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I. What's it like to get group therapy?

Therapy groups provide support and therapeutic treatment for a wide range of conditions, issues, and concerns within a small group setting. Group therapy is commonly used in conjunction with, or instead of, one-on-one treatment sessions.

Licensed therapists usually form groups to provide treatment to a greater number of clients than can be accommodated through private therapy. As with other types of treatment, the information you share in group therapy remains confidential, and group members are expected to respect your privacy by not disclosing your identity or discussing the sessions with people who are not in the group.

II. How to find a group therapist

To make the most of your time in group therapy, you need to find a group therapist near you who has the qualifications, experience, and approach that’s best suited to your particular needs and preferences. You’ll have to consider the scheduling and location of the group therapy sessions, the purpose of the group, and the cost.

If you’re interested in group therapy, it can be a good idea to ask your primary medical provider, counselor, or therapist for a referral to a therapy group. This can help ensure that the group you attend is a good fit for you.

Your group therapist may schedule a one-on-one appointment with you before enrolling you in group therapy. This gives you a chance to meet the therapist or therapists, ask any questions you might have, and assess the pros and cons of participating in the group. Take this opportunity to ask how the therapist runs their groups, who the other participants are, and what you should expect to get out of the group therapy sessions.

You should think about whether you’d like to join a group that is gender-specific or geared towards participants within a particular age range. Be sure to ask about the cost of group therapy and inquire if the treatments are covered through your insurance provider. In general, group therapy rates are significantly lower than one-on-one therapy rates. Many providers offer sliding-scale pricing for those who are unable to afford the regular rates.

III. What does group therapy help with?

Group therapy can be used as a treatment for a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, issues, and concerns, such as:

  • Substance use disorder: Addiction to drugs, alcohol, or a combination of substances can interfere with healthy day-to-day functioning and can involve significant physiological changes.
  • Gambling disorder: Compulsive gambling is characterized by risk-taking behaviors that place one’s financial security in jeopardy and often have negative impacts on relationships.
  • Depressive disorder: Mild to moderate depression may cause unhealthy sleeping patterns, low energy levels, and a lack of interest in work, family, and/or relationships.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD is a combination of physical and psychological symptoms triggered by exposure to a single traumatic event, ongoing situation, or combination of factors.
  • Anger management: If you have difficulty with anger, aggression, and irritability, group therapy may help.
  • Grief and loss: You may need to address feelings of loss, sadness, anger, and depression following the loss of a loved one, beloved pet, treasured possession, or relationship.

IV. How can you prepare for group therapy?

Attending group therapy for the first time can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to. Prepare for group therapy in much the same way you would for a one-on-one counseling session or an appointment with your medical provider. Consider what you’d like to achieve by participating in group therapy, and think about any questions you might have for the therapist. You’ll want to review any information your therapist has provided, as it’s common for group therapists to send new participants a list of group rules and expectations prior to the first session. If you have specific questions or concerns, contact the therapist prior to the start of your group therapy.

V. What are group therapy treatments?

Group therapy is a type of counseling or psychotherapy that involves one or two therapists working with a small group of clients simultaneously. While the actual treatments vary depending on the purpose of the group, the needs of the client, and the methodology used by the therapists, in general, groups are used either in conjunction with or instead of one-on-one therapy sessions. There are two main types of group therapy: process-oriented and psychoeducational.

Process-oriented group therapy

Process-oriented group therapy focuses on the interpersonal dynamics among the group members. Therapists promote a sense of belonging within the group through therapeutic group activities that may include splitting members into smaller groups for a portion of the session or engaging in role-playing. This type of group therapy tends to be loosely structured, and while therapists facilitate the group, they often let members dictate the agenda. Participation may be either open-ended or time-limited.

Psychoeducational group therapy

In psychoeducational group therapy, the therapist acts as an instructor. This type of therapy teaches specific skills to participants, such as anger management skills, problem-solving skills, and other types of life skills. While participants are invited to interact with the therapist and one another, the focus in psychoeducational group therapy is on a structured curriculum, and this type of group tends to be time-limited and restricted to a set number of sessions. Because psychoeducational group therapy follows a set outline, participants are expected to attend all the sessions as scheduled.

Self-help groups

Self-help groups are another common type of therapeutic group, although these groups are self-run and do not involve a professional counselor or therapist. The most widely known self-help group is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a group based on a 12-Step program established in 1935. Other self-help groups that use the 12-Step approach include Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Debtors Anonymous. Some therapists opt to refer their clients to self-help groups as part of their overall treatment plan.

VI. What else can help?

In addition to attending group therapy, you may want to work with a therapist on a one-on-one basis or online. You might find that working on therapeutic activities between group sessions, such as keeping a diary, practicing specific skills, or focusing on healthy habits, helps. For example, if you’re attending group therapy to work on your anger-management skills, you may find that applying the principles you’ve learned in group therapy to everyday situations helps you achieve better outcomes during conflicts with your friends, co-workers, and family members.

VII. Sources