The Top Ten Benefits Of Group Counseling
Updated March 03, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Group counseling is typically a small group of no more than 10 participants and 1-2 group leaders, usually therapists, engage in a psychosocial form of counseling. Small group counseling is held 1-2 times per week and involves 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 or retaliation.
Group therapy has proven to be just as effective as individual therapy and even more effective with certain age groups such as teenagers who have an easier time opening up to and taking advice from peers than adults, doctors, or authority figures. If your therapist or psychologist is suggesting group therapy, there are 10 tremendous benefits to group therapy you should consider.
10. Support System -Group counseling is a wonderful way to give support and receive support. Therapists who lead group counseling encourages the participants to learn to lean on each other, share things they are struggling with, 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 especially helpful for people who are experiencing grief, domestic violence, or trauma.
9. Help Move Forward -One of the things people struggle with is moving forward in their life after suffering a loss, or when they are going through something traumatic. Group counseling 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.
8. Learn Social Skills -Some people struggle with social situations and conversations. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders may find it especially difficult to exhibit socially acceptable behavior at times. Group counseling teaches social conversation skills and helps patients to develop crucial listening and understanding skills. Some patients who have anti-social disorders or phobias can slowly integrate into group therapy as their progress in individual therapy goes on.
7. Cost Effective -Group counseling is significantly cheaper than individual therapy. Although costs will vary from office to office, most mental health care practices are able to bill for much less during group therapy. This is because more participants insurance can divvy out the cost of the session.
6. Revealing -Many people learn more about themselves in group therapy because so many other topics may get brought up with all the varying perspectives in the room. Something you may not think to bring up in individual therapy may be triggered by a participant in group therapy. Group counseling can also help you to find your voice, figure out what your beliefs and opinions are, and what goals you should have for yourself.
5. Building Healthy Relationships -Not only do participants in group counseling learn social skills, but they also develop good, healthy friendships that tend to last and extend outside of therapy. Meeting people that 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. Friends participants make in group therapy are also great listeners, keep private matters private, and will let you know when you are making a bad choice or behaving in a way that is may be destructive to your progress.
4. Safe Place -Being afraid to express your beliefs and opinions is never healthy for anyone, however we live in a climate today that makes it hard to communicate all the time with people who may believe differently than you. Group counseling 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.
3. Learning From Peers -Sometimes it is hard to believe that a therapist can relate to what patients are going through or what they are feeling. When participants are able to connect with others who they can relate to, they are more likely to learn new ways of dealing with their problems and more willing to take advice. Therapists also benefit because they can have an easier time trying to convince someone of a specific strategy if another group member can verify it was indeed worth it or worked for them.
2. Trust in Therapist -Group Counseling helps participants have trust in their therapists. When patients in group counseling are able to see that the therapist is giving other people the same strategies, telling the same thing to everyone, it makes the therapist or group leader seem more credible. Some participants may have been in therapy longer and able to testify to their own experiences with the therapist.
1. Unity -Just knowing there are other people in your community that suffer from the same disorder as you do, who are grieving like you are, who have been through trauma, etc. can be a very powerful tool in recovery and overcoming life's obstacles. Knowing that you are not the only one, that you are part of a collective can be very therapeutic for many patients.
Disadvantages of Group Counseling
Group counseling can be challenging because opening up to people is hard. Most patients do not know or have already established and trusting relationships with the other group members. For some patients, this makes opening up and showing vulnerability easier, but for others, it can make it much harder. 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 and that can be disadvantageous to therapy.
Group counseling is not typically recommended for people with intense social phobias. Group therapy is also not always recommended for patients that exhibit violent tendencies or do not have an understanding of interpersonal relationships.
Individual Counseling Vs. Group Counseling
For some people, individual therapy may be something they are more comfortable with. A lot of times the first time you are talking about something it can be easier in a private, office setting with a therapist one-on-one. Individual counseling can also be beneficial for people who have a lot to talk about. In an hour-long group counseling appointment, each participant may only speak for a few minutes each. Therapists are also 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 counseling appointment.
Patients may also decide to do group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions with their doctor. Individual therapy is a safe way to talk privately about what you got out of group therapy or how you were feeling in that setting. Group therapy helps patients with vulnerability while individual therapy can help with sorting through and organizing their feelings.
Types of Group Therapy
Group therapy does not always involve sitting in a circle and talking about feelings, although it can! Group therapy is different from office to office, and most 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 therapy such as painting, dance or writing
- Yoga or meditation classes
- Group outings
Group therapy is especially beneficial for teens because of they are more likely to take advice from a peer than an authority figure. Group counseling is also beneficial for people suffering from:
- Anxiety disorders
- Depression disorders
- Relationship or Marital Issues
- Eating disorders
- Lack of Social Skills
There are no risks to group therapy. One thing that patients should know is that they are not required to participate in group therapy. A counselor can recommend group therapy sessions, but it is ultimately the decision of the patient if they want to go.
Open and Closed Group Counseling
Some forms of group counseling are open forums where anyone in the community can come and go. Meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups allow open discussion and the ability for people to come and go as they please. There may be fresh faces there weekly.
A closed group counseling is limited to a core group of participants who are the only ones that are allowed in the therapy session. New participants are usually not added, and when there is a need, another group may be formed. This is to help build bonds and trusting relationships. Closed therapy is usually directed by a psychotherapist while public groups such as AA and NA may be guided by fellow participants and group leaders, recovered alcoholics, and sponsors.
At ReGain, you can be on your way to counseling, anytime, anywhere. Get started on your journey to mental health and healing by contacting ReGain today!