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Group Therapy

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is, as the name implies, a form of psychotherapy or talk therapy that involves more than two people – usually several clients and at least one or multiple therapists at a time. Group therapy can work as an alternative to one-on-one therapy for people who do not respond well to individual therapy. In many cases, however, group therapy is used as a supplementary modality in a larger treatment plan.

Group therapy is still based on individual talk therapy frameworks but adapted towards a group dynamic. Some therapeutic frameworks are specifically built for a group setting, or work best when applied to a group, such as Family Systems Therapy.

There are different types of group therapy depending on the target audience. Some group therapy programs are closed, with a fixed number of starting participants, and a stringent therapy process (e.g., a 12-week program). Others are open, welcoming members to come and go as they need to.

Whether to choose individual therapy or group therapy is as much a matter of comfort as it is a matter of progress. A therapist may recommend that a person try both and see which they prefer – or visit individual ¬and group sessions concurrently as part of their treatment.

Key Benefits of Group Therapy

There are a few distinct advantages to working in a group. These include:

  • Taking advantage of the group dynamic. Group therapy differentiates itself from individual therapy in that there are multiple people seeking treatment in the same session. This can develop into positive or negative group dynamics between individuals. A therapist’s job includes facilitating positive dynamics and eliminating the potential for negative ones.
  • Shared support among like-minded teens. Teens in a group setting can learn from one another, especially if some teens have more experience in group treatment than others. They can talk about their experiences, and validate other teens’ feelings.
  • The concept of universality. Knowing you’re not alone – that there are many other people who have had similar negative experiences, or even share your diagnosis and a similar backstory – can be empowering, and can help dissolve feelings of isolation. This is the universality of shared experiences.
  • Feedback and positive perspectives. A group setting is ideal for intermember feedback, as well as hearing stories and experiences about how things have gotten better or changed positively. Group therapy can also serve as an outlet for talking about less positive experiences, while providing comfort.
  • Interpersonal skills development between members. Group therapy is a better setting for practicing interpersonal skills, whether it’s listening or effective communication. Teens who struggle in a group dynamic due to a lack of social skills can improve this way. Group settings might not be best for teens who feel pressure in social situations or experience acute anxiety in a group, at least at first.

Different Types of Group Therapy

Group therapy comes in different shapes and sizes, depending on the focus of the therapy, whether it’s a continuous program or a structured, episodic program, and the type of therapy being used.

Some group therapy programs are more about forming positive social experiences with other people, while others involve deep-diving into treatment. Some focus on helping people with shared chronic health issues find each other, while others center on family. A few examples of different group therapy types include:

  • Psychoeducational Group Therapy
  • Support Groups
  • Process-Oriented Group Therapy
  • Interpersonal Group Therapy
  • Expressive Art Group Therapy
  • Substance Use Recovery Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • And more.

Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy

Should you choose individual therapy or group therapy? Your choice depends on how you respond to either, but there may be key considerations that could sway you towards one choice over the other:

  • Group therapy may be best if you are looking for peer support. If you’re struggling with feeling alone or feel like you aren’t being understood by anyone in your circle, then group therapy can introduce you to a number of people who might have had shared experiences or felt the same way you feel now.
  • Group therapy can provide you with the setting needed to exercise your social skills. If you struggle with interpersonal communication in particular – not because of acute social anxiety, but another issue – then group therapy may be very helpful.
  • If you are the type of person who learns best from example, then group therapy can expose you to a wide array of stories and experiences from the points-of-view of other people, who may have been struggling with a similar mental health issue for longer.
  • Individual therapy allows for a more targeted approach. A therapist can work with you to focus on fears or concerns that are unique to you or are more specific to you. No time is spent covering or focusing on matters that you cannot relate to.
  • Individual therapy means that a therapist can fully devote their attention and resources to you. Things might be missed in group therapy – a single therapist must often keep track of a dozen people or more. Nonverbal cues or signs that the course of treatment might not be working for you are more easily picked up and understood by a therapist in a one-on-one setting.
  • You may be anxious in a group setting, and less likely to talk about your experiences, your past, or your thoughts when there are too many other people around, especially people you consider to be strangers. This may lead to you feeling even more closed off or isolated, even in a group setting.

For some teens, utilizing a blend of both treatment approaches – individual sessions and group sessions – might be ideal.

Group Therapy at the Arrow House

Group therapy at the Arrow House takes many forms, including animal-assisted group therapy, arts-based group therapy, family therapy, substance use disorder group therapy sessions, and more.

We also help refer teens to relevant local support groups and offer them post-treatment resources that may help them expand their circle of acquaintances, and get in touch with a broader community, online or locally, to help combat feelings of isolation or loneliness in treatment.

To learn more about our group therapy programs, contact us or give us a call via 657.282.4263.