Typically, the most common form of therapy is individual therapy. However, group therapy is also a viable option. It involves taking part in a group led by a therapist for an hour or two every week. Moreover, there are various types of group therapy.
Let’s look at some of these types of group therapy, classified by either the problems it seeks to address or the methods and goals that it uses.
Types of Group Therapy (based on the problem)
- Addiction and Substance Abuse
- Trauma and abuse
- Eating disorders
- Anger management
- Grief and loss
- and more.
Types of Group Therapy (based on clinical method)
- Psychotherapy Groups
- Peer Support Groups
- Medication Groups
- Encounter Group
- Relapse Prevention Groups
- Phase Models of Treatments
- Couples Counselling
- Family Therapy
- and more.
What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a therapist works with a group of people who share common issues and intend to lead better, happier lives. Groups can consist of anywhere between 6-20 people. They tend to focus on a particular problem common to the people in the group. However, some sessions can focus on different issues if the group members want to address something different.
Up to two therapists usually lead groups. They can either act as facilitators or as teachers, depending on the group type:
- Psychoeducational Groups: These groups focus on specific issues, such as depression, anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc. Therapists teach people about these problems, including how to deal with them and move past them. They share ways to cope and talk about medication if required. For example, in a group focused on anxiety, the therapist might teach the group about using breathing techniques to deal with panic attacks.
- Process-oriented Groups: These groups emphasize discussing group experiences. The goal of process-oriented groups is to allow members to see themselves and their problems in other members. The therapist facilitates discussions and gets people to talk about their experiences dealing with particular issues. In this style of group therapy, people can learn from each other rather than from one source, i.e. the therapist.
Groups can be open or closed. Therefore, if the group is an open group, people can join and leave at any point in the group’s journey. However, if the group is a closed group, then new people can only join with the permission of all the group’s pre-existing members.
Typically, groups tend to meet in a psychologist or psychiatrist’s office. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more groups have started to meet online.
Why Group Therapy over Individual Therapy?
Individual therapy is a suitable option for people who feel that they are unable to engage with society. One requires a certain level of functioning to attend group sessions and make good use of them.
Group therapy has a few advantages over individual therapy:
- Groups provide support and safety. It is empowering to be surrounded by people who truly understand you.
- Group therapy gives you access to a broader range of perspectives.
- You can take inspiration from others struggling with the same problems as you.
- You can get insights, tips, and find new ways to deal with your obstacles based on other people’s experiences.
- It is easier to uncover your psychological blind spots if you can see them in other people.
- Group therapy gives you opportunities to both give and receive support.
- Groups hold you accountable for showing up every week.
- They give you a chance to improve your social skills and communicate your feelings effectively.
- Groups help you feel less isolated and lonely.
- Group therapy tends to be cheaper than individual therapy.
Types of Group Therapy (Based on Struggle)
Group therapy can help you deal with various issues, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and more. Here is a detailed overview of some problems that group therapy is useful for:
Group Therapy for Anxiety
Group therapy for anxiety can be either a process-group, a psychoeducational group, or some combination of both.
In a process-group, the therapist gets people to share their experiences. This type of therapy is very effective, as it helps members relate to and learn from each other. Group members can point out your thought loops that lead to anxious thought spirals. That is a massive benefit because it is difficult for you to identify those thought loops on your own.
Alternatively, group therapy for anxiety can be psychoeducational. In these sessions, a therapist teaches the members about the nature of anxiety, how it works, and techniques to identify anxious thought loops and break them. In these sessions, all the knowledge typically comes from one source.
Group Therapy for Depression
Depression group therapy is similar to anxiety group therapy in that the participants learn strategies and techniques to cope with depressive thought patterns. The group’s goal is to make the members aware of their thought patterns and break them.
In each session, members learn specific techniques and skills to cope with depression and prevent future relapses. In other words, members talk about how depression affects their lives and how they manage on a day to day basis. Moreover, the therapist tries to guide the conversation towards how they cope and how to move forward.
Aside from learning practical skills, group therapy is an excellent way of instilling hope in members. It is empowering to learn that people with similar experiences as you can make considerable progress moving forward.
Group Therapy for Addiction and Substance Abuse
Addiction and substance abuse group therapy can depend on what stage of addiction the members are at. There are different approaches to group therapy that deals with addiction, depending on whether the members are still addicted, recently abstinent, or have been abstinent for a long time.
If they are currently addicted, the goal of group therapy is to wean them off their addiction. However, if they are recently sober, the goal is to prevent relapses. Finally, if they have been abstinent for several years, the goal would be to maintain their abstinence and forward momentum in life.
Group Therapy for Trauma and Abuse
Trauma and abuse group therapy focuses on supporting victims of trauma and abuse. It helps them cope with the lasting effects of their experiences.
Trauma and abuse can make people feel helpless and hopeless. Therefore, group therapy is powerful because by receiving support from other people going through the same things, members can come to terms with their history and feel empowered moving forward.
Group therapy for trauma and abuse encourages sharing experiences, which creates an environment of support and connection. This environment is instrumental in cultivating trust in other people again.
Group Therapy for PTSD
One of the biggest challenges in PTSD is identifying negative thought patterns and being sensitive to triggers. Therefore, PTSD group therapy aims to help members identify their trigger points and break negative thought spirals.
Members talk about their experiences with PTSD and how they cope with it. The therapist teaches the members the skills they need to deal with PTSD, improve their symptoms, and restore their self-esteem.
Group Therapy for Eating Disorders
Eating disorders typically come with a range of difficulties, including:
- Behavioral issues.
- Dysfunctional thinking patterns, beliefs, and eating habits.
- Physical symptoms.
- Impaired mood and social relationships.
People with eating disorders can often feel conflicted, suffer from low motivation, and be reluctant to engage with treatment. As a result, people coming into treatment tend to feel alienated and distressed when coping with their illness in isolation.
Therefore, eating disorder group therapy can help members point out each other’s dysfunctional thought patterns and beliefs, and validate each other’s struggles. It can help members feel less alone with their struggles.
Group Therapy for Anger Management
Group therapy for anger management involves approaching the issue from two angles.
One of these is to give people the skills, techniques, and coping mechanisms to deal with their anger at the moment. The therapist leading the group is responsible for the teaching aspect.
The other element of anger management is to help members identify the roots of their anger and dismantle the behavior. That is accomplished through sharing experiences, finding common trigger points for their anger, and coming to terms with their shared experiences.
Group Therapy for Grief and Loss
Dealing with grief and loss can be made much easier through the support of members in group therapy. Members can share their personal experiences and struggles while a therapist can guide them through the emotional processing of the loss.
Group Therapy for Caregiving
Caregiving for people with illness, terminal or otherwise, can be an extremely nerve-racking experience, both mentally and physically. Therefore, support from other people can help.
It helps members share the pain and realize they are not alone. A therapist can help them process the potential loss and the emotions they feel while members provide emotional support to each other.
Types of Group Therapy Based on Methods and Goals
We can classify group therapy based on the method and goals of treatment:
Psychodynamic Therapy Groups
These groups utilize a psychodynamic approach to help you understand your mind. The psychodynamic approach looks to your past to understand its effects on how you think in the present day.
In psychodynamic group therapy, the therapist explores the group’s past and finds common experiences that have shaped the individuals into the people they are today. This approach helps the group understand why they work the way they do.
The therapist also helps the group process their experiences, which cultivates self-awareness in the group members. This self-awareness empowers them to take the next step towards change.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Groups
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) groups focus on finding practical solutions to present-day problems. A therapist helps the group identify their negative thought patterns and break out of them. This type of therapy helps the group change their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings through awareness and concrete skills. Moreover, the group can practice these skills in a safe environment and support each other through their growth.
Peer Support Groups
Peer support groups developed on the idea that people with similar experiences are well qualified to support other people going through the same struggles. These support groups have a therapist or coach who has lived through and overcome their clients’ issues.
Group members help each other through support, validation, and empathy. Peer support groups help to reduce feelings of isolation and increase feelings of understanding. They are a great place to both give support and receive support.
In this particularly intense type of group therapy, interactions between members are made more intense and rapid in the hope that this will lead to more significant change. The encounters are intensified through either verbal means using challenging language or through difficult physical encounters. This one of the types of group therapy that is not suitable for everyone.
Relapse Prevention Groups
Relapse prevention groups aim to help prevent a group of abstinent addicts from relapsing. They do this by helping members anticipate situations in which they can relapse and avoid them. Group members offer support to each other and develop a plan to cope with feelings of wanting to go back to their addiction.
Phase Models of Treatments
The phase model of treatment is also used to treat addictions. Groups progress from one phase to another after they have completed the actions in a particular phase. For example:
- Phase one could be achieving abstinence from addiction.
- The second phase would be being abstinent for a given period of time.
- Phase three is repairing relationships damaged due to the addiction. It could also be processing the loss of these relationships if reconciliation is no longer possible.
This type of group therapy is primarily for couples. Couples’ counseling aims to help couples develop healthy communication methods and see each other’s perspectives. The therapist acts as a mediator, helps couples understand their partner’s point of view, and teaches them strategies to communicate effectively. This kind of counseling tends to be more short-term than other kinds of group therapy.
Family therapy is a type of group therapy in which a family seeks to resolve interpersonal conflict and re-establish understanding and connection with a therapist’s help. The therapist helps the family examine their ability to solve problems and productively express thoughts and emotions.
The family explores roles, rules, and behavior patterns to identify potential points of conflict and works through these issues. The therapist also helps the family identify their strengths and weakness and increases their awareness as a unit.
These groups focus on increasing compliance with prescribed medication. A therapist educates group members about the medication, its effects, and side-effects. This group is useful for people in treatment for recurrent depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, etc. The therapist is also responsible for teaching the group about the disorder and how to manage it.
What to Expect From Group Therapy
Your expectations depend on the types of group therapy you are seeking and the issues you are seeking therapy for. Typically, the therapist will set expectations for you during your first session. It is ok and even recommended to bring up any qualms you might have about seeking group therapy.
Addressing concerns early on helps build a strong therapeutic alliance, which is the foundation of an effective treatment plan. Moreover, other group members probably feel equally uneasy about seeking treatment, and sharing your concerns would be a headstart in developing a strong bond of understanding.
Group therapy is not an instant quick fix for your problems. Results take time to achieve. It can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the issues you are seeking therapy for.
Additionally, it is normal to feel anxious about sharing your issues with strangers. Those strangers can probably relate to your struggles and might be just as hesitant to share details about their past and present. They probably feel anxious about seeking therapy too.
You can participate in both group therapy as well as individual therapy at one time. Typically, group therapy does not allow for individualized attention. So, individual therapy can fill in the gaps.
However, group therapy can be a great way to get more opinions from like-minded people. If your progress in individual therapy has stalled after many months or years, joining a group might jumpstart your growth.
Group Therapy Activities
These are the typical activities that you might perform in a group therapy session. Keep in mind that this highly depends on the issues that your group is dealing with and the method that your therapist uses to lead the group. In group therapy, you might:
- Share similar experiences.
- Identify common trigger points.
- Share coping strategies
- Identify negative thought loops and behaviors.
- Roleplay to practice skills learned in therapy.
- Discuss gratitude.
- Practice effective communication.
- Identify each other’s as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Set weekly goals and being held accountable for them.
- Discuss self-care habits
- Practice emotion regulation.
- Identify self-judgment and work on reducing such thoughts.
These are only some examples. Moreover, your experience of group therapy will vary, as it depends on the group, the kind of issues it aims to help with, the type of therapy, and the therapist.
We can classify group therapy based on issues, methods of treatment, and goals. There is no one-size-fits-all kind of therapy. Therefore, you should give different kinds of therapy and groups a try to figure out what works for you.
Also, check out the Healthy Gamer Coaching Program. Group Coaching brings together people suffering from similar issues, such as video game addiction, lack of motivation, procrastination, relationship issues, social anxiety, and more. It uses a peer coaching model to approach wellness and mental health. It is very empowering to be supported by people who truly understand you.