Individual Counseling Vs. Group Counseling

For some people, individual therapy may be something they are more comfortable with. A lot of times the first time you are talking about something it can be easier in a private, office setting with a therapist one-on-one. Individual counseling can also be beneficial for people who have a lot to talk about. In an hour-long group counseling appointment, each participant may only speak for a few minutes each. Therapists are also more attentive to your needs and progress during one on one sessions and may be able to give more personalized advice than they could in a group counseling appointment.

Patients may also decide to do group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions with their doctor. Individual therapy is a safe way to talk privately about what you got out of group therapy or how you were feeling in that setting. Group therapy helps patients with vulnerability while individual therapy can help with sorting through and organizing their feelings.

Types of Group Therapy

Group therapy does not always involve sitting in a circle and talking about feelings, although it can! Group therapy is different from office to office, and most practices will offer more than one type of group therapy. Examples of types of group therapies include:

  • Workshops for specific skill building
  • Expressive or creative therapy such as painting, dance or writing
  • Yoga or meditation classes
  • Group outings

Group therapy is especially beneficial for teens because of they are more likely to take advice from a peer than an authority figure. Group counseling is also beneficial for people suffering from:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression disorders
  • Relationship or Marital Issues
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Trauma
  • Self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Lack of Social Skills

There are no risks to group therapy. One thing that patients should know is that they are not required to participate in group therapy. A counselor can recommend group therapy sessions, but it is ultimately the decision of the patient if they want to go.

Open and Closed Group Counseling

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Some forms of group counseling are open forums where anyone in the community can come and go. Meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups allow open discussion and the ability for people to come and go as they please. There may be fresh faces there weekly.

A closed group counseling is limited to a core group of participants who are the only ones that are allowed in the therapy session. New participants are usually not added, and when there is a need, another group may be formed. This is to help build bonds and trusting relationships. Closed therapy is usually directed by a psychotherapist while public groups such as AA and NA may be guided by fellow participants and group leaders, recovered alcoholics, and sponsors.

At ReGain, you can be on your way to counseling, anytime, anywhere. Get started on your journey to mental health and healing by contacting ReGain today!

The Benefits of Group Therapy

What is group therapy? What is different about it than regular one-on-one therapy? These are all questions I wasn’t sure of myself when I looked into what group therapy actually is.

It turns out, group therapy is extremely similar to one-on-one therapy, and many Americans are using it as an alternative to individual therapy. You are surrounded by members who have also recently gone through a similar experience or act and are now aligned on the same journey. Nowadays there are group therapies hosted through national organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, hospitals for cancer patients or bereavement and private wellness enterprises for domestic or sexual violence victims, as well as mental health patients, among others.

Group therapy has several benefits that one-on-one therapy does not. In groups as small as three or four, and as large as 12, participants share, learn and listen to move through their respective experiences. Research has shown that individuals heal better and faster when surrounded by their peers and those of similar experiences.

Some advantages of group therapy are:

  1. All in this together: Group therapy shows group members that they are not alone, and that, while every situation is unique, others are on similar journeys as you.
  2. Gives hope: Young group members often can see how far older group members have come in their recoveries, which instills hope and determination for the younger ones.
  3. Sharing information: Group members can share personal stories, if they choose, on how it was growing up, how their shared experience influenced their decision making and what members do now to overcome challenges.
  4. Group bonding: Members have the opportunity to encourage, help and stand in solidarity with other group members as they work toward a common goal. This can bring a sense of purpose and belonging to the group.

Team Wellness Center, which has services in Detroit and Southgate offers several group therapy groups to join, which include:

  • Overcoming Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder Group
  • Grief and Loss
  • Women’s Empowerment Group
  • Life Skills Group
  • Relapse Prevention Group
  • Relaxation Group
  • Anger Management Group
  • Self-Esteem Group
  • Parenting Group

Member Services Therapist Jerry Caughey has seen considerable success with the different groups at Team Wellness Center.

“The population we serve is often disenfranchised, and have little support systems on their own. Group therapy goes a long way to connect and establish relationships with individuals of like experiences. We see that the group members influence each other just as much as the therapist in the session and oftentimes that relationship extends beyond sessions. Member become each other’s support, and help to build self-confidence and self-esteem in each other,” Caughey said.

It should be noted, however, that group therapy is not the answer for everyone and other care options are available. If you or a loved one is looking for help or more information, contact Team Wellness Center at 313-396-5300, or your health insurance provider.

If you liked this blog, check out these other posts on mental health:

  • 5 Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Your Stress
  • The Importance of Mental Health Programs in the Workplace
  • 5 Reasons Why Therapy Can Be Good For You

Photo Credit: ladyvee9 (feature) Brittany Randolph (inset) via Flickr

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6 Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Health Treatment

Traci BarrPatrick Cox

At first, the idea of participating in group therapy might seem intimidating. Who wants to share their story with strangers? But group therapy, in which one or more psychologists lead a group of 5 to 15 people, can be very beneficial. In fact, “participants are often surprised by how rewarding their experience can be,” says Ben Johnson, PhD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist, director of Rhode Island Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Coaching, and a clinical assistant professor at the Warren Albert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I. “I’m a big fan of group therapy.”

Patti Cox, PhD, CGP, in private practice in New York and president of the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society, a regional affiliate of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, says anyone can benefit from group therapy “What’s important is to be in the right group at the right time,” she says. “An acute crisis is not the best time to start group therapy because your needs are so great.”

Groups generally meet once or twice a week for 90 minutes to two hours. How much people want to reveal about themselves is very individual, but there’s security in knowing that what’s said in group, stays in group.

Here’s how group therapy for mental health treatment can help:

Groups provide support. Hearing from others with similar issues helps you see that you’re not alone in having challenges, whether you’re grappling with panic attacks, depression, or another mental health issue, Johnson says. Many people experience a sense of relief.

Groups provide a sounding board. If, for example, you talk about a fight you had with your partner, group members can see things in the way you present it that you don’t. “Hearing from other people about how you come across can be very powerful,” Johnson says. “You get a wider range of perspectives on your situation, and that can help you deal with your problems better.”

Groups can propel you forward. Hearing how other members successfully overcame their fear of flying or how they confronted a family member over drug abuse can be very encouraging. “Patients often push themselves harder when they see what others are doing,” Johnson says.

Groups promote social skills. “Groups not only help to ease that sense of isolation, but also give the opportunity to practice re-engaging with people,” Johnson says. By participating in a group, you see that you can get along with others.

Group therapy costs less than individual counseling. Some people believe that, because group therapy costs less, it’s not as good, but “that’s not the case at all,” Cox says. “Group therapy can be incredibly powerful.”

Groups teach you about yourself. “Every person in the group holds up a mirror and you get to see yourself through their eyes,” Cox says. It’s a way of uncovering the blind spots that may be blocking your ability to overcome your issues.

Sharing Can Be Healing

Like many people, Traci Barr, 51, of Greenville, S.C., who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teen, was skeptical that she could benefit from a group. However, three years ago, after a failed suicide attempt, Barr went into group therapy while recovering in the hospital.

“I had a much more open mind to it because, at that point, I had nothing left to lose,” she says. “I was going to do whatever the doctors told me, and doctors told me I would benefit from group therapy.”

Right away, though, Barr found that the suggestions the group offered were exactly what she needed.

RELATED: 5 Health Risks Linked to Depression

“The group helped me most with coping skills,” she says. “I learned very simple and very effective things — such as what boundaries are and not to allow things in my life that were not good for my manic side.” Barr also found that sharing her story with others was “very meaningful and very healing.”

The group experience, Barr says, “definitely helped me over the hump.” From there, she says, it was a matter of building on small victories — going from being unable to do laundry to launching a new career as a chef and now being able to make presentations about healthy eating in front of large crowds.

How to Get the Most From Group

Try these steps to maximize group therapy:

Take a pledge. Each group should have participants sign a contract that spells out what’s expected of them, Cox says. Knowing this can help you overcome any fears about participating.

Participate. You might have days when you don’t feel like talking, and that’s fine, Cox says, but the more you contribute, the more you’ll get out of it.

Share. Your experiences might be meaningful to someone else, and you’ll find that helping others helps you, too.


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Dealing with an emotional disturbance can be very taxing. You might feel that may be you are the only person who is facing this all alone. But do you feel that’s the case? How about meeting people in a group therapy who have similar issues and discussing it together?


Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves a therapist working with several people at the same time. It is conducted by mental health professionals trained in one of the several areas like psychiatry, psychology, social work. During the session, each member works to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible. It helps people who would like to improve their ability to cope and gives them an insight. Groups are formed and can be as small as three to four or around seven to twelve people. The group meets once or twice each week for an hour or two. The sessions are confidential, just as they would be in a one to one therapy session. Some sessions may involve only discussions, while others may involve group therapy activities that may include ice breakers, energizers, skill development, problem solving or trust building exercises.


  • To help individuals identify maladaptive behavior
  • To help with emotional difficulties through feedback
  • To offer a supportive environment
  • To provide a sounding board
  • Group therapy helps you develop social skills
  • Groups can propel you forward
  • Group therapy costs less than individual counseling
  • Groups teach you about yourself.

Group therapy can technically be applied to a variety of approaches and a variety of concerns. It has worked wonders for people who have difficulty in getting rid of their addictions. Anxiety is a perceived danger of something that is not certain. It helps the individual understand their irrational fears and helps to cope with the help of their new friends. It also works wonders for people who have problems in their relationships. A lot of role plays are used to make them understand their partner’s perspective and also work on the communication patterns.

So let’s enroll ourselves in a group therapy session and work in a group to get rid of our distress together.

Stay tuned to get more information on how group therapy can be helpful in dealing with different topics of concern in our upcoming blogs!!

Have a word with one of the experts here

Psychologist at Type a Thought

What is group therapy?

Group therapy helps people work through problems by interacting with a therapist and a group of individuals with similar struggles. In a safe, confidential setting, each group member can share personal experiences, feelings and issues and receive feedback and support from the rest of the group.

The therapist leading the session may draw from a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic and humanistic. In addition to talk therapy, group therapy can involve:

  • Educational lectures or workshops
  • Support groups or skills training groups
  • Expressive therapies such as art, drama, poetry and dance
  • Integrative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture
  • Social, cultural and educational group outings/activities

In general, group therapy sessions last one to three hours and are limited to six to 12 members and one or two therapists. They may occur just once a week, or multiple times per week in residential treatment settings. Depending on the needs of the individual, group sessions may be co-ed or gender-specific.


Research clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of group therapy to treat a variety of conditions. Some of the benefits of group therapy include:

  • A safe, supportive setting to discuss difficult emotions and experiences
  • Less isolation and loneliness when surrounded by others with similar struggles
  • Interactions with others quickly brings issues to the surface, allowing them to be resolved under the guidance of a therapist
  • Improves self-awareness and motivation to change
  • Feedback from peers can be highly influential
  • Improves interpersonal and communication skills
  • Builds trust and self-esteem
  • Ideal setting to practice new skills and behaviors

To gain the maximum benefit of group therapy, individuals must be willing to participate. The more open and honest an individual can be, the more they can get out of the experience. Group therapy is often most effective in conjunction with individual therapy.


Group therapy is used to treat a wide range of disorders, including:

  • Relationship problems
  • Communication and social skill deficits
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief/loss
  • Emotional trauma
  • Low self-esteem

The group format is also extremely beneficial for struggling teens who are often more influenced by the opinions and experiences of their peers than a therapist, parent or other adult.

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