Group psychotherapy is a special form of therapy in which a small number of people meet together under the guidance of a professionally trained therapist to help themselves and one another. The therapy has been widely used and has been a standard treatment option for over 50 years.
If you stop and think about it, each of us has been raised in group environments, either through our families, schools, organized activities, or work. These are the environments in which we grow and develop as human beings. Group psychotherapy is no different. It provides a place where you come together with others to share problems or concerns, to better understand your own situation, and to learn from and with each other.
Group therapy helps people learn about themselves and improve their interpersonal relationships. It addresses feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety. And it helps people make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives.
Group works! In studies comparing group psychotherapy to individual therapy, group therapy has been shown to be as effective and sometimes even more effective than working with a therapist individually. Group is also more affordable than individual therapy as discussed in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
How does group work?
A group therapist appropriately selects individuals (usually 5 to 8) who would be helped by the group experience and who can be learning partners for one another. In weekly meetings, group members are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion. Professionally trained therapists, who provide productive examination of the issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group, guide the discussion. In groups focused on interpersonal development, such as the one offered here, much of the learning actually comes from the interaction between members.
In a typical session, which lasts about 90 minutes, members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestlly as possible. Such exploration gives the group the important information needed to understand and help one another. Members learn not only to understand themselves and their own issues but while doing so, also become "therapeutic helpers" for other members.
What if I'm uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?
It's not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most people find that group therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk with others who are experiencing similar problems--in a private confidential setting. Many people who have experienced group therapy believe that working together with others is helpful and they feel better by participating in this form of therapy.
If someone is in a group, do they also need individual therapy?
It depends on the individual. Sometimes group therapy is used as the main or only treatment approach. Sometimes it's used along with individual therapy. Often people find that working simutaneously in both group and individual therapy stimulates growth in mutually complementary ways. Clients may see different therapists for individual or group therapies. In such cases, it's generally considered important for the two therapists to communicate with each other periodically for the client's benefit.