The Pros And Cons Of Group Psychotherapy

Updated February 13, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Group psychotherapy can be an engaging and rewarding experience for those who choose to participate in it, but are there any potential drawbacks to it? This article will discuss the pros and cons of group psychotherapy which will give you an idea of whether it is the right option for you.

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What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy might be a brand new idea to many individuals, especially those who are looking into receiving therapy for the very first time. Thankfully, the basic concept of psychotherapy is quite straightforward to explain.

The most direct way to define psychotherapy is the treatment of mental conditions through psychological means rather than medicine. Because of this psychotherapy definition, it is also sometimes known as "talk therapy," but it can often be much more involved than simply talking and being counseled, depending on the circumstances. Psychotherapy can take many different forms, and some can be more suitable for different conditions than others.

Here are some of the types of psychotherapy that people can utilize:

  • Interpersonal
  • Psychodynamic
  • Cognitive
  • Transference-focused
  • Equine-assisted

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All of these various treatments employ different psychotherapy techniques, which is how they stand out from one another. For example, equine-assisted psychotherapy uses horses as the primary tool for treating patients, which is something entirely unique to it.

Some methods may also be more suitable at an individual level, such as transference-focused psychotherapy, which is designed for those who severe personality disorders, but others have been highly successful in a group setting especially ones that address depression and anxiety.

The remainder of this article will go into detail about the benefits of group psychotherapy as well as the drawbacks from it.

The Pros Of Group Psychotherapy

Group psychotherapy can be an excellent resource for some and there are multiple benefits of joining it. These are the main perks for choosing it:

The Ability To Relate To Others

Knowing that many others are in a similar situation as you can be comforting since some problems can make it seem like you are alone.

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Group therapy is successful because it offers you a chance to meet others and give you a way to form a support network, aside from your therapist. Talking to a professional one-on-one can be insightful but connecting with other patients can be reassuring too.

Depending on the person, being able to share experiences in group psychotherapy sessions can be an integral part of the healing process and overcoming obstacles.

Usually, these meetings are small to medium-sized, which gives room for everyone to share their thoughts. If groups are too large, it can be difficult to speak and can also be too intimidating for some people.

It's Judgement-Free

In addition to being able to relate, group psychotherapy is a place to speak your mind without worrying about being judged, even if the others have not had the same experiences as you.

Worrying about others might think is a very common issue people have when weighing whether to try group therapy or not.

In fact, there's a strong likelihood that a few of the other members are also worried about the same thing, so you're not alone.

In the rare chance that a situation did arise, the person who cast judgment towards speaking will more than likely be removed from the session. Therapy is intended to be a safe space for everyone, and often there are policies put in place to create that environment.

Silence Is Okay

Sometimes there are times where you just don't feel like talking, or you are not ready to speak about a certain topic, and it's completely acceptable.

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In group therapy, you are not obligated to talk if you don't wish to do so. Listening can be therapeutic as well and may even make you feel more open to talking about a certain topic if you find something you can relate to.

Your therapist will not force you to speak nor are they allowed to make you feel uncomfortable for choosing to refrain from doing it. The goal is to make patients as comfortable as possible so that they eventually feel open to talking about their issues.

However, even if remaining silent is okay, you will most likely get the most value out of your sessions if you do speak your mind because you will be able to receive direct and constructive input for your situation.

It's Confidential

All therapy sessions are required to be confidential; all information that is said during them is not allowed to leave the room, aside from a few instances by the therapist.A common concern amongst patients is that their privacy will be at risk if they start going to group psychotherapy, but confidentiality is taken extremely seriously.

Typically, a therapist will have all members sign an informed consent document which contains information about the privacy policies and the reasons how your confidentiality can be broken. For group therapy, this informed consent will ask the members of the group to keep the things discussed in group private.

It's A Cost-Effective Option

Most of the time, individual therapy sessions tend to be more costly than ones that take place in a group setting.

The primary reason why group meetings are usually more affordable is that it is an efficient way to conduct it - a therapist can work with multiple people simultaneously in the same amount of time it takes for a single person.

For instance, if the therapist charges $200 for one-on-one sessions, between 5 people, this can work out to $40 for each person. However, depending on the clinic, splitting the cost might not be that straightforward. Nonetheless, even if the therapist charges a fee of $75 per group member, this is still more than half-off of an individual one.

Being able to save money makes group psychotherapy an attractive option for many people. Some might even get more value out of it than an individual meeting because they can talk about their issues with others, and not just the professional.

The Cons Of Group Psychotherapy

There are plenty of reasons why group therapy can be an excellent choice for you; however, there are a few possible drawbacks that you may or may not experience. Depending on the individual, here are some cons of participating in it.

Less Personal Attention

One of the clear advantages of one-on-one therapy sessions is that all of the time allotted is dedicated to you.

In group therapy, you will be able to get a chance to speak, and it's encouraged, but there are additional people in the room, and there is a limited time. Because of this, you might not be able to say as much as you need to and receive as detailed input, compared to an individual meeting.

On the other hand, this is usually offset by the fact you can receive feedback from more than one person and listen to other people's stories.

Organization & Scheduling

Sometimes other aspects of life can get in the way, especially family or work commitments, and this might make it hard to commit to a certain time, week after week.

This can apply to any type of therapy session, but group therapy can sometimes be more prone to attendance issues, which can make rescheduling more difficult. Alternatively, one would need to either join a different group for the week or wait until the next one.

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Issues can also arise on the side of the therapist as well, and there is a chance that a meeting can get canceled. "Dropouts" may also occur, but the rate is rather low; in a study consisting of a total of 143 members across multiple cognitive behavioral therapy groups between 2003 and 2013, 25 people, or 17.5 percent, backed out for various reasons [1]

It's Not For Everyone

Group psychotherapy is acclaimed by millions of participants worldwide for being enjoyable and effective at the same time; however, it might not be ideal for every person.

For example, someone who deals with social anxiety might feel pressure and increased tension in this type of setting, even though it's intended to be a comfortable and judgment-free zone. Regarding this specific issue, the results for group therapy sessions designed for social anxiety disorder have been mixed [2]

Despite this, it is entirely possible to overcome it, especially if one becomes more familiar with his or her groupmates. If group therapy still sounds too intimidating, one-on-one sessions will be the most viable alternative, where you will receive the same quality treatment and confidentiality but catered to your needs.

Conclusion

After reading through all of these pros and cons, you may now be wondering - "does psychotherapy work?" After all, you are investing time and money into yourself and depending on others to help you.

Many different psychotherapy techniques have plenty of scientific evidence backing them up, but importantly, the majority of people who attend any kind of therapy report positive outcomes. Regarding group therapy, many people find relief just by being with others and knowing that they have social support [3].

If you are looking into seeking treatment, BetterHelp.com has a network of licensed and highly-professional counselors and therapists that are trained to address any condition you may be facing.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight on what to expect from group psychotherapy sessions, and you can make an informed decision on whether it's the right course of treatment for you.

References

  1. Thimm, J. C., &Antonsen, L. (2014). The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy for depression in routine practice. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1). doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0292-x
  1. Herbert, J. D., Gaudiano, B. A., Rheingold, A. A., Myers, V. H., Dalrymple, K., & Nolan, E. M. (2005). Social skills training augments the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy for social anxiety disorder. Behavior Therapy, 36(2), 125-138.doi:10.1016/s0005-7894(05)80061-9
  1. Mallinckrodt, B. (1989). Social support and the effectiveness of group therapy. Journal of Counseling Psychology,36(2), 170-175.doi:10.1037/0022-0167.36.2.170

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