Should I Attend Group Therapy Near Me?
By: Joy Youell
Updated December 22, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Attending group therapy can be a powerful way to work through issues. Sharing with others is an effective way to process your thoughts and feelings. When a group therapy environment is supportive and empathetic, it can help you find inner strength. Is group therapy right for you? This article will explore what group therapy is and help you as you make this decision in your mental health journey.
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Certain personalities are more social than others. Depending on your personality and how you communicate, you may benefit most from individual therapy, group counseling, or a combination of the two. Let's look at what group therapy is and how it differs from other therapy approaches.
What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, that occurs in a social setting. Often therapy groups are made up of people that are dealing with similar challenges and diagnoses. For example, a group may include only people that are struggling with an eating disorder or addiction.
In traditional group therapy, a therapist leads the group through the session. The therapist may teach the group new coping skills and encourage them to share their experiences with each other. The group members work together to learn, and they offer support to one another. On average, groups are comprised of 5 to 15 people.
Some groups are closed, which means that everyone joins the group at the same time and no one can join the group later. This policy can be helpful because it allows group members to form a safe and comfortable connection. However, there are also open groups. These groups allow people to join at any time. People come and go throughout the duration of the group. One of the biggest advantages of an open group is that it's easier to join. When looking for a closed group, you may have to wait a while before you can find one that is scheduled to begin at a time you want to join.
How Traditional Group Therapy Differs from a Step-Program Group
Many people are familiar with AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, and other programs that walk people through steps to recovery. It's not unusual for people to think that this is how all group therapy works. While 12-step program groups do share some similarities with traditional group therapy, there are some important differences. For example, in AA the people attending generally do not offer advice to each other. Instead, they simply share their own experiences and progress. The group is also not led by a licensed therapist but is peer run. Peer-run groups tend to be free of charge, whereas you will usually have to pay to attend traditional group therapy.
While therapy groups can be beneficial, they are not for everyone. Some people and some mental health conditions are better suited for individual counseling sessions.
Advantages of Group Therapy
There are some advantages that group therapy has as compared to individual therapy.
- You Learn You Are Not Alone. When dealing with mental health challenges, it's easy to feel that you are alone in your struggles. If you don't have family members or close friends that are struggling with similar issues, it can feel stigmatizing to confess your challenges. This can be harmful in recovery because feeling alone can lead to depression. When you attend group therapy, you are with others who understand what you are experiencing. Because you are all individuals, your stories aren't going to be the same. You will each have a unique perspective, but, overall, you will be able to understand where the others are coming from. And because you each have a slightly different perspective on a similar problem, there is a lot you can learn from each other.
- You Build Social Skills. Social skills don't come naturally to everyone, and there are life situations that increase social anxiety. Group therapy is a safe place to learn skills that can help you cope with the anxiety of interacting with others. It also helps you to learn how to build and strengthen relationships with others. Moreover, the group setting allows you to immediately practice the skills you are learning with people who are learning the same thing.
- You Can See There Is Hope for Progress. During seasons of crisis or when coping with mental health challenges, you may feel overwhelmed. When you attend group therapy, you will be with people who are in various stages of therapy. That means that while some are just starting, there will be others who are further along in the process. This can be helpful because you can see that progress is possible.
- You Can Get More In Touch with Yourself. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify or describe our own feelings. As you listen to other people share, and have an opportunity to share yourself, it can become easier to find your voice. This is an important part of recovery.
- You Build Confidence. Struggling with mental health challenges can undermine your confidence. Group therapy can help. Finding your voice and providing helpful advice to others in the group can help build your confidence.
How to Get the Most from Group Therapy
There are many group therapy techniques that can help you improve your mental health. Here are some suggestions to get the most out of your group sessions:
- Listen: One of the biggest advantages of attending group therapy is that you have other people to listen to. Ensure that you are taking advantage of this by paying attention to what your therapist and the other people in your group are saying.
- Share: You can benefit from group therapy even if all you do is sit and listen but you are likely to get more out of the group if you participate. Take the risk of sharing your story. When you are ready, be vulnerable and let your guard down.
- Ask: Ask for advice and feedback on what you are struggling with.
- Try: A group may be the perfect place for you to practice communication skills.
Remember that authentic long-term growth will occur as you practice the skills you learn in your group. The ultimate goal is to take what you are learning and put the new skills into practice in your everyday life. The group is a great place to get started, but the real changes happen when you take the things you learned in the group and apply them outside of the group.
For many people, group therapy is just one part of treatment. Clients might meet individually with a therapist as well. The best way to know what treatment path is right for you is to talk to a professional. They can educate you on your options for treatment, including group therapy.
BetterHelp Can Help
Because most groups are formed based on a specific mental health challenge (e.g., depression or social anxiety), there are many different types of groups that you can join. If you are looking for a group, start by talking to a therapist to ask for their recommendations. If you don't currently have a therapist, you can search online. BetterHelp is a great option for therapy. Through this online resource, you can be matched with a mental health professional that fits both your personality and your schedule.
HuffPost recently ran an article discussing the efficacy of online therapy. They pointed out that for many of the most common types of therapy, research has shown online to be as effective as in-person therapy: that includes cognitive behavioral therapy, a common type of talk therapy that teaches you to challenge negative thought patterns or behaviors; obsessive compulsive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; and likely eating disorders as well. HuffPost said that the biggest factor in online therapy is finding a counselor you connect well – which is the same for in-person therapy.
On a platform like BetterHelp, you have many options to choose from, meaning there’s many opportunities to find the right person to work with and who is going to be able to find the right treatment – such as group therapy – for you. Online therapy also tends to be cheaper than traditional therapy. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing a range of life's challenges.
"Marsha has been amazing! This is my first time with any kind of therapy and also my first time doing online counseling. I've been recommending it to all my friends who are also having problems but can't seem to get the right therapy treatment. I got very lucky to get Marsha. She shows that she truly cares about her clients and goes above and beyond. I feel like she listens and cares making this difficult process much easier. Anyone that has her is very lucky."
“Samuel is an extremely smart man and makes me feel like he actually cares about me and my mental health. He goes the extra mile in finding me local groups and clinics and refers me books to read. I still have a long way to go but I’m glad it’s with him. Thank you Sam.”
You may wish to join a therapy group for support while working through a mental health challenge.
However, many people choose to work with an individual therapist, either instead of or in addition to group therapy. If you are looking for a therapist to work with, you can find one in your area or choose an online therapist. The most important thing is that you find the help you are looking for. Take the first step today.
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