If you are considering psychotherapy, there are several options that can be considered and finding the right fit for you is essential. One of the most common forms of psychotherapy is group therapy. Group therapy involves one or more therapists who lead a group of multiple clients at one time for usually an hour to an hour and a half discussing and processing different topics and symptoms. Some groups are specific to a topic or mental health condition, while other groups may cater to processing emotions and offer support in a variety of topics.
Depending on what you are looking to achieve or work through, there will be different groups to look for and not all will be appropriate for everyone. The idea of group therapy is to meet with individuals facing similarities to your circumstances and strive towards achieving specific goals. Sometimes, a specific problem is more capable of being worked through better with group therapy as opposed to individual therapy. There are many types of group therapy programs including but not limited to:
If you find yourself interested in a specific form of group therapy, it is important to speak with your therapist to discuss your goals to discover which type of group would be the best fit. However, it is important to keep in mind that your mental health professional may not recommend group therapy at first or as a sole form of treatment. Depending on the issues being faced, some situations may need to be worked through one-on-one. On the other hand, some therapeutic interventions value the collaboration of individual and group therapy together.
There are many benefits to engaging in group therapy. Although it may be intimidating or uncomfortable to work with a group of strangers, individuals quickly find comfort and a sense of belonging quickly. Engaging in group therapy can provide a support network and sounding board of individuals who are experiencing similar situations to yours.
When in a group setting, group members often can relate to each other, which then allows them to pass around specific ideas for improving difficult circumstances. At the same time, group members usually form a special connection in which they can hold each other accountable during the groups’ healing journey. Since most members are facing challenges that may be like you, listening to their experience and resolution may provide the benefit of putting your own problems into perspective. Group therapy can provide participants with the understanding and feeling that they are not alone.
Group therapy is not to be confused with self-help or support groups. While group members are vital to the treatment process, there is a necessity in having the group led by at least one qualified mental health professional. The qualified mental health professionals add specialized training to the group that is not usually involved in support groups, such as real strategies for coping with different circumstances.
At Puglisi Counseling, group therapy is usually led by one or two clinicians that are specifically trained in leading therapeutic programs in a group setting. Groups are arranged in a large circle with the intent that group members can directly speak to each other as warranted during the sessions. Groups may consist of a various number of individuals ranging from 3 to 15 members. There is a limitation on the number of individuals, and it is capped at 15, as larger groups may be less effective.
The actual commencement of group therapy will vary from program to program depending on the type of group therapy, therapy activities, the number of group members, and the therapist’s style. Some therapists and group therapy programs allow for free-form dialogue, where members can participate and communicate with each other as they see fit. Whereas some types of programs will be more structured and have specific activities involved that require participation with turn taking.
Clients can expect group therapy to range between 1 to 2 hours per week depending on the therapeutic program and number of individuals in attendance. The number of sessions in group therapy will vary depending on the specific program, but for free-form dialogue and processing groups, the minimum recommendation is often six sessions to ensure benefit, but some people wish to attend for much longer. In more structured programs, like DBT skills or Anger Management, groups will usually run between 12 to 24 weeks depending on the curriculum.
At the start of the group session, members will often begin by introducing themselves and sharing their experiences and why they have enrolled in the group. Group therapy may also involve various activities. Some common group therapy activities include:
The specific group activities will depend on the style of the clinician, the group’s goals, and the structure/type of therapy being utilized for the group. For instance, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills, group activities are structured to follow a curriculum based on the DBT manual that focuses on specific skills and psychoeducation. However, in group therapy focused on the topic of depression, individuals might engage in activities based around improving happiness and reducing negative symptoms.
Group therapy meetings can be open or closed. In open group sessions, clients can enroll at any time no matter how long it has been running. Open groups are usually easy to join, but it may take some time adjusting when there are existing members. On the other hand, a closed group will have individuals join at the same time and it will not accept participants once the program has started. Individuals interested in joining a closed group would have to wait until there is an enrollment period and group members will progress together.
Depending on the type of group therapy, activities and techniques will range from having a structured focus or being dialogue-driven. The purpose of group therapy activities is to help individuals promote their trust, communication skills and improve their personal growth. Activities can include psychoeducation about different coping skills, involve sharing personal stories or experiences, and sometimes be expressive writing activities. One of the most common forms of group therapy activities is an icebreaker which is meant to promote comfortability at the start of a session. Other common activities may include painting, role-playing, music and sometimes even games. Group activities are provided as a means of helping individuals actively work towards goal achievement.
It is very common for individuals to find group therapy to be nerve-wracking at first, but with time, members quickly adjust and find enjoyment and fulfillment with the sessions. To get the most out of group therapy, it is important for members to remain active participants.
When choosing a group, it can be helpful to consider:
Those interested in group therapy can consult with one of our clinicians for suggestions on how to find the best group for them.
Clients interested in group therapy have a right to know about the rules and regulations expected to be followed within the group setting. Prior to group therapy, an individual intake will be completed with the client, so that the therapist may discuss the rules, methods, and goals of the group. Clients are expected to maintain confidentiality regarding the topics and experiences of other group members and what is discussed in the sessions.
All content discussed in session will remain confidential unless permission has been granted by all group members and the therapist. However, it is imperative group members understand that there are certain situations in which confidentiality cannot be maintained and the therapist may be obligated by law to report. For instance, any disclosure of abuse or harm against children, dependent adults, and geriatric individuals will be immediately reported to the proper authorities. Any threats of harm against oneself or others will immediately be reported to the proper authorities as well.
The group can expect that their therapist will remain professional, respectful, and active in an ethical manner always. The group therapist will ensure the environment is free from discrimination and misconduct that may make other members uncomfortable, harassed or threatened. Group therapy sessions will always remain productive, without judgment or distractions for all members.