There are several advantages of group therapy, including the opportunity to develop both socialization and communication skills. It can also teach you how to appropriately communicate problems or issues you’re having and learn to accept criticism. You can develop a sense of self-awareness when you’re in a safe place with group members you relate to and who can relate to you about similar issues.
Group therapy is a technique where one or more therapists or psychologists lead a small group therapy session of people. Group members usually meet 1 – 2 times a week for roughly an hour and a half to two hours. Typically, these therapeutic groups have anywhere from around 5 to 15 people in them.
Many people who attend group therapy find that it’s extremely therapeutic to develop common bonds in the group process. They often note they feel secure while sharing with others who understand the similar issues of what they’re going through.
Ready to learn more about the benefits of group therapy? Here we’re exploring all of the pros, as well as when group therapy may be more effective than individual therapy. We’ll also look at how you can get the most out of group therapy.
“Group therapy promotes socialization and communication. It also allows the participants to develop a sense of belonging and to see that they are not alone.”
Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSWC, CMHIMP
What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?
As noted, there are many benefits to a group therapy setting. Let’s look at some of the top reasons people find this style of therapy both rewarding and effective.
Groups can provide a safe space
A major benefit to a group therapy program is you might find you’re able to open up more as you gain comfort in the safe space the group process provides. Trusting that what happens in the group, will stay in the group, can be a motivator to be more open in a group therapy program.
H3: You feel less alone in your struggles
Support comes from feeling like you’re not alone. Whether you’re dealing with depression, social anxiety, drug addiction, or panic disorder, or any other mental health condition, knowing that others understand what you’re going through can offer a huge sense of relief. A group setting can make you feel comforted in knowing that other people get you.
You can learn from others who have similar struggles
Group sessions can help you learn about yourself as you hear and understand more about other people’s struggles. Because you all tend to share similar experiences, group therapy sessions can be very beneficial in terms of gaining insight that you may not otherwise be able to see.
Group therapy can give you a voice
Finding your voice can be difficult. Using it can be even harder. If you aren’t used to making your voice heard, group sessions can offer a place where you can practice, even if it makes you uncomfortable. The safe place you’ve found in your group therapy sessions means you can try using your voice in an unfiltered manner, without some of the stress and anxiety you may normally experience.
Knowing how to clearly and effectively articulate how you feel can build your confidence while empowering you to truly believe that you deserve to be heard.
Groups offer a sounding board
After a while, your group will likely be a comfort zone for you. At the same time, it can be the objective point of view you’ve been looking for. If you’ve had a fight with your partner, or if you’re struggling with a conflict at work, or if you have anything else you want to deal with, your group can be that sounding board you need.
People in your group treatment might offer a perspective you can trust. You may realize you get more out of their input than if someone else were to offer you even similar advice.
Groups promote social skills
The very nature of a group helps you learn how to navigate situations and relationships with others. By engaging and then re-engaging with your group, you can practice being in various social situations. Particularly with social anxiety or depression, when withdrawing might be your comfort zone, group therapy can be instrumental in helping you break the cycle so you’re more confident in social interaction.
Groups cost less than individual therapy
Even if it’s not an issue for you, most people appreciate it when things are more cost-beneficial. Group therapy most often costs less than individual therapy does. Yet despite the cost difference, group therapy actually isn’t any less effective, adding to its appeal.
Groups can help you grow
The ultimate goal of therapy is to help you grow, and group therapy can be very successful in this area. Learning about yourself and others is a great way for you to overcome fears, learn how to set healthy relationship boundaries, practice and hone your communication skills, and so much more. Growth is rewarding, and group therapy can help you achieve it.
When to Choose Group Therapy Over Individual Therapy
Group therapy can be an amazing experience, but it’s not for every situation. There are times when individual therapy may be more effective for your situation. Both group and individual therapy can be useful in treating many different mental health conditions, including psychological disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and more.
Which is “better” may just come down to personal preference on some level. Some people may feel more comfortable and get more out of an individual therapy session than they do group therapy. Of course, the opposite can also be true. Some may thrive in a group setting covering group therapy topics with other people.
The decision on whether to use group or individual therapy can depend on several factors. Affordability can be a major component. As discussed, group therapy can be much cheaper than individual therapy. Another thing that can come into play is someone’s comfort level in discussing issues with groups of people.
At the end of the day, most often, there’s no one, clear-cut answer as to which type of therapy is better than the other. Group therapy and individual therapy offer different approaches towards helping people reach the same goal.
“Both types of therapy have proven to work individually or when combined. The main idea is to help individuals reach their goals and empower them to maintain them.”
Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSWC, CMHIMP
How to Get the Most Out of Your Group Therapy
To get the most out of your group therapy, there are a few things you can do.
Take an honest pledge: Group therapy should include a contract for every participant. This way, everyone knows what’s expected from them. This helps ensure that everybody is comfortable in the group and trusts that a certain level of respect and anonymity is going to be guaranteed. When everyone is on the same page and knows what they’ve signed up for, it can help quell any fears or hesitation about participating openly and honestly.Be a willing participant: Therapy can be challenging, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Even on those days when you show up, and you’re just not feeling it, try to put as much energy as possible into the session.Be sure to share: Opening up will help you, but there can be much more to it. You may actually be the one key to someone else’s breakthrough. Of course, you shouldn’t ever feel obligated to share, and you definitely shouldn’t ever feel like you owe someone else anything. Keep in mind though, what you’re sharing might be huge for someone else. Just like you may have one of those A-HA moments when someone says something that resonates with you, your willingness to share may do the same.
“Sometimes it is not easy to be open and honest with the rest of the group, but as time goes by and the sense of camaraderie and respect grows, it becomes easier. Be patient with yourself and show empathy when others share their stories.”
Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSWC, CMHIMP
There are many benefits to group therapy. It can be exactly what you’ve been looking for in your search for self-awareness and healing. If you’re interested in exploring the advantages of group therapy, you should look further into it. So many people find that it can be an integral part of their growth — personally, professionally, or in whatever aspect of their life, they’re looking to improve.
1. Novotney A. Keys to great group therapy Seasoned psychologists offer their expertise on the art and skill of leading successful group therapy. American Psychological Association. 2019;50(4):66. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/04/group-therapy. Accessed October 27, 2021.
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