What Should I Expect?
Group therapy involves one or more psychologists who lead a group of roughly five to 15 patients. Typically, groups meet for an hour or two each week. Some people attend individual therapy in addition to groups, while others participate in groups only.
Many groups are designed to target a specific problem, such as depression, obesity, panic disorder, social anxiety, chronic pain or substance abuse. Other groups focus more generally on improving social skills, helping people deal with a range of issues such as anger, shyness, loneliness and low self-esteem. Groups often help those who have experienced loss, whether it be a spouse, a child or someone who died by suicide.
Benefits of Group Therapy
Joining a group of strangers may sound intimidating at first, but group therapy provides benefits that individual therapy may not. Psychologists say, in fact, that group members are almost always surprised by how rewarding the group experience can be.
Groups can act as a support network and a sounding board. Other members of the group often help you come up with specific ideas for improving a difficult situation or life challenge, and hold you accountable along the way.
Regularly talking and listening to others also helps you put your own problems in perspective. Many people experience mental health difficulties, but few speak openly about them to people they don’t know well. Oftentimes, you may feel like you are the only one struggling — but you’re not. It can be a relief to hear others discuss what they’re going through, and realize you’re not alone.
Diversity is another important benefit of group therapy. People have different personalities and backgrounds, and they look at situations in different ways. By seeing how other people tackle problems and make positive changes, you can discover a whole range of strategies for facing your own concerns.
More Than Support
While group members are a valuable source of support, formal group therapy sessions offer benefits beyond informal self-help and support groups. Group therapy sessions are led by one or more psychologists with specialized training, who teach group members proven strategies for managing specific problems. If you’re involved in an anger-management group, for instance, your psychologist will describe scientifically tested strategies for controlling anger. That expert guidance can help you make the most of your group therapy experience.