Strength In Numbers: Four Types Of Therapy Groups

By: Gabrielle Seunagal

Updated February 15, 2021

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

Virtually everyone has heard the phrase, "there is strength in numbers." When it comes to therapy, this couldn't be more accurate. When most people think of therapy, they're reminded of one-on-one sessions in a comfortable office with a specialist sitting across from them. While that individual setting is common, it is just one form of the treatment options that are out there.

Group therapy is another type that can be very helpful. There are also many types of group therapy. Therapy groups are also created for a variety of reasons.

A Brief Overview Of Group Therapy

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There are various reasons why people opt to participate in group therapy instead of individual therapy. In some situations, group therapy may present with more benefits and be recommended by a primary care doctor or mental health professional for the betterment of mental health. Group therapy comes with some unique benefits.

A sounding board and a great support system are some of the biggest perks of group therapy, as they help a lot with mental health. When you attend therapy with other group members, you each have things in common and similar areas in need of improvement. By speaking out and confiding in individuals who share your struggle, you can get affirming feedback and support from multiple people.

Group therapy can also help with social and interpersonal skill development with other group members. If you are someone who struggles with connecting with others, then group therapy may prove to be helpful to you and your mental health. Not only will you be surrounded by like-minded individuals, but you can also get used to being around other people. Over time, this will make a difference. One of the best ways to improve is to push and challenge yourself. Bettering interpersonal and social skills starts with putting yourself in situations where you can interact with other group members.

Finally, group therapy is frequently more affordable than individual therapy.

Research into group therapy has shown that it helps normalize health care problems that people are facing, by making them aware that others face similar struggles. Group therapy is also valuable in the installation of hope through the group environment people can see themselves and others recover from problems and improve. These are powerful ingredients in helpful therapy.

Reviewing Different Types of Group Therapy

While group therapy comes with many benefits, it is a very diverse type of treatment, which can be great for some people with mental health issues. There are many types of group therapy suited for different types of groups, such as psychoeducational groups and psychotherapy groups, for example, so there are treatment options to best suit your needs. The number of sessions will also differ depending on the kind of therapy a person opts for. So it’s important that you discuss your details with your health care provider or therapist to help you figure out which form of group therapy is the best for you.

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Psychotherapy Groups

These groups are based on understanding that relationships built between people are needed to regulate daily living and improve mental health. The types of groups focus on what group members can do in the present to help them work together to form a cohesive group, which helps members develop important communication and relationship skills.

Cognitive Therapy Groups

These groups use cognitive behavior therapy and similar styles to help people identify patterns of behavior that have kept them stuck in whatever problem they're facing. Identifying thought processes as they relate to behaviors and learning new tools to cope with situations in daily life are big parts of cognitive behavioral therapy groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common form of therapy and has seen the most success since it helps people to re-examine their thoughts and engage in exercises that promote a more positive way of viewing their feelings and thoughts.

Dynamic Group Therapy

This therapy group is often used in addiction to overcome addictive behaviors. The group focuses on deficits in regulating behavior, which can also lead to poor health care. The environment is supportive and used to examine common experiences shared by the group members.

Psychoeducational Group Therapy

These types of groups offer specific instruction to people dealing with specific problems, such as substance abuse treatment. They instruct members on coping strategies, community resources, and other information helpful in recovering from a particular issue. Psychoeducational groups can offer a combination of support and education to improve mental health, especially in the long term.

Self-Help or Support Groups

Self-help and support groups meet for various reasons and may or may not involve a licensed therapist to facilitate the group. Some types of groups may meet at community centers or churches for a particular reason, like caregiver support groups Alcoholics Anonymous, and others. These groups are meant to provide social support to people who participate.

Group therapy works for many people. Individual therapy is helpful as well. The choice about which to proceed with is up to you, and you can be guided by input from a therapist as well. Before joining a group administered by a licensed therapist, they will ask questions to determine if the group is right for you. It also matters which setting is most comfortable for you.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, also known as REBT, is an active-directive, empirically- and philosophically-based form of psychotherapy for mental disorders. The goal is to resolve behavioral or emotional problems in those living with poor mental health so that they can live fuller and happier lives. This therapy focuses on people who have cognitive distortions about the situations they’re involved in. Through the treatment options available, such as counseling groups, these distortions can be disputed and altered.

Process Oriented Psychology and Therapy

Process oriented therapy, also known as process work, is a relatively new form of psychotherapy that focuses on the whole spectrum of the human consciousness. This is achieved through examining and understanding the human experience and how it changes over time. It’s following this flow from one experience to the next that can improve mental health, as it teaches awareness of the self and the world around it in relation to those experiences

Process oriented therapy is one of the treatment options available in counseling groups, as members of the group discuss amongst themselves what the solutions to certain problems should be. Because there are no preconceived notions of what is right or wrong, members are allowed to go against conventional beliefs and challenge their own way of seeing things. That is why process oriented therapy can be used in combination with other treatment options for depression, addictions, and anxiety.

Becoming a Group Leader

For those who are licensed and certified, and are interested in starting their own group therapy sessions, being a group leader does require some essential skills to keep therapy sessions feeling as natural as possible.

As a group leader, you need to ensure that the atmosphere of the group psychotherapy sessions is constant. Having small, infrequent changes can help the mental health of those in the therapeutic group adjust to their stages of recovery. Clear and consistent boundaries should be presented, such as the ground rules for speaking.

Active listening is also a key concept of group treatment, and members learn that their thoughts and feelings matter. Active listening will provide the information a group leader needs to provide effective therapy.

Group leaders of counseling groups should also exude confidence, especially since they’re operating in the uncertain. Formulas and easy answers aren’t going to work in helping those living with mental disorders solve their problems. In fact, that could end up making their mental health worse.

Group leaders should have a firm sense of their own identities, or else they can lose themselves in the emotional whirlwind that takes place during group treatment sessions. Any personal emotional problems a group leader has can have an effect on those they should be treating.

Trust, humor, and empathy are also strong qualities that a therapeutic group leader should possess. Clients who learn to trust their group leader will learn to trust themselves in turn. Projecting empathy demonstrates that you can identify with someone’s feelings and acknowledge them as real, while humor geared towards therapeutic goals can keep the atmosphere of the therapeutic group light so that members feel more encouraged to discuss their issues.

By demonstrating these qualities as a team leader, group members learn to adopt them into their own lives as well. New members who join the group will be able to see how accepting the atmosphere of the therapeutic group is.

The Use of Art Therapy in Group Therapy

Group art therapy is one of the treatment options that has been used since the 1940s to diagnose and treat mental disorders. During the art therapy process, therapists can witness the facial expressions of members of psychotherapy groups while they work, and take note of the language they use while they’re interpreting the process of making art. The goal isn’t to make the best piece of art, but to give those in the group psychotherapy the opportunity to express themselves in a way that doesn’t have to involve words.

Art therapy doesn’t involve only painting and drawing either. It can involve dance, playing music, or playing a part in a small play. But for psychotherapy groups, the more common form is visual art, which can include:

  • Collages: images are cut out of magazines and glued together on a poster board to create a collage. The choice of images and the colors used can give a therapist some insight into the mental health of the person who created it. Questions are usually asked about the piece to help the person recognize thoughts and feelings they hadn’t considered before.
  • Feeling codes: this is less artistic but can provide a lot of insight for those living with mental disorders. They are given notebooks and a poster-sized piece of paper; they then make a list or draw pictures that are codes for certain feelings. Members of the psychoeducational groups then incorporate those codes into their poster for the therapist or group leader to interpret.
  • Making masks: not everyone is comfortable speaking face-to-face with others in psychotherapy groups. To improve their mental health, making a mask that they can use to speak through can help them to identify what they’re feeling on the inside. These masks can also be used to fantasize and role play, especially with the other members of the psychoeducational groups.
  • Creating puppets: like making masks. creating a puppet is a form of play therapy that helps a person utilize another means of speaking their thoughts. By engaging in role-play through puppets, members engage in the interpersonal process of helping each other out, which is what therapy groups are designed to do.

Helping out those living with mental disorders, especially those in counseling groups, can be quite rewarding for both the therapist and those involved, as it’s much easier to see their long term progress and how much they’re improving.

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No matter who you are or what type of therapy you decide to pursue, taking action when you need help is important for your mental health in the long term. Therapy is a great place to grow, learn, heal, and improve mental health. Therapy groups provide that foundation of trust and safety that some people may need.

BetterHelp has licensed therapists who can work with you individually and regular groupings where you can attend to learn valuable information about struggles you may be facing. You can contact BetterHelp from anywhere at any time by simply clicking here.


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