The Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling

Updated January 31, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Group counseling is a valuable, well-researched way to get treatment and support for various concerns that might affect a person’s life or mental health. Though they may range in size to some extent, groups are often small, with around 10 participants and 1-2 group leaders, who are usually certified, experienced therapists.

Small group settings for counseling are held 1-2 times per week and involve talking and listening to each other’s concerns and progress. Participants usually feel open to express their beliefs, thoughts, and emotions without fear of judgment. Some groups, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups, are built around learning and implementing specific skills.

This type of counseling has proven to be just as helpful as individual therapy and may be even more effective with certain groups, such as those who are more apt to open up to peers. If your mental health provider suggests group therapy, here are 10 benefits to themethod to consider.

Not Sure If Group Counseling Is Right For You?
  1. It Creates A Support System: Therapy in a group setting is a wonderful way to support others and receive support. Therapists who lead these sessions encourage the participants to learn to lean on each other, and help each other find ways to overcome. Participants can give each other advice and feedback in a way that is positive and uplifting. Support groups are often especially helpful for people who are experiencing grief, domestic violence, trauma, and other challenges for that reason. Sometimes, the most meaningful words and pieces of advice are from others who have been there before.
  2. You Have Help To Move Forward: One of the things people struggle with is moving forward after undergoing a loss or going through something traumatic. Counseling in a group can help people move forward because participants can encourage and support each other. Participants are also more likely to move forward when they know other people in the group are holding them accountable for achieving their goals.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  3. You Can Learn Social Skills: Some people struggle with social situations and conversations. People who live with anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders may find it especially difficult. Group settings teach social conversation skills, expose people to social interactions in a therapeutic manner, and help people to develop crucial listening and understanding skills, if relevant. When needed, some individuals slowly integrate into group therapy as their progress in individual therapy goes on.
  4. It’s Cost-Effective: Group sessions can be significantly cheaper than individual therapy at times, particularly when treating certain conditions and groups. Although costs will vary from office to office, most mental health care practices can bill for much less during this type of therapy.
  5. The Experience Could Be Revealing: Many people learn a great deal about themselves in this type of therapy because so many other topics may get brought up with all the varying perspectives in the room. A participant in this therapy type may initiate thoughts about something you may not think to bring up in individual therapy. A group session can also help you find your voice, figure out your beliefs and opinions, and set goals for yourself. It can be an experience of deep self-reflection.
  6. An Opportunity For Building Healthy Relationships: In group counseling, it’s not uncommon todevelop good, healthy friendships that tend to last and extend outside of therapy. Meeting people you can communicate well with, who may have experienced the same things you have, means that you can build bonds with people you can relate to. Participants in this type of counseling can be great listeners and discreet confidantes who can let you know when you are making a choice or behaving in a way that could be counterproductive to your progress.
  7. It’s A Safe Place: Being afraid to express your beliefs and opinions can have negative consequences, but this fear is common. Group therapy programs ensure that all participants can talk about their individual experiences, opinions, and beliefs without ridicule, retaliation, or disrespect from other groups or therapists. It can help you get to a place where the ability to speak up, set boundaries, and communicate overall are things you’re more confident in. It can help you be fearless in expressing your beliefs and opinions.
  8. Learning From Peers: Sometimes, it is hard to believe that a therapist can relate to what patients are going through or what they feel. When participants can connect with others to whom they can relate, they might learn new ways to deal with their concerns and be more willing to take advice. Therapist-recommended strategies may be less nerve-wracking to apply if another group can verify that it was indeed worth it or that it worked for them.
  9. Trust In The Therapist: Group therapy may help participants have trust in their therapist. When patients in group therapy can see that the therapist is giving other people the same strategies, it canbuild trust. Plus, some participants may have been in counseling longer and can testify to their own experiences with the therapist.
  10. A Sense of Unity: Just knowing there are other people in your community that live with the same disorder as you do—who are grieving like you are, have been through similar trauma, or are living with the same mental health concerns—can be a very powerful tool in recovery and overcoming life’s obstacles. 

Disadvantages Of Group Counseling

Therapy in a group is challenging for some at first because opening up to people can be hard, the pros and cons of group therapy are on a personal case-to-case basis. Most people do not know the people in a new group they enter, whereas others have already established trusting relationships with others. For some, this makes opening up and showing vulnerability easier, but it can make it much harder for others. There is also a risk of group clashing or not getting along with each other. Sometimes, we may not feel comfortable talking to people with personalities that are much different than our own.

If you are in need of in-depth support, there are times when multiple interventions may be most appropriate. However, this is not necessarily a disadvantage; it just means that you may benefit from adding more support to your routine as opposed to attending group therapy only. It’s also worth noting that therapy groups can be so diverse that, if the first you try isn’t the best fit, it doesn’t mean that another one won’t be a great fit.

The bottom line? As is the case with most mental and physical health interventions, it’s more about finding what works for each unique person than it is about saying what form of care is best across the board.

Individual Counseling Vs. Group Counseling

For some people, individual therapy may be something they are more comfortable with. Often, though some might feel the opposite way, one-on-one setting with a therapist. Individual therapy can also be beneficial for people who have a lot to talk about. In a group setting, each participant may only speak for a few minutes each. Therapists are also usually more attentive to your needs and progress during one-on-one sessions and may be able to give more personalized advice than they could in a group setting.

Note that you don’t have to choose between one or the other. Rather than choose between group or individual therapy, one may decide to participate in both group and individual therapy sessions. Group therapy can create openness with others, while individual therapy can help someone sort through and organize their feelings in a way that’s catered to that unique person.

Types Of Group Therapy

If you have anxiety issues, it is a good idea to look for finding anxiety groups online. However, group therapy can also be a good option. Group therapy does not always involve sitting in a circle and talking about feelings—although it can. It differs from group to group, and many practices will offer more than one type of group therapy. Examples of types of group therapies include:

  • Workshops for specific skill-building
  • Expressive or creative sessions such as painting, dance, or writing therapy
  • Yoga therapy or meditation classes
  • Group outings

Group therapy may be especially rewarding for teens because they may be more likely to open up to a peer than an authority figure. Group therapy is also beneficial for people experiencing:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Relationship or marital Issues
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Trauma
  • Self-esteem
  • Eating disorders*
  • Trouble with social skills

Please contact the national eating disorder association at 1-800-931-2237 if you or someone you know is living with an eating disorder or might be. You can also visit the NEDA website for more information on eating disorders and recovery.

One thing that everyone should know is that they are not required to participate in group therapy. A therapist can recommend group sessions, but it is ultimately the client’s decision if they want to go.

Open And Closed Group Therapy

Not Sure If Group Counseling Is Right For You?

Some types of group therapy are open forums where anyone in the community can come and go. Once you learn about the group, you can start attending sessions at any time. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups usually allow open discussion and invite people to come and go as they please. There may be fresh faces there weekly.

Other groups are known as closed groups. A closed group setting is typically limited to a core group of participants who are the only ones allowed in the therapy session. New participants are usually not added, and when there is a need, another group may be formed. This environment is meant to help build bonds and trusting relationships; you get to know and trust the other people in your group meetings. A psychotherapist usually directs closed therapy, while public groups such as AA and NA may be guided by fellow participants, group leaders, individuals who are further in recovery, and sponsors. Note that, although valuable, groups like AA and NA primarily support groups and fellowships rather than group therapy options.

All in all, there are many different support options out there, ranging from group counseling to individual counseling to support groups and more. Many people use a combination of these opportunities. Group therapy options can be found via a web search or provider recommendation, as can many other types of support and care. What’s important is that you find the therapy that works for you.

Online therapy options like ReGain are often favorable for those who have limited time and need safe, affordable care. All ReGain providers are licensed, independent professionals, and discreet. 

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“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time. She has helped us process the effects of a traumatic experience at an appropriate pace. She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”

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