By: Becca Owens

Group therapy can be an excellent tool of healing for adults who struggle with various mental health issues. Often when it comes to successfully dealing with mental illness, patients benefit from a combination of treatments, such as individual therapy, pharmaceutical interventions, holistic therapy and group therapy. For many, group therapy is where they find long-lasting benefits and may continue in their group for several years.

Circle therapy groupSome people, however, may feel apprehensive at the thought of sharing their struggles with strangers and having to be vulnerable in a seemingly uncomfortable situation. However, knowing ahead of time what to expect and the potential benefits you can receive from group therapy can be great motivation to pursue the experience and help ease any fears you may have about joining a group.

What to Expect in Group Therapy

Many people may delay pursuing group therapy simply because they do not know what to expect, and the fear of the unknown is enough to keep them away. Although each group will be different in many ways, there are some elements common to most groups, including the following:

  • Lead therapist – A professional therapist who has been trained specifically in group therapy will lead the group. This person will likely select topics to discuss for each group session and may allow group members to provide input from time to time. So if there is something in particular you’d like to discuss, sharing your idea with the therapist a great way to contribute.
  • Set time and place – Most groups meet one to two times a week for an hour or two. They generally meet in a neutral location that is inviting and safe for all members.
  • Small group of people – Groups usually range from five to 15 members, and group members share common struggles with their mental illnesses. Although members experience their symptoms and illnesses differently, being surrounded by people with similar fears and hurdles in life can feel reassuring and comforting.
  • Confidential discussion – The hallmark of group therapy is healthy discussion that is mutually beneficial for all members. This means that confidentiality is a must. Many groups require a signed commitment of keeping what is shared in the group safe. This frees you up to share as well. Some sessions may seem more rewarding than others for you; however, the more you contribute, the more you are likely to get out of each group meeting.1

Having a good understanding of what takes place during group therapy is a great way to overcome any fears you have about experiencing it yourself.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy may seem like a lack-luster intervention to some. They may think that because the therapy is not directed toward their unique needs, it must be less effective than other therapies. However, there are many great benefits to group therapy, including the following:

  • You are not alone – Unfortunately, many suffering from mental illness also deal with great shame associated with their diagnosis. They may feel intense stigma from others around them and be fearful of talking about their symptoms and side effects. In group therapy, there is no shame or stigma because all participants are struggling together. There is great hope in knowing that you are not alone. Although your illness is unique to you, there are others struggling alongside you.2
  • You learn about yourself – Any time you interact with others, you have an opportunity to learn more about your own disposition and tendencies in interpersonal communication — an aspect of life that is often disrupted by mental illness. By working to have a strong sense of self-awareness during group time, you can discover new insights about yourself and how to pursue healing in your life.3
  • Your therapist has greater insight into helping you – In individual therapy, your therapist must rely on your self-reporting. Although they are trained to read people and their tendencies well, they are limited by only seeing you interact with them. In group therapy, however, the therapist has the opportunity to see you interact with others — it’s a more real-life situation. They can take note of how you react to certain topics or how you respond to others’ personalities and idiosyncrasies. This can be invaluable for helping you grow as you seek overall health.
  • You save money – Therapy can be a big financial investment. Fortunately, group therapy is generally more affordable than individual therapy. This can save you financial stress and free you up to use your money for engaging in more therapy sessions or other things that will help improve your life.

Help for Those With Mental Illness

Group therapy is just one tool among many when it comes to healing from mental illness, but there are many great benefits to it. Choosing to join a group and stay committed to it is a great step in resilience and and intentionality toward becoming a healthier you. Many people begin group therapy as a personal endeavor, but they end up finding a rewarding community of friends for many years to come.

If you or someone you love is considering group therapy or is struggling with mental illness, let us help you. We want to offer guidance on the best course of healing for you so that you can begin living a healthier life. Please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about how we can help you in your journey.


Sources:

1 Howes, Ryan, “What About Group Therapy?Psychology Today, May 30, 2013.

1 Tartakovsky, Margarita, “5 Benefits of Group Therapy.” Psych Central, July 17, 2016.

1 Orenstein, Beth, “6 Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Health Treatment.” EverydayHealth.com, November 25, 2014.