Can group therapy for trauma help me?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated January 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Group therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have various benefits, such as gaining support from others, finding your voice, listening to others’ experiences and learning about their healing processes, and developing social skills rather than isolating oneself. It can be important to remember that progress often takes time, but you are more than what has happened to you, and it can be possible to heal from trauma and restore your mental health. Group therapy may not be the best option for everyone, but one-on-one therapy with a licensed mental health professional can also be a valid and effective treatment option. This type of therapy can even be completed online from the comfort of your home.

The benefits of group therapy

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It can be possible to heal from PTSD
It can be easy to say that someone should attend PTSD group therapy. However, when someone understands how seeking professional help can be of assistance to them, they are often much likelier to participate in the process. With this in mind, here are a few ways group therapy can aid in the process of treating PTSD and other mental health conditions.

Support from others

Having support from other individuals who may be living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be one of the greatest upsides of group therapy. Togetherness, community, and a strong support system can be imperative for those who are working to overcome PTSD.

Countless evidence-based studies have affirmed that having a support system, such as a support group, can help anyone who is experiencing mental health challenges. This can be true regardless of whether an individual is living with PTSD. Forming healthy relationships and connections can ensure that a struggling person does not feel alone and can always find support. A group therapy setting can allow you to connect with other members, discuss common experiences, and learn valuable skills for coping with day-to-day challenges. 

Finding your voice

When someone has undergone a traumatic event that later contributes to the development of PTSD, it can be difficult to discuss what happened. This may be hard for many people to understand, but just talking about certain trauma can lead to flashbacks and make a person with PTSD feel as if they’re reliving a traumatic experience. However, the right support system, plus the guidance of the therapist heading the group, can encourage people to talk about the trauma in a manner that they feel comfortable with. Speaking about your experience, whether in individual treatment or with groups, is often the beginning of the healing process.

Listening

Listening can be a major benefit of group therapy. This is an upside that is not as frequently addressed, but it can certainly make a difference. When someone begins group therapy, they may not be ready to open up immediately, and that's okay. New members of support groups, especially, may feel uncomfortable opening up about their mental health at first. This is where having others in the group can be valuable and make a difference. 

Listening to other participants of the PTSD group can have an amazing impact. When you listen to others, you may learn a lot. This can open the door for learning about how others have managed to cope and what helped them most on their healing journey. Listening in this form of group therapy can be a stepping stone to a participant speaking up and potentially helping, informing, and uplifting others in the group.

Developing social skills

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When participating in group therapy of any nature, there is generally a degree of socialization that takes place. This can be very healthy and beneficial for individuals who have recently undergone traumatic events or experiences. During the beginning stages of the healing process, pulling away from others may occur. To a certain extent, this can be normal and understandable. However, when taken to extremes or prolonged, isolation can have negative effects, potentially leading to other conditions like substance abuse and depression. 

The aim of group therapy is to provide a space to express your emotions, with a focus on safety and support. Support groups can also be a part of suicide prevention* in mental health care. Participation in group therapy may allow individuals who were previously traumatized to open up to others and come out of their shells. This may happen over weeks and months, but the combined benefits of working with a professional, having support from others in the group, finding your voice, and listening to those who have had similar experiences can make a significant difference over time. One of the most important things to remember may be that each person heals and rehabilitates in their own time, but the benefits of group therapy can expedite this process.

*If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please know that help is available. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime, 24/7, at 988.

Important things to remember

The benefits and effectiveness of PTSD group therapy are generally well-documented. However, despite these upsides, there may be certain things to keep in mind, particularly if you are someone who may be living with PTSD.

If you are considering group therapy for PTSD, it is important to note that not all group settings are the same. A more general PTSD support group might not be run by a licensed mental health professional, as is the case for trauma focused group therapy. That said, both can offer valuable benefits, such as emotional support and the chance to connect with other group members.

In addition to group therapy, other resources are available if you or someone you know is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Organizations like the National Center for PTSD, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, often provide free resources and educational materials for those living with PTSD, as well as their families and friends. You can also contact your healthcare provider, who can refer you to the right mental health practitioner for your needs. 

If you are a veteran experiencing a crisis, you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1) or text 838255. For support for the deaf and hard of hearing community, please use your preferred relay service, or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.

Progress takes time

Despite the abundance of ways in which group therapy can help you, it can be important to understand that it may take time for these benefits to manifest. In most cases, progress is the result of ongoing, habitual acts, and of continuing to practice the skills you learn during treatment. If you don't see the benefits in the first few sessions, that can be completely normal. The important thing to remember is generally that if you stick to the course, keep attending sessions, and participate in therapy to the best of your ability, you’re highly likely to see the payoff.

You are more than what happened to you

Even when you are participating in group therapy, knowing that you are more than what happened to you can be easy to lose sight of. PTSD can be a very real mental illness, affecting both adults and children, and it can be all-consuming for many people. This is why group therapy, support from others, and feeling as though you are part of something bigger than yourself often make such a difference.

You can recover

When you're living with PTSD each day, it may feel as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is! Recovery from PTSD is possible. As hard as it may be to imagine, if you keep working hard, keep pushing, and keep fighting, you can make it through. You can overcome this. The key is usually to continue taking steps to heal, better yourself, and improve each day.

Pursuing other types of treatment

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It can be possible to heal from PTSD

If you would prefer to work one-on-one with a therapist rather than participate in group therapy, that can be an effective option. At the end of the day, treatment is generally about what you feel most comfortable with and what you think will be best for you. For some people, group therapy may be the most beneficial. Other individuals may find that directly working with a therapist provides the help they need. This may be the case for those living with other diagnoses in addition to PTSD, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Online counseling options

Living with PTSD can sometimes make it challenging to leave the house and visit a new location, like a therapist’s office. If this is the case for you, you may wish to try online therapy. This can make it possible to connect with a licensed mental health professional from home or anywhere you have a stable internet connection. In addition, online therapy platforms often make it simple to switch therapists so that you can find one you truly connect with.

As this study explains, online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for PTSD treatment. Please don’t hesitate to get the help and support you deserve!

Takeaway

Potential benefits of PTSD group therapy may include developing social skills, finding your voice, listening to others’ experiences, learning about their healing processes, and gaining support from others who understand. It can be crucial to remind yourself that it’s possible to heal, but that progress can take time and that you are more than your traumatic experiences. Although group therapy can be an excellent choice for some, others may find one-on-one talk therapy to be more comfortable for them. It can be possible to attend online therapy sessions from home if that is preferable to visiting a therapist’s office.

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