Talking about your mental health with others is one of the best ways to get support. However, it also comes with its challenges, even with loved ones: What will they say? What if they don’t understand what you’re going through? What if they can’t provide you with the validation you need? That’s the beauty of group therapy. Group therapy provides clients with a safe, compassionate environment where multiple clients come together to talk through their emotions, situations, relationships, and more.
How do you know if group therapy is right for you? We’ve answered your questions about group therapy so you can make an informed choice about whether or not you would benefit from this effective therapy type.
What happens during group therapy?
There are many types of group therapy, including groups where clients share a common identity, background, mental health concern, or life goal. No matter the focus on your therapy group, there are a few elements that you can expect:
- Facilitation by a licensed therapist. Many people think of 12-step programs or support groups when they think of group therapy. However, group therapy differs quite significantly from these types of groups because they are led by a trained, credentialed therapist, rather than a peer. This therapist has experience and qualifications in leading groups, meaning that clients within the group will benefit from evidence-based interventions and clinically rigorous care.
- Active listening. A large part of group therapy is active listening. Because not all clients can speak at once, group members must take turns with the floor. The other group members then have the chance to practice their active listening. This not only gives one client a sense of contribution but also gives all group members practice in important social skills.
- Hearing others’ stories — and being vulnerable. Many group therapy sessions will include a time for sharing. This might be talking about your past, something that activated your emotions over the past week, or your aspirations for the future. Sharing your thoughts may leave you feeling vulnerable, which is why it’s vital for a qualified therapist to facilitate group bonding and trust. This vulnerability is good practice in growing connection to others, something you can bring with you outside of session!
- Social support. Perhaps the most important element of group therapy is to realize that you aren’t alone. Listening to others’ stories about their mental health, you might find out that what you’re going through is relatable — and overcomable. Group members support each other as you work towards healing.
There may also be educational aspects to group therapy sessions, including skills building, skills practice, or general lessons in mental health topics. Group therapy is based on evidence-based modalities, each type with a different structure. Before you join a therapy group, ask the therapist what occurs in session to have a full understanding of how the group runs.
What is group therapy used for?
Group therapy is used for growing social skills, building confidence, learning more about yourself, practicing empathy, and more. It’s a great way to process through your emotions in a social setting and hear about others’ journeys through similar or different situations. While in individual therapy sessions, you’ll hear the therapist’s perspective, in group therapy you’ll hear a more diverse range of perspectives that may resonate more with you. You’ll even get additional practice accepting or reacting to others’ feedback.
Group therapy is a way to hone your social skills in a facilitated, empathy-focused setting. You can then use these social skills outside of therapy, especially after you’ve developed confidence and self-esteem. You’ll also learn more about yourself as you listen to your group members and reflect on different ideas, examples, and issues.
Is group therapy better than individual therapy?
Group therapy and individual therapy are best completed concurrently, even though group therapy is effective as a standalone intervention too. In some therapy modalities like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), attending both group therapy and individual therapy is required. This is because you’ll process through the emotional reactions that occurred in group therapy with your individual therapist, giving you additional practice and insight.
However, some people prefer group therapy over individual therapy. Group therapy is a great way to socialize with others and find support from multiple sources, rather than just with one therapist. It comes down to your personal preferences and your mental health goals.
Is group therapy good for depression?
Many people find that group therapy helps them with their depression. There are many different group therapy modalities that benefit clients that suffer from depression, including Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy or Brief Cognitive Group Therapy.
Clients learn together how to identify negative thought patterns and do away with their cognitive distortions. They also can benefit from the social aspect of group therapy, as one major symptom of depression is social isolation. Group therapy brings people together and shows that connection with other people is possible — and can be a positive experience.
What are the disadvantages of group therapy?
While group therapy is an effective, beneficial type of therapy, there are some disadvantages that come with mental health care delivered in a group setting. Here are a few:
- Reduced privacy. Inherently with introducing multiple people into your healing journey, you will not find as much privacy or confidentiality within group therapy as you would with individual therapy. Worrying that others could share your story or information could hinder you from being fully participative in session.
- Reliant on attendance. To have a group therapy experience, each group member needs to show up — physically and emotionally. Depending on the size of your group, if one group member does not show up, the group may lose some cohesion.
- Limited scheduling flexibility. Group therapy sessions are usually at the same time each week. This means that the schedule is quite rigid, which may be difficult for you if your schedule changes each week. If you have to miss a group therapy session, your group members may notice a difference in the group dynamic, which impacts everyone’s experience.
- Social loafing. The term “social loafing” refers to certain group members relying on the positive outcomes of their peers to feel successful in their own healing. When there are multiple people involved in therapy, there will naturally be a range of progress when it comes to mental health goals. This may open the door for some group members to put less effort into their own mental health journeys, as they unconsciously see their peer’s win as their win.
How do you know if group therapy is right for you?
To know if group therapy is right for you, reflect on these questions:
- What is my goal for my mental health? Will group therapy help me achieve this goal?
- How do I feel about my socialization skills?
- How do I feel about talking in front of a group of people? Will any anxiety get in the way of fully being present in a group therapy session?
- How easy is it for me to relate to other people? Is this a skill that I need to work on?
If you find that you’re particularly anxious about being in a social setting, you may want to begin with individual therapy and work your way towards group therapy — group therapy is an effective way to build confidence in social settings, however it’s best to have a baseline comfort with groups before diving in!
Your comfort with disclosure is also important when it comes to deciding if group therapy is for you. Depending on your therapy goals and what you want to discuss, you may find that you would prefer not to disclose identities, situations, or memories with other people. And that’s okay! If that’s the case, you may benefit more from individual therapy.
How much does group therapy cost?
The cost for group therapy varies depending on the group, whether or not your insurance covers group therapy, and how long your group meets. Group therapists may charge anywhere from $50 - $250 per session. Some insurance plans cover group therapy, which brings your cost down so you aren’t paying the full session fee each time.
Generally, group therapy is a closed group, which means that all members begin group therapy at the same time (no drop-in, drop-out). Group therapy may have a limited number of sessions together or a limited amount of time together, such as 6-8 weeks. This impacts the overall cost of being in group therapy.
How do you find a therapy group?
To find a therapy group that’s right for you, check out Zencare’s Therapy Groups page. Here, you’ll find a list of active therapy groups, information about the facilitating therapist, the group session schedule, and a detailed description of that therapy group. We make it easy for you to join a therapy group — simply reach out to the group therapist to learn more about whether or not the group is right for you.