The Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 group members 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.
- 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 mightlearn 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 member can verify that it was indeed worth it or that it worked for them.
- 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.
- 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 members in a new group they enter, whereas others have already established trusting relationships with the other group members. 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 members 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 createopenness 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
Group therapy does not always involve sitting in a circle and talking about feelings—although it can. Itdiffers 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
- Relationship or marital Issues
- 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
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 are 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 web search or provider recommendation, as can many other types of support and care. What’s important is that you find 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.
“Michelle has been a wonderful listening ear as I have worked through the grief of losing my mother and issues in my relationship. She is very calm and understanding, letting me talk through my thoughts and not condemning at all. I have appreciated her responding to me in a timely manner, especially when I wasn't expecting a response.”
“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.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the different types of group therapy?
Common types of group therapy include (but are not restricted to) psychoeducational group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy groups, and skill building therapy groups. There are also options like art therapy groupsavailable. Groups may or may not be for people with specific diagnoses or concerns, like anxiety or eating disorders.
What is the purpose of group therapy?
Group therapy aims to use the benefits commonly received from social interaction to increase therapy programs' effectiveness. By bringing individuals who have had similar experiences together in a setting that allows them to work towards a common goal, group therapy aims to provide a safe communal environment for effective treatment. By sharing therapy group sessions with other people, individuals can feel less isolated and more understood. The group experience fosters hope and a sense of community. It also helps individuals who might be struggling to achieve genuine social interaction to find a platform where they can experience therapeutic communication. Also, when a person experiencing difficulties can help another person with a similar condition find catharsis, they may progress in their own healing process. By encouraging individuals to care for each other, group therapy can teach the individual self-care. This is referred to as interpersonal learning.
What are the benefits of group counseling?
Therapy groups typically involve multiple people receiving treatment for similar conditions from the same professional therapist and at the same time. Counseling groups often have a maximum of ten participants along with one or sometimes multiple therapists. During group sessions, people listen to and speak to each other, expressing thoughts, concerns, and progress. Therapy groups have several benefits, including:
- Supportive atmosphere: The whole point of group therapy is to create a setting where individuals who are experiencing similar situations and conditions can support each other through recovery. Because those involved in the group experience can relate to each other’s conditions in one way or another, an atmosphere of empathy and care is usually created. And each person can count on the other person to understand what they are going through—and understanding is a foundational step towards recovery.
- Developing social skills: One of the reasons people may feel socially awkward and isolate themselves is that they don’t feel understood. When people are placed in a setting where everyone around them understands them and empathizes with them, they mayopen up more. For some people, therapy groups end up being their primary social group; many friendships made during group therapy end up lasting for a very long time.
- Affordability: Therapy groups are often more affordable than individual therapy. Because there are multiple participants in one session, the price is usually lower than in an individual setting.
- Diversity: Some individuals have a hard time viewing their condition from an objective perspective. Exposing such an individual to group therapycan enable them to see their condition from a different point of view. This can help shed light on their own unique situation and experience.
How does group therapy work?
Group therapy sessions don’t always have a fixed structure. However, some common features can be found in most group sessions. For instance, almost every group therapy session features at least three participants,though most will have between eight and twelve participants. During a group therapy session, the session's group leader (who isusuallya licensed therapist) guides the members through an interactive therapy session, ensuring that all the participants take an active part in the session. These sessions can occur on a monthly, weekly, biweekly, or more frequent basisand typically last an hour or two.
The group's specific goals will determine the setting, timing, and structure of each session. The therapist’s personal style will also go a long way in determining the sessions' pattern and structure. So, before signing up for group therapy, you may wish to find out how each session is conducted and whether that would work for you.
How do you build trust in a group counseling?
What are the values of group Counselling?
Is group therapy more effective than individual therapy?
What are the characteristics of group counseling?
What is the difference between group counseling and group therapy?
What are some issues in group counseling?