Group therapy can be intimidating. There are many hilarious depictions of group therapy on TV shows, but these are far from accurate. People often shy away from group therapy out of fear: fear of being vulnerable in a group setting; fear of how other group members may act; or fear they will not get as much out of group therapy as individual work. Despite these common fears, there are a number of things that make group therapy an invaluable intervention. There are also a variety of different types of groups. Some groups are very structured and feel more like a workshop. For example, a “Healthy Sleep Habits” group focusing on sleep hygiene and how to improve sleep quality would look very different from a “Child Bereavement” group where bereaved parents share their stories. In general, groups tend to consist of 6-10 group members and 2 group facilitators. Some groups will run for a set amount of time, such as 6 weeks. Other groups may run indefinitely. Some groups can be open, meaning new members are welcome anytime. Other groups may have an established membership and may be closed to new members.
Below is a list of characteristics that increase the likelihood that group therapy will be beneficial:
Relationship problems – Clients who present with relationship concerns can benefit from group in ways that individual therapy cannot offer. Group allows you the opportunity to interact with others in a more similar setting to your daily life. Individual therapy only exposes you to the therapist and her reactions, which may be very different from how other laypeople perceive you and react to you.
Topical interest – If you are more interested in a structured group that feels more like a workshop, it is important to find a group that has a topic that will be beneficial to you
Returning clients – Clients who have participated and benefitted from individual therapy in the past tend to do very well in group. Since they have experience with therapy, they have an idea of what therapy looks and feels like. This makes it easier to get the most out of group.
Compassion for others- Something group offers that individual therapy cannot, is the opportunity to help others. This is not done through giving advice, but by offering support and empathy to other group members. It feels good to help others and feel connected to them. This can be a healing experience in itself.