What Is Group Therapy?

Updated October 5, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Incorporating Group Therapy Into Your Treatment: Methods And Benefits
Today, we have many different types of psychotherapy, and one prominent broad form of counseling is group therapy. This type is available in many kinds, like online therapy, and you can also find many different ways to incorporate group therapy into your treatment plan or utilize it as a standalone treatment.
Group therapy's benefits have been shown to restore normalcy to people who suffer from many different disorders and diseases, including coronary heart disease, and different stages of counseling enable clients to benefit from a supportive and positive environment.

Group Therapy Can Be A Great Source Of Support And Guidance

What is group therapy? By definition, it utilizes one or more psychologists working with a group of individuals at the same time. It is offered at many different medical institutions, including private practices, hospitals, mental health facilities and clinics, and community centers. Visitors can join group therapy sessions with others that are at different stages of group therapy, allowing people to share experiences and positivity at different points in their treatment.

What Group Therapy Proposes

In Irvine D. Yalom's The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, a distinct set of guidelines, or principles, are outlined describing said principles drawn from individual reports by those who have been through different types of counseling. The group therapy process consists of the following:

  1. Persistence Of Hope: Since sessions contain individuals at different stages of group therapy, seeing the success of others during the group therapy process can instill a sense of hope in others that are perhaps just starting group therapy activities.
  2. Being One: Allowing you to heal and move past traumatic experiences with others in group therapy who are similarly moving past their issues can allow a sense of oneness and camaraderie unattainable with one-on-one therapy. This group therapy bond is one of the benefits of group therapy that can be greatly effective when combating symptoms.
  3. Imparting Information: By working as a group, participants of group therapy can share information that can be vital for another individual's treatment and healing. This sharing of experience is a topic that can only add to the success of group therapy.
  4. Altruism: Sharing strengths with other group participants during the sessions can boost morale, self-esteem, and confidence in those who are just beginning group therapy activities.
  5. Corrective Behavioral Commentary: The group therapy group begins to take the form of a primary family group for many group participants. During group therapy sessions, participants can explore past childhood experiences they believe shaped their personalities and behaviors in the group. By sharing these experiences and behaviors, group therapy participants can learn new reactionary habits from others that are more effective, positive, and empowering.
  6. Remaining Social While Healing: The social aspect of group therapy is hugely beneficial. Most people tend to withdraw when recovering or attempting to recover from a traumatic experience. Being around others in group therapy allows you to heal without withdrawing, and in turn, allows you to practice new behaviors.
  7. Imitation: Group therapy offers the ability for participants to imitate others' responses and actions to scenarios that are beneficial and positive. These ideas can translate into helpful everyday social techniques that others can use in their daily lives.
  8. Interpersonal Learning: Interacting with others and receiving feedback in real-time is a fruitful side effect of group therapy. By getting feedback from other group therapy participants and the group therapist, new perspectives and techniques can be developed in a safe and welcoming environment without much risk.
  9. Catharsis: Allowing yourself to share your feelings and traumatic experiences with a group of people going through similar experiences can allow you and the others in the group therapy sessions to let go of guilt, pain, or stress.
  10. Existential Factors: While working through traumatic issues in a group therapy setting, a sense of responsibility is also absorbed through the guidance and support of group participants. Through this process, individuals become aware that they are responsible for their actions and choices.

What Does This Type of Group Psychotherapy Treat?

This group counseling is a form of group psychotherapy that can treat a wide array of different disorders, diseases, and needs. These include:

  • Low self-esteem/confidence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief/loss
  • Emotional/physical trauma
  • Social anxiety/communication issues

Group therapy topics and the group's focus can range from your own experience or the trauma of other group participants. There are no rules that should be used to gain a specific outcome; group therapy is a process that must involve a therapist and patients. Activities for adults can include:

  • Educational, cultural, or social outings or activities
  • Expressive group therapies like art, writing, acting, and dance
  • Integrative group therapies like yoga, Pilates, or acupuncture
  • Support groups or skill and specialized training groups
  • Educational lectures or workshops

Generally, group therapy sessions can last anywhere from one hour to three hours, depending on the support groups. These group psychotherapy sessions usually hold up to 12 individuals with one mental health professional present, or more individuals and patients with more than one therapist. The flexibility of weekly group sessions is up to your therapist and your doctor, depending on if you are incorporating group therapy into your treatment plan or are attending sessions on your own. It's best to talk through your goals with your therapist or doctor and learn the duration and last meeting date.

Benefits Of Group Therapy

There are many different benefits of group treatment through specialized training. Group therapy topics can range in a manner that allows multiple different people in the group who are working through multiple different disorders an opportunity to connect with someone that might not be going through the same grief, but at the very least understand your feelings.

Additionally, research of topics and ideas distinctly shows the effectiveness of group therapy when it comes to treating destructive symptoms. There are a variety of benefits and significant improvements for group therapy at all different stages of treatment, including:
  • Improvement in self-awareness, self-responsibility, and instilling a motivation to change
  • Ability to practice and learn new positive skills and behaviors
  • Feedback from peers
  • The ability to build confidence and self-esteem
  • Chance to build interpersonal relationships with like-minded peers
  • Improves honest communication skills both external and interpersonal
  • Ensures that isolation and withdrawal do not happen
  • The ability to discuss personal issues directly allows these issues to come to the surface easier. The solving of personal issues is achieved more easily under the guidance of a therapist and other participants

Group therapy topics and content can range depending on who is sharing their trauma. With this sense of oneness persisting in sessions, the group inadvertently provides support to all those who share or allow themselves to be vulnerable. A sense of objectiveness is also achieved during group sessions. Since other participants in group therapy aren't personally involved with you or those you are social with, the people in these cognitive behavioral groups have the opportunity to add opinions and ideas to help you work through situations.

For example, if you are going through a divorce, you might share your feelings or experiences and gain invaluable perspective along the way. Or if you are undergoing cancer treatment or are facing a serious illness, you could learn ideas to manage it from others. Essentially, the others in the group sessions might be able to see things that you can't or might be too biased to see to help with group cohesiveness.

Group therapy topics can also lead to the inspiration of others. Learning about the success of other group participants in their treatment can give you hope that through hard work you can overcome your symptoms and struggles. Group activities also strengthen your social skills. Even when isolation feels like the best option, small groups and other groups (larger groups) can be better when seeking positive effects. These group sessions can allow you to heal while having social interactions in a safe space.

Getting The Most From Group Therapy

The most effective way to benefit from a therapy group is to take it seriously and work hard. Your recovery is dependent upon how seriously you take it, and the effectiveness of treatment proves that through hard work, treatment can lead to recovery. By taking in the experiences of others in your group, you are learning new behaviors, releasing the guilt and anguish you may feel, and inspiring others to follow the same path towards success and resolution.

When starting group counseling, these three steps should be followed to ensure you have accountability and a responsibility to finish treatment:

  1. Pledge

    Group therapy should be taken seriously by everyone. Each therapy group should have participants sign a contract that communicates what is expected of them for their treatment and the participation of others.
  2. Participate

    Even on days when you don't feel like attending group therapy or in moments where you're expected to share but you think about skipping, don't. Participation isn't just integral for your recovery, but for those in your group, as well.
  3. Share

    Sharing your trauma with others in the group allows you to remove the burdens of your experience from you while also allowing others to relate to you for their recovery. By sharing your healing journey and inner thoughts, you can help to heal those in group therapy with you.

How To Succeed And Grow From Counseling

Group therapy isn't just for your healing, but also the healing of those in therapy with you. Although you are in the group to address your disorder or your trauma, other group participants are looking to you for indirect guidance and advice. By participating in the group, you are finding commonality through the difficulty and vulnerability, and simultaneously helping others in the group with their treatment through positive growth.

Participation, research, and responsibility are extremely important when succeeding in group therapy. Researching where these sessions are offered and what group therapist works for you is also important when starting your path towards group therapy treatment. Using online tools like BetterHelp.com to locate professional therapists that lead counseling groups for adults will start you on a path toward peace and recovery.

Online Counseling

Group Therapy Can Be A Great Source Of Support And Guidance

Online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy to various peer-reviewed studies. 98% of BetterHelp users have shown significant progress in their mental health journeys, 94% prefer it to in-person therapy, and users with depression have shown a 70% improvement in their depressive symptoms and overall mental health, according to this study.

More specifically, online therapy groups, though perhaps viewed as unconventional, are gaining steam as it enables therapists and group participants to connect even from great distances away! This not only makes therapy groups more convenient, but also means that you can connect with a group that may not live in your area, or even your country – this potentially opens up more doors to greater perspective and understanding on a wide range of issues that the group and its participants may be facing. Additionally, online therapy tends to be cheaper than face-to-face therapy services, as therapists do not have to pay to rent out an office space or center, nor do participants have to commute to sessions. Talk with a BetterHelp therapist today to see if group therapy is a good approach for you.

Continue reading below to find reviews of some of our licensed therapists from people facing similar issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is group therapy used for?

According to the American Psychological Association, a group therapy session is often focused on addressing specific mental health conditions, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, or alcohol/drug use disorder. Other varieties include couples' challenges, caregiving, and grief.

What is group therapy and how does it work?

Group therapy works by bringing groups of people looking for mental health care for specific and similar of your problems together in a group setting to discuss their difficulties with each other. At its core, group work provides participants with a safety net and a secure environment to talk about their mental health conditions through group interaction. 

What is the major advantage of group therapy?

The major advantage that group therapy provides is a larger support system of people experiencing the same challenges as your problems, who inherently understand what other participants are going through in the shared group therapy experience to help people cope. 

Other major advantages of group psychotherapy include: providing participants with socialization techniques, a shared treatment process, a deeper self-understanding, and the opportunity to build a relationship outside the group with others. Specific gatherings dedicated to skills development groups can help participants practice and learn new coping mechanisms or behaviors. It's worth checking to see how your health insurance company provides coverage for GT.

What happens in the first session of group therapy?

Healthcare professionals that lead the session usually begin by introducing both the participants of the group and the topic that the group will focus on. Some group therapists in the United States choose to use cognitive behavioral or group cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy, to help participants verbally articulate their challenges to the rest of the group, similar to individual therapy. This type of group therapy may help with psychological disorders like depression, social anxiety, or PTSD. Overall, the goal of these groups is to help people cope, through basic books, various participants' experiences, and corrective recapitulation, all of which group therapy provides.

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