Group Therapy And Support Groups

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 22, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Some people are curious about what is group therapy all about. Group therapy generally consists of a group of five to 15 people, led by a licensed mental health professional, who are experiencing similar mental health challenges. In group therapy, the therapist usually leads the group in various discussions and teaches them skills that can be helpful while group members have the opportunity to impart their own experiences and mental health journeys. Group therapy can show you you’re not alone, help you develop social skills, build your confidence, and give you hope. Listening, embracing vulnerability, asking questions, and putting in effort can help you get the most out of group therapy. It can be possible to join a group in person or online, and if you feel more comfortable with one-on-one therapy with a licensed professional, you may wish to try individual therapy online or with a local therapist.

What Is Group Therapy?

Try Individual Therapy In Addition To Group Therapy.

Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, that generally occurs in a social setting. Often, groups are made up of people who are navigating similar challenges and diagnoses. For example, a group may include only people who are living with an eating disorder or an addiction. To cope with the challenges that are affecting their mental health, people can either choose to attend group therapy or they can try a support group (among other types of treatment), and there can be some subtle but important distinctions between them.

As telehealth has taken off over the last decade, many people from the US and other countries have started to join online therapy groups. Online group therapy can work the same way as in-person group therapy, with a certified group therapist moderating sessions over Zoom or a live chat, instead of in an office or meeting space. This also opens up opportunities for individuals with very specific challenges to make contact and build community with people from other countries all over the world.

Pros And Cons Of Group Therapy

In traditional group therapy, a licensed mental health professional usually leads each session. On average, groups are comprised of five to 15 people.

Some groups may be closed, which typically means that everyone joins the group at the same time, and no one can join the group later on. This policy can be helpful because it can allow everyone to form a safe and comfortable connection with the other group members. 

However, there can also be open groups. These groups generally allow people to join at any time. People may come and go throughout the group. One of the biggest advantages of an open group location is that it's usually 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 Group Therapy Can Differ From A 12-Step Program

Most people are familiar with AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, and other programs that walk people through various steps to recovery. It's not unusual for people to think that this is how all group therapy works. For example, in AA, the people attending generally do not offer advice to each other, no matter the location. The group is usually not led by a licensed therapist or other mental health professional, but is typically peer-run. These can be run as courses or classes fitting a specific rubric, or be more free form. A peer-run support group tends to be free of charge, whereas you will usually have to pay to attend traditional group therapy.

While group therapy can be beneficial, it may not be the best option for everyone. Some people and some mental health conditions may be better suited to individual counseling sessions.

What Are The Advantages Of Group Therapy?

Below are several potential advantages of attending group therapy.

You Can Learn You Are Not Alone

When experiencing mental health challenges, it can be easy to feel that you are alone in your struggles. When you attend group sessions, you’ll generally be with others who can usually understand what you are experiencing. Because you are all individuals, your stories aren't necessarily going to be the same. You may each have a unique perspective, but overall, you’ll likely be able to understand where the others are coming from. Because you may each have a slightly different perspective on a similar problem, there may be a lot you can learn from each other.

You Can Build Social Skills

Social skills don't always come naturally to everyone, and there can be life situations that increase social anxiety. Group therapy can be a safe place to learn skills that can help you cope with the anxiety of interacting with others. This type of therapy can also help you learn how to build and strengthen relationships with others. Moreover, the group setting often allows you to immediately practice the skills you are learning with people who are practicing the same thing. 

You May 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 usually be with people who are in various stages of therapy. That means that while some are just starting, there will likely 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

Getting to know and understand yourself can be an important part of recovery. Groups provide a safe and encouraging place for gaining self-awareness.

You Can Build Confidence 

Living with mental health challenges can undermine your confidence. Group therapy sessions can help. Finding your voice and providing helpful advice to others can build your confidence and help you overcome trauma in its many forms.

How To Get The Most Out Of Group Therapy

There may be many group therapy techniques that can help you improve your mental health. Here are some suggestions to get the most out of these sessions:

  • Listen: One of the biggest advantages of attending GT is that you may get to hear the experiences of others in addition to the mental health professional. You can ensure that you are taking advantage of this by paying attention to what your therapist and the other people in your group are saying.
  • Embrace Vulnerability: When you are ready, try to be vulnerable and let your guard down. Respond to questions and share your own story.
  • Ask: It can be beneficial to ask for advice and feedback on the challenges you’ve encountered.
  • Try: A group may be the perfect place for you to practice communication skills.

Remember that authentic long-term growth can occur as you practice the skills you learn in your group. The ultimate goal is typically to take what you are learning from the mental health professional and put the new skills into practice in your everyday life. The group can be a great place to get started, but the real changes tend to happen when you take the tools you learned and apply them to your day-to-day life.

For many people, group therapy is just one part of treatment. Clients might meet individually with therapists online or in person, or they can supplement these group therapy sessions with support group sessions. The best way to know what treatment path is right for you is usually to talk to a professional. These professionals can educate you on your options for treatment.

Try One-On-One Individual Therapy

Try Individual Therapy In Addition To Group Therapy.

Group therapy may not be the best fit for everyone. Sometimes, it can be better to connect with a therapist one-on-one, particularly for those who may have trouble with social situations. In some cases, it may even be challenging to visit a therapist’s office if you have social anxiety or other mental health challenges that make it difficult to leave the house. This is where online therapy may be an excellent option, as it can empower you to receive professional help and guidance by simply visiting a website from the comfort of your home. These type of therapy can offer access to mental health services for people who might not otherwise have it. 

Research pertaining to online therapy has had positive results. According to this study, online therapy can be as effective as traditional in-office therapy, and it can treat a wide variety of mental health conditions. You may even find, after your experience with online therapy, that you may wish to try out group therapy and see if it can help you in your journey to improved mental health.


In group therapy, you’ll usually be a part of a group of five to 15 people who are experiencing similar mental health challenges or have similar diagnoses. The group will generally be led by a therapist or another mental health professional who can lead discussions, teach coping skills, and offer group members the opportunity to discuss their own relationships and experiences. In group therapy, you can build your confidence, develop social skills, and learn that you’re not alone. You may get the most out of this type of therapy by listening, being vulnerable, asking questions, and putting in the effort to succeed and improve. For those wondering “where do I find group therapy near me?” You may find group therapy opportunities in your local area or online. For those who may not feel comfortable in a group setting, individual therapy can also be found online or in person.

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