Group therapy is where at-least 6-10 individuals are treated simultaneously by at least one professional therapist. Group participants share similar problems and struggles. The opportunity to receive and give support provides bonding and therapeutic alliances that allow growth and learning. In addition, it provides a supportive environment for developing effective communication and socialization skills; while learning to accept/discuss feedback from others in a safe environment.
Types and Models of Group Therapy
- Psychoeducational groups: The primary focus of these groups is to educate and inform individuals generally about substance abuse, mental health, related behaviors, and the consequences of those behaviors.
- Skills development groups: This model is flexible. The therapist can adapt the teaching of skills based on the needs of the individuals in the group. Skills focus on maintaining abstinence from drugs or alcohol and involve more interaction among the group members.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy groups: The therapist works to identify the problematic thinking and behaviors that contribute to issues and teach group members new thinking and behavior patterns.
- Support groups: Just as the name suggests, this model provides support and care for the members while teaching them interpersonal skills through group discussion, shared experiences, and collaborative problem-solving.
- Interpersonal process groups: In this model, the therapist observes group interactions, functionality, and performance. The therapist helps members with their emotional development and addresses the childhood concerns that may lead them to poor decision-making and impulsive tendencies.
Advantages of Group Therapy
There are several advantages to group therapy, including:
- The assurance that individuals aren’t alone. Other individuals share similar problems and struggles.
- The opportunity to receive and give support. Both notions are important in treatment. Receiving support from others is part of the bonding or therapeutic alliance that occurs in groups, whereas, giving support to others allows for growth and learning.
- A broader therapeutic alliance allows for the incorporation of different points of view.
- The development of communication and socialization skills, allows individuals to learn how to express their issues and accept criticism from others.
- The development of self-awareness comes from listening to others with similar issues.
- The therapeutic nature accompanies sharing one’s experiences with others who have similar problems.
- The feeling of having a broad safety net for individuals who may otherwise be hesitant to discuss their feelings and perceived weaknesses.
- The ability to model the successful behaviors of other individuals who have gone through similar experiences. Modeling is a form of learning where individuals learn by copying or imitating the actions of others.
- Cost. Group therapy is typically less expensive than individual therapy.
Disadvantages of Group Therapy
The disadvantages that individuals may experience in group therapy include:
- Not being the center of attention. In many groups, the adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” seems to apply. Thus, the level of intervention is not as focused and intense for any single person as individual therapy.
- Less confidentiality. Although group members are generally instructed that the information and events that occur in the group are to be held confidential and only to be shared with group members during therapy, the potential for a breach of confidentiality is greater.
- The potential for social loafing. Some individuals in groups do not actually make changes but simply ride on the success of others. Groups may allow unmotivated individuals to hide their issues and avoid accountability.
- A less focused therapeutic alliance.
- Less flexibility. Groups typically meet at specific times. There is less opportunity to fit the therapy into one’s personal schedule.
- Not the right fit. Group therapy may be inappropriate for certain types of individuals, such as individuals who are extremely antisocial, extremely shy,