When you think of group therapy, what comes to mind? Maybe you experience a sense of dread at the thought of opening up to a group of total strangers. Or maybe a media representation comes to mind, for instance that scene in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil and Scott go to father-son group therapy together. Either way, it’s possible that your preconceptions of group therapy may deter you from seeking this modality out as a viable alternative- or addition to- individual therapy. This post will walk you through the various options relating to group therapy and, hopefully, help you make a more informed decision.
Some of the general benefits to group therapy:
● It’s usually more affordable than individual therapy.
● Other members can act as a support network and a sounding board.
● Group therapy is more representative of the “real world” than individual therapy: you’re dealing with a number of different people (and perspectives) rather than one mental health professional.
● You can work out your issues (e.g., interpersonal conflict, communication difficulties, problem-solving, etc.) in real time.
● There’s power in solidarity, and hearing others’ struggles and triumphs can help guide you as well as put your own story in perspective.
There are several different models of group therapy, each varying in their style and approach. Oftentimes a group facilitator will integrate aspects of different approaches to best suit the participants’ needs. Below, we explain three of such approaches: support groups, skills-based workshops, and interpersonal process groups.
Support Groups. The primary goal of a support group is to help you cope. The group is usually composed of individuals undergoing a similar difficulty or life experience. These shared life experiences can range from situational (e.g., grief, transitions), to ongoing (e.g., addiction, chronic pain, social anxiety), to identity-based issues (e.g., racial identity, children of parents with alcoholism, second-generation immigrant). With the guidance of a professional, group members support each other’s healing process by listening to one another and offering encouragement, advice, and/or solidarity. The idea is that, with the support of a community, you will be able to cope better with these struggles and circumstances.
Skills-based Groups & Workshops. Skills-based groups (sometimes advertised as workshops) tend to be more structured and psychoeducational in nature. That is, the group is designed to be instructive and the facilitator’s role is akin to that of a teacher. This means that note-taking, homework assignments, and powerpoints are all on the table (and no, you probably will not be graded). Said skills can target topics such as depression, anxiety, anger management, social skills, emotion regulation, and executive skills. A popular example of a skills-based group approach is DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), which teaches individuals skills in four different domains: mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.
Interpersonal Process Group/ Group Therapy. Although we use the term Process Groups, there are many different names for this kind of approach (e.g., group therapy, interpersonal process groups). Explaining what process groups are like is challenging, so if you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation you can learn more about them here or here. In short, process groups may be thought of as a “social laboratory.” They provide a unique opportunity to dissect our social interactions, give and receive candid feedback, and experiment with new behaviors. These groups are primarily focused on the “here-and-now” of the therapy session rather than what happens outside of or prior to it. This includes the reaction you as a participant may have to your fellow group members or the therapist, noticing what type of role you fall into in the group setting, and learning about the impact of your communication skills on a fellow member. The ultimate goal of process groups, then, is to help you understand yourself better in order to make real and substantial changes in your relationships and overall functioning.
At CCC, we will be offering a variety of different therapy groups to best suit your needs. Check out our upcoming support group for women in transition and skills-based group for ADHD-related difficulties here.
Howes, R. (2013, May 30). What About Group Therapy? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201305/what-about-group-therapy
Johnson, B. (2019, October 31). Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/group-therapy