The process of group therapy is very much like person-to-person counseling. The primary difference between individual and group therapy is that you have an opportunity to see yourself reflected in others and how your behaviors affect them in a group. You also get to watch other participants grow and change over time.
Group members often report feeling less alone because they know they are not the only ones struggling with their mental health issues.
Group therapy can be helpful for people who want or need social support during treatment, but it may also be difficult if you struggle with feelings of shame or guilt when discussing what’s bothering you.
It’s important to remember that even though we all share similar experiences, our individual stories are unique and specific to our own lives.
Group Therapy Sessions
Mental health therapists can also offer group therapy to people living with mental illness or emotional distress. Most group therapies are very small; typically, there are no more than ten people in each group.
Group therapists often use various techniques, like role-playing, exercises and discussion topics to help participants develop the necessary skills and coping strategies to manage their mental health.
Who Needs to be in therapy groups?
People who are in mental health therapy groups include individuals with the following symptoms or diagnoses:
- Recovery High Schools
- Anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias and panic attacks
- Mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia
- Personality disorders
Therapy groups are also available for young adults who have recently been discharged from psychiatric hospitalization.
Keep in Mind: Therapy groups usually last up to 12 weeks and follow a specific curriculum shared during your first session. You can choose to sign up for several groups during the same time.
Group therapy is also a good option for people who don’t have symptoms severe enough to require individual therapy but want to discuss various mental health issues with others experiencing similar symptoms and struggles.
What You Can Expect?
Generally, you can expect a mental health therapy group to include members of the same age, gender and background.
Group sessions can be held in various settings, like hospitals or mental health clinics. To help everyone get to know one another, your therapist may start each session by asking you to share something about yourself that others may not already know. It’s also common for members to introduce themselves at the beginning of each session using only their first names.
Speaking in front of others can be difficult for people with social anxiety, but you need to speak up and share your thoughts and feelings to get the most out of the group experience.
Sometimes, you may be asked to participate in physical, mental or emotional exercises during your sessions. For example, you may have to solve a group-related problem by sharing how you would handle it if you were in that same situation.
Each session is usually led by the group therapist, who makes sure everyone gets a chance to speak and introduces any pertinent topics. Group leaders must make sure everyone participates equally, like making eye contact around the room and encouraging others to speak up when they don’t feel comfortable speaking on their own.
During group therapy, you may learn things about other members that make you feel uncomfortable or awkward. For example, one member might share an embarrassing story about you that another member reveals. In these situations, your group leader may step in to redirect the discussion or remind other members how hurtful it can be to spread rumors about other people.
There usually isn’t much time for socializing during sessions in therapy groups because everyone’s attention is focused on working through personal issues and concerns. However, you may be able to continue your friendships with some of the members outside of group therapy sessions.
How are Therapy Groups Helpful?
Therapy groups can help people improve their relationships and develop better coping skills in anxiety management, anger management, grief and loss, and substance abuse.
You can also expect to gain an increased sense of self-esteem, confidence and the ability to trust members of your support network. Therapy groups are especially helpful for people suffering from more severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other medications.
When Would I Need a Mental Health Group?
Mental health groups are helpful if you meet any of the following criteria:
· You have trouble managing your symptoms for at least two months.
· You feel that your current support system isn’t adequate to help you cope with your mental illness or other life problems.
· You feel that you need additional support beyond medication and individual therapy.
If you think group therapy can help, consider consulting your family doctor or psychiatrist for more information about finding one in your area.
What are the different types of group therapy?
The following are different types of group therapy.
· Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A group for individuals with drug addiction, like alcoholism.
· Anger management: A group that focuses on healthily managing anger.
· Supportive-expressive therapy: This type of group therapy session treats people with a wide range of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders.
· Cognitive therapy: This group therapy session helps individuals learn to identify and change “cognitive distortions,” or negative thinking patterns that contribute to their disorders.
· Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): A treatment for people who have issues regulating their emotions due to trauma or other causes.
· Group therapy that focus on specific mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or schizophrenia.
· Mood management therapy: A group therapy for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
· Psychoanalytic psychotherapy groups: This group therapy session focuses on how past experiences have shaped current feelings, behavior and relationships.
· Psychodrama: Individual psychotherapy focuses on the patient’s internal conflicts, feelings, and motivations.
· Reality therapy : A treatment that emphasizes positive reinforcement to encourage healthy behaviors rather than negative consequences for unhealthy behaviors.
· Self-help groups: These are not actual group therapy sessions, but they are organized groups of people who share a common problem or concern, such as alcoholism or gambling addiction.
· Supportive therapy: This type of group therapy is most commonly used to treat patients with anxiety disorders.
What is the difference between a support group and a therapy group?
Different types of therapy group exist with various goals and objectives. While most tend to focus on improving mental health, some group treatment may be specific to a certain disorder or illness, such as anger management groups or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) groups.
Some common factors among all types of group therapy are providing a safe and comfortable environment where individuals can express themselves and learn to open up.
A “support group” is not a therapy group per see, but they are also a place of encouragement and support for those who join. However, unlike therapy groups, the sole purpose of a typical support group is to provide help with problem-solving.
There is often no professional mental health provider or mental health services administration rep present in support groups, making them different from group therapy.
When is group therapy not appropriate?
Group therapy is not an appropriate choice for everyone. Some group therapy may not be helpful for you, such as support groups intended to help individuals who have experienced a traumatic event or death of a loved one and grieving and bereavement groups.
Suppose you have a serious mental illness and try group therapy. In that case, you might find it difficult to express your thoughts and feelings in front of others or become overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotions from other members. Group therapy is also not a good choice for people who suffer from severe mental illnesses, such as psychosis.
In addition, if you are recovering from a traumatic experience, you may not be ready to openly discuss your feelings or emotions in a group therapy setup.
How Does Group Therapy Help Mental Health Treatment?
Typically, group therapy consist of 6-12 members and meet one hour a week. This allows participants to discuss their feelings and emotions in a supportive environment without overwhelming them or causing too much fatigue.
The group therapy session is led by a professional mental health provider or mental health professional who usually has a master’s degree in psychology. Still, it can also be led by a more experienced group member in community centers.
There is no specific set of guidelines for group therapy, so the length and content of each session may vary depending on the type of group that you attend. Some groups meet over six to eight weeks while others may continue for four months or longer.
In addition, some group therapy sessions may meet less often than once a week.
How do I choose which group is best for me?
Since each group has different criteria, it is important to be informed of the goals and objectives of the mental therapy groups that you are considering. This way you can determine if the group will fit your needs.
You should also consider your schedule and location when choosing which therapy groups to join, as many may require you to drive a certain distance or meet at specific times.
As with any therapy, it is a good idea to connect with a few members individually to help you determine if the group will be a good fit for your needs.
Therapy groups can be an effective way to improve mental wellness and cope with day-to-day life. With the help of a professional mental health provider or another group member, you can find support from others who have similar experiences and form lasting connections that can prove beneficial in your journey towards improved mental health.
Talk to your primary care physician today for more information on mental health therapy groups.