Group therapy is a powerful tool in which the dynamics of a small social network, consisting of a group of individuals bonded by a common intention, and facilitated by an experienced therapist or co-therapists, provides the opportunity for insight and self-expression, as well as reinforcing authentic and empathic give-and-take with others.
The group becomes a laboratory of sorts for revealing vulnerabilities, identifying strengths, replicating old patterns, and trying out new ones. Fellow group members, including the therapist, collaborate in a mutual process of change. Trust and communication are the key elements of a successful group therapy experience. The therapist must be observant and honest and a skillful communicator.
The common purpose of a therapy group may consist of a presenting issue, such as depression or anxiety, or a particular goal, such as increased assertiveness, or perhaps a common characteristic, such as being a teen or a single parent. Part of the power of the group process comes from the credibility afforded by experiencing common ground.
Some care is taken in assembling group members, expectations and guidelines are clarified, and structural characteristics are defined, such as whether the group will be closed or open to new members, and what will constitute an end point for the group or its individual members.
All members are urged to participate, with encouragement coming from group peers as well as the therapist. As in other therapeutic modes involving more than one client, the focus is on group dynamics, as a platform for individual growth.