Psychotherapy that involves several people working simultaneously with one or more therapists is known as group therapy. Therapy of this type is widely accessible in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and community centers, as well as online.
Among the most common types of group therapy are:
Group therapy sessions can be as small as 3-4 people but typically involve eight to 12. Groups typically meet once or twice a week, or more.
Is group therapy effective?
Studies have shown group therapy to be as effective as individual therapy for treating a variety of mental health issues, including:
Group therapy is also often used to treat:
Dr. Irvin Yalom identified 11 factors as the "primary agents of change" in group therapy in his book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.
1. Instilling Hope: Individuals join groups to improve their lives. The group members are all at different stages of their emotional growth and are able to offer hope and inspiration to others by sharing what they have learned and overcome.
2. Universality: Many people who begin therapy feel alone and isolated. A sense of belonging and understanding can be achieved when a person is part of a group.
3. Information Giving: Increasing knowledge about a common problem is a big part of many therapy groups. By doing so, members can help themselves and other members who have the same or similar problems.
4. Altruism: Those who are able to help their fellow group members gain self-esteem and self-worth, especially if they don't believe they have anything to offer.
5. Recapitulation of the primary family: Some people in group therapy may be experiencing stress or conflict within their families. This group can become a family that offers support and acceptance.
6. Improvement of Social Skills: Therapy groups can improve social skills. Members are able to give each other feedback about their behavior in a way that improves relationships both within and outside the group.
7. Behavior models: The therapist demonstrates prosocial behaviors such as active listening, non-judgmental feedback, and support. The group members can pick up on these behaviors and adapt them to their own behavior as the group progresses. This can improve their social skills and confidence.
8. Interpersonal Learning: As a group, members can practice interpersonal skills and improve relationships.
9. Cohesion in the group: Humans desire belonging. Group therapy can help people feel valued and accepted. For isolated members, this can be extremely healing.
10. Catharsis: Release of conscious or unconscious feelings brings members great relief. According to Yalom, emotional learning is more likely to produce long-lasting change than intellectual understanding.
11. Existential Factors: Groups can help people cope with hard realities such as death, isolation, and meaninglessness.
Connecting with others—through both spoken word and nonverbal communication can help make you feel less alone, and provide you with a support system that can work through your feelings alongside you. The more connected to other people you are, research shows, the more likely your moods will be positive. This helps prevent negative emotions from becoming overwhelming enough to spark an anxiety attack.
In group therapy, individuals are able to speak openly about what they're experiencing. When they do so in a supportive environment, they often feel empowered and capable. They learn that they're not alone in their experiences and, instead of feeling overwhelmed by what’s going on around them, can begin to solve problems in a proactive way. The benefits of group therapy are diverse but, at their core, each supports self-improvement.
For people with anxiety disorders, motivation to change is sometimes low. By providing opportunities to interact with others who are also working toward better mental health, group therapy can help patients feel like they are not alone in their struggle, that there is a way out, and to continue with their treatment.
You may benefit from practicing new behaviors in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. A group can be a safe space to practice these behaviours and develop healthier habits.
If you suffer from anxiety, it can be helpful to remember that you're not alone; over 8 million people in the UK suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Groups can provide a safe place where you feel more connected and supported as you navigate your anxiety.