What Is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a therapeutic technique that employs small group interaction as a means to changing undesirable mental and behavioral patterns. Group therapy comes in two forms: group psychotherapy and peer group therapy.
Group psychotherapy is a psychological counseling technique in which a small group of clients are treated through guided interaction by one or more counselors. Sessions are ongoing and scheduled, and group members are expected to be honest and open in their communication with one another, which is generally done through talking around a theme determined by the counselor.
Some group therapy also facilitates communication through role-playing or creative expression like writing, painting, or music.
Peer group therapy is similar to psychotherapy in its philosophy, but group direction is guided by the group members themselves rather than by a mental health professional. Twelve step programs such as Alcohol Anonymous are examples of peer group therapy. (Note: AA is not treatment and does not refer to itself as a “therapy” program.)
The goal of group therapy is to help clients recognize and understand harmful behaviors and thought-patterns by utilizing the group’s collective insight and common past experiences.
Ultimately, group therapy participants are encouraged to address these issues through positive cognitive and behavioral changes.
What Are The Benefits Of Group Therapy?
Group therapy is particularly beneficial in helping clients recognize that they are not alone in their ordeal. Clients dealing with problems that make them feel isolated, ashamed, misunderstood, or unable to communicate their thoughts regarding a given problem can find understanding, empathy, fellowship, and hope within group therapy.
Clients who undergo group therapy are often able to glean insights about their own problems through the experiences of others who are suffering from similar problems by analyzing and observing from a more removed perspective.
Group therapy can also help clients with their outside social interactions by helping them to communicate in a more effective, positive, and forthright manner.
Group therapy can help to build self-esteem in clients who believe that they have made unforgivable mistakes in the course of struggling with a mental health issue or have core esteem issues stemming from closely held beliefs.
Group therapy is generally a lower cost option than one-on-one client/counselor therapies.
If you are struggling with a personal crisis, addiction, or mental health issue in which you feel misunderstood, unable to communicate, or totally alone, then group therapy may be an effective treatment option for you.
Who Should Get Involved In Group Therapy?
While there is no one catch-all solution for any given mental health issue, group therapy has been used effectively to treat addiction, anxiety, eating disorders, problems with interpersonal relationships, depression, anger issues, problems stemming from sexual and/or physical abuse, and bereavement.
How Do I Choose A Group Therapist?
Be sure that your therapist has been trained and mentored by other experts. The American Group Psychotherapy Association is one organization that provides certification. Fees, experience, and your comfort level with a particular therapist are also very important.
How Do I Find A Peer Group?
Twelve-step peer group therapy is widespread enough to be available in almost any area of the country, and can generally be found in the Yellow Pages under “counseling”, white pages, or by way of local information and referral agencies. All groups are different, so try a few out to decide which group works best for you.