Four Potential Benefits Of Group Therapy For Depression

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the most effective ways to combat depression is to seek emotional support from others who also live with depression. Although many people turn to friends and family members seeking support, people unfamiliar with depression might not know how to help or relate to what you’re experiencing.  

Depression therapy or support groups are a solution to receive support from people who know what depression can feel like. There are two main types of communal support: support groups and group therapy. These can have mutual benefits and advantages for people living with any depressive disorder or depression concerns, and there are also therapies for people supporting someone else with depression.

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How do therapeutic depression groups work?

Many depression support groups are not led by a professional. Instead, they may consist of individuals who have or are experiencing depression. These can be safe places to discuss your thoughts and feelings and hear stories from others that may benefit you and help you feel less isolated. However, they do not replace advice from a licensed professional. 

Depression therapy sessions are offered by professionals. They often take the group therapy format, where each client gains insight and coping skills while receiving professional support and connecting with other clients. Depression support groups are often free, but depression therapy is often offered at a cost since they qualify as therapy. However, these sessions may be covered by insurance or offered at a lower price than individual therapy.

How to make depression groups work for you

In many therapy sessions, participation is mandatory. However, as you get to know other clients and learn the skills your therapist teaches, you might sit back and listen or try a couple of different types of formats before you find a match.  

If you’re unsure about the group, ask questions beforehand. Therapists often screen clients before they enter therpy to ensure the participants can interact positively with each other. If your sessions are led by professional therapists, they may be able to answer any questions you have. However, if they are not led by a professional, you may be able to get answers from others in the group who have been present longer. 

When you find a group that you feel comfortable in, try actively participating to get the most out of the experience. You could find that telling your story helps you create bonds of trust in a non-judgmental environment.

If you choose a support session with peers not led by a licensed professional, note that it may not be an adequate replacement for routine sessions with a therapist. If your individual therapist doesn’t lead the support session, let them know about it. They may help guide you through and monitor your experience as you talk about it in therapy and offer additional resources if applicable to your situation.

Four potential benefits of group therapy

Motivation

Experts have found that depression sessions can motivate clients to follow their treatment plans. This motivation might benefit those experiencing depression, as a common symptom of depression is a lack of motivation. Motivation difficulties might occur during therapy, so having a group to hold you accountable for attending sessions might benefit you. 

In addition, if you question whether a particular treatment plan for depression is working for you, speaking to others who have experienced the same roadblocks could help you make a decision. In a support group, you can write down these ideas and bring them to an individual session with your therapist to discuss them in more detail. 

Inspiration and encouragement

Like a lack of motivation can be a symptom of depression, depressive disorders can also cause feelings of hopelessness and emptiness, which might cause fears of failure in treatment. If those feelings arise for you, a depression support group may inspire you and give you the confidence to persevere. 

Beyond the support you may receive to meet your goals, you might find inspiration in the stories of others. Hearing about other people’s victories with depression may give you the hope to believe you can achieve your goals. In addition, if you’re looking for encouragement, the people in the group or your therapist may offer validation and guidance as you take a step toward a new coping skill or venture in your life. 

Education

Depression therapy groups often contain a broad range of people in different stages of recovery from depression. Many support groups are led by people who have coped with depression their entire lives, and their experiences can often benefit others. 

In these groups, you might learn new facts about depression and how it can affect relationships. In addition, you can gain healthy coping skills, treatment options, and other information you were previously unaware of. While each person with depression might benefit from professional treatment, choosing to attend a support group can be a resource alongside sessions with a licensed therapist.

Understanding

Depression might make you feel as though no one around you understands what you are going through. When you feel isolated or misunderstood, it can also worsen the other symptoms of depression. Having a group that understands the difficulties around coping with depression and can relate to your experiences could help you feel less alone. 

How to find a support group in your area

To find support groups for mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, you might ask a medical professional to recommend a support group in your area, search the web, or use a support group finder tool such as those on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) website

The Anxiety and Depression Association (ADAA) is another resource for finding depression therapy groups. The ADAA is an international non-profit organization that supports those with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and co-occurring conditions like substance use disorders (such as alcohol misuse). You can use their website to look for a support group.

Some support groups may meet in person, but others often use online meeting tools like video chat software. If you prefer in-person or online meetings, consider this factor when searching for an option. Websites like the DBSA website provide additional resources, such as information about conditions like depression and bipolar disorder you can review online. The DBSA also offers valuable information on how to support someone living with a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder as a family or friend. 

Receive personalized professional support to cope with depression

Individual depression counseling options 

Although support and therapy groups can be functional and supportive options for many individuals, working one-on-one with a professional can also provide value. Some people work with an individual therapist alongside their therapy groups. An expert can help you manage your symptoms of depression and tailor a treatment plan to work with your unique needs. 

If finding the energy to see a therapist is difficult for you, you might experience difficulty commuting, scheduling appointments, and meeting face-to-face in a traditional setting. In these cases, online therapy may be a solution to avoiding the barriers people face when seeking aid. Online platforms like BetterHelp offer a convenient way to receive individualized care that’s as effective as in-person treatment and often more affordable. 

With online therapy, you can speak with a therapist from the comfort of your home when it’s convenient for you. If you think group therapy may be helpful for you, speak with a mental health professional online to discuss options. They may give expert advice on treatment options, guide you through the group therapy process, and let you know if a support group is offering up-to-date information on depression. 

Takeaway

Living with depression can be challenging when you feel alone. If you’re experiencing loneliness with your condition, consider reaching out for support from an online or in-person therapy group or support group. These groups can allow you to connect with others living with depression and talk about your symptoms in a safe environment.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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