The Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling
Group counseling is a valuable, well-researched way to get treatment and support for various mental health challenges. Unlike support groups, therapy groups are paid-for or insurance-covered sessions led by one or more licensed therapists and are often led in smaller formations of up to ten people. Some groups may be larger or smaller. Often, these groups are dedicated to learning a specific therapeutic modality or discussing a mental health challenge.
Clients may talk to each other about their symptoms, experiences, and thoughts throughout the treatment while practicing new skills. Some groups, like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), are built around learning and implementing specific skills. This type of counseling has proven to be as effective as individual therapy and may be more effective with certain groups, such as those open to peer support.
Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling
If your mental health provider suggests group therapy, below are ten benefits to consider.
A Support System
Therapy in a group setting can allow you to support others and receive support. Often, group therapists encourage participants to offer peer guidance and form therapeutic connections throughout treatment, as social interaction has been shown to improve mental and physical health. Participants can give each other advice and uplifting feedback as they get to know each other and watch each other grow.
Group counseling can benefit those who often feel alone in their personal lives due to stigma. For example, groups for those who have experienced grief or trauma or are diagnosed with a specific mental health condition may offer community and solidarity.
Support In Moving Forward
After going through a challenging event or being diagnosed with a challenging condition, many individuals turn to groups to gain support as they move forward with this information. In addition, clients can see each other make real progress and gain advice that may apply to their own lives.
Social Skills Training
Some people struggle with social situations and conversations. People with social anxiety disorder or another challenge might find connecting with individuals in their personal or professional lives challenging. Group settings teach social conversation skills, expose people to social interactions in a therapeutic manner, and help people develop listening skills, if relevant. It can also be a way to meet life-long friends who have similar experiences to you.
Group sessions can be significantly cheaper than individual therapy at times, particularly when treating specific conditions and groups. Although costs may vary from office to office, many therapists charge less for group sessions as they can divide costs among participants. Some insurance plans may also cover group therapy if deemed medically necessary.
In group therapy, many people learn new aspects about themselves because each client has their own perspectives and opinions. You might see the topic differently after hearing from another group participant about a topic you might not have considered 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 profound self-reflection.
An Opportunity For Building Healthy Relationships
In group counseling, clients may develop friendships with other participants who understand them. Meeting people you can communicate well with who may have experienced the same events you have can help you form bonds that feel safe and understanding. However, note that the purpose of group therapy often isn't to make friends but instead to set treatment goals and learn from others.
A Safe Place
Being afraid to express your beliefs and opinions can have negative consequences. However, group therapy programs often ensure that all participants can talk about their experiences, opinions, and beliefs without ridicule, retaliation, or disrespect from other groups or therapists. It may help you get to a place where the ability to speak up, set boundaries, and communicate improves in your outside life.
Lessons From Peers
Many clients may struggle to feel that their therapist relates to them. When participants can connect with others they can relate to, they might learn new ways to process their concerns and be more willing to take advice. Therapist-recommended strategies may be less nerve-wracking if another group of participants can verify that it was worth it or worked for them.
Trust In The Therapist
Group therapy may help participants have trust in their therapist. When clients in group therapy see that the therapist is giving other people the same strategies, it can show them that they're not alone in their treatment and that others can also benefit from these suggestions. In addition, if some group participants have been in the group longer than others, they can vouch for the therapist's knowledge and support.
A Sense Of Unity
Knowing other people in your community who live with the same challenges 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 powerful tool in recovery and overcoming life's obstacles.
Disadvantages Of Group Counseling
Therapy in a group may be challenging for some at first because opening up to others can be challenging, and talking in a group may not feel as personalized as one-on-one therapy. There may also be a risk of group clashing or not getting along. If individuals in the group have differing beliefs about core values, the therapist may have to mediate to avoid arguments or heated conversations between group. To mitigate this, many therapists screen their clients or talk to existing individual clients before setting up a group. They may choose clients they think can get along with each group they lead.
If you feel uncomfortable with one therapy group, let your therapist know. They might have other groups you can join. In addition, groups can vary in format, so you can check for other similar groups in your area to find a new provider if you're not connecting with the therapist, group, or group topic.
Individual Counseling Vs. Group Counseling
For some clients, individual therapy may be more comfortable. Individual therapy can also benefit people with a lot to talk about. Each participant may only speak for a few minutes in a group setting. Therapists can offer a personalized and attentive approach to your needs and progress during one-on-one sessions and may be able to give more relevant 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 catered to that unique person. You might also be required to have an individual therapist to participate in certain therapy groups, like DBT groups.
Types Of Group Therapy
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.
- 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 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
- Self-esteem challenges
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders*
- Trouble with social skills
If you are experiencing a crisis related to an eating disorder or would like further resources, contact the ANAD Eating Disorders Helpline at 1-888-375-7767 from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 9 pm CT.
The Difference Between Therapy Groups And Support Groups
Group therapy is led by a therapist and is a closed format, meaning only invited clients may attend. They often come at a cost and may not be as flexible as support groups. Support groups can be open or closed but are often free to attend and free to people in the community who need them. They are often led by the community instead of a therapist but may have a group leader or participants take turns reading their daily agendas.
Public groups for addiction and substance use challenges like Alcoholics Unknown (AA) and Narcotics Unknown (NA) may be guided by fellow participants, group leaders, individuals further in recovery, and sponsors. These groups often have multiple meetings daily for those who need support throughout their day as they recover from addiction.
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Alternative Counseling Options
If you're not ready to try group therapy or are looking for individual therapy to supplement group sessions, a few options are available. Many individuals seeking low-cost therapy use online therapy platforms, which offer licensed providers at a fraction of the cost of in-person therapy sessions.
Studies have also found online therapy effective. For example, one study found that internet-based interventions were more cost-effective for clients than in-person options, and another found that online therapy could be as effective as in-person interventions for anger and aggression. Online therapy can treat various concerns, mental health conditions, and symptoms.
If you want to try an internet platform, consider signing up with a website like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Both offer low rates and over 30,000 licensed providers with experience in various specialties.
“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 me 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 in our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”
Many types of group therapy are available, and many are effective due to their social nature, structured learning environment, and professional guidance. If you're interested in learning more about group therapy, consider reaching out to a therapist in your area to find a referral or gain further guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below are a couple of frequently asked questions about group counseling.
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.
Often, group therapy offers a way for individuals to gain social skills, feel understood, and learn new skills in a fun and interactive environment. Also, when someone experiencing difficulties can help someone with a similar condition find catharsis, they may progress in their own healing process. Group therapy can teach individuals self-care by encouraging them to care for each other. This type of exchange is called interpersonal learning.
How Does Group Therapy Work?
Group therapy sessions may not always have a fixed structure. However, some standard features can be found in many. For instance, groups often consist of more than three clients, and clients may be individuals experiencing similar symptoms or looking to learn a specific form of therapy. During a group therapy session, the group leader, a therapist or counselor, guides them through an interactive therapy session, ensuring that all the participants take an active part.
The group's specific goals may determine each session's setting, timing, and structure. The therapist's personal style can also impact the sessions' pattern and structure. Before signing up for group therapy, you may wish to find out how each session is conducted and whether it would benefit you.
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