Better Together: The Benefits of Group Therapy

What is group therapy? Group therapy is a type of therapy that involves one or two counselors and two or more clients meeting for recurring sessions. Group members are often pre-screened by therapists to assure they will benefit from and be constructive to the group process. Group therapy usually has a focus on a specific issue or set of issues such as grief, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Structurally, some groups allow for group member addition after the initial session. These groups are called “open” groups. “Closed” groups do not allow new members to be added after the first session. Is it effective? Recent research indicates that group therapy is effective in treating multiple mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder. In fact, in studies comparing the efficacy of individual therapy and group therapy, researchers found that both treatment models were equally as effective (Paturel, 2012; Balstein et al, 2004; Fals-Stewart, Marks, Shafer, 1993). What are the sessions like? Group therapy sessions begin with an introductory session which allows for group members to introduce themselves and their presenting issues that they wish to work on. During this session, confidentiality will be discussed and group rules will be made. All group members are encouraged to provide input about what rules they need to make group therapy feel safe and supportive. Sessions after the introductory session may be structured with therapy topics to discuss, or left open for group members to bring up their own issues to process in the group. Some groups will follow specific models of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Regardless of the model or structure of the group, members will be able to use the sessions to process life events, develop coping strategies and skills, and receive validation and support. How is group therapy beneficial? -Promotes interpersonal development The group therapy process allows for relationships to be made with other group members. Through these relationships, we gain insight about how we relate to others inside and outside the therapy session (Yalom, 2005). -Improves social skills The group provides a safe place to test social skills and receive feedback from multiple supportive people. For example, those struggling with social interactions can try out new methods of communication and learn from peers how they were perceived. -Provides a safe place to express emotions Group members feel safe to express feelings and receive support from both therapists and group members. Individuals often report that the support and validation they receive from other group members is exceptionally meaningful to them. -Therapist observations Because of the nature of group therapy, the therapist group facilitator will observe each client’s interactions with other group members. The therapist will use these observations to provide valuable feedback to the client about how they interact with peers. -Helps group members feel understood by peers We are not alone in what we are experiencing. Group members are peers who might be struggling with similar issues and they can provide validation and support. -Allows members to be their authentic selves Because of the support we get from therapy and the confidentiality agreement, members can feel free to be themselves and learn how other group members perceive them. -Encourages self-esteem building Group members provide self-esteem building through encouragement to each other. They may gain self-esteem by being role models to others in group by successfully coping with their own problems and talking about it in therapy. -Provides multiple perspectives In group therapy, you gain the perspective of your therapist and several peers. Peers often have a different perspective and insights that can be very meaningful and conducive to problem-solving. If you are interested in attending group therapy at Elliott Counseling, take a look at our available groups or give us a call at 217-398-9066. References: Bastien, C. H., Morin, C. M., Ouellet, M.-C., Blais, F. C., & Bouchard, S. (2004). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia: Comparison of Individual Therapy, Group Therapy, and Telephone Consultations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 653-659. Fals-Stewart, William Ph.D.; Marks, Allen P. M.D..; Schafer, John B.A. (1993). “A Comparison of Behavioral Group Therapy and Individual Behavior Therapy in Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 181, pp. 189-193. Paturel, Amy. (2012). “Power in Numbers.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2012, www.apa.org/monitor/2012/11/power.aspx/. Yalom, Irvin D., and Molyn Leszcz. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. Basic Books.  


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