Group therapy sessions generally cost less than half of the amount charged for individual therapy. Depending on the problem, group therapy can be as effective as or even more effective than individual therapy. Group therapy is so effective because it involves a powerful tool for healing—a therapeutic social setting.
Social support is vitally important to our emotional health. This fact is one of the number one findings of mental health research. Unfortunately, too many people lack sufficient social support or they experience conflicts with family, friends or loved ones. These problems increase stress, drain energy and challenge the ability to cope.
While individual therapy can provide important help in addressing social or relationship issues, group therapy provides additional and unique opportunities for growth. In group therapy, participants get real-time experience practicing skills that enhance relationships, such as assertiveness, empathetic listening, honest communication and improved awareness of one’s automatic reactions to others. It is this last factor—awareness of automatic reactions to others—that has particular importance in building healthy relationships. Many people go on “automatic pilot” in their perception of others, jumping to conclusions about others’ intentions and causing unnecessary stress or conflict. Over time, group participants learn to be more aware of their automatic reactions and develop the ability to perceive others in a healthier, more balanced manner. Consequently, group members experience more interpersonal comfort, as well as improved communication.
Another benefit of group therapy is that each participant realizes that he or she is not the only one struggling with painful emotions or challenging life problems. A sense of empathy and comradery develops, which decreases shame and increases resiliency.
Because of the unique benefits of group therapy, it is often used in conjunction with individual therapy. In my private practice, groups are ongoing and not focused on a particular topic, allowing participants to discuss whatever concerns are on their minds. I interview possible participants before they are allowed to join the group, in order to ensure that they are appropriate for a particular group. Group members make a commitment to maintain confidentiality about all information shared in the group. Further, group members do not share their last names, as an additional assurance of confidentiality.
For more information on group therapy, try the following links:
ABC Video Clip on Group Therapy
Overview of Group Therapy
Information on Group Therapy from the American Group Psychotherapy Association