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The Power of Group Therapy

By: Zana Van Der Smissen

Firstly, I have to disclose that I have always been a fan of group therapy. It has always been so interesting to watch people from all kinds of backgrounds come together to share their story in the hopes that others can relate. Group therapy has been an effective tool for many whether that means bringing a sense of community or giving an individual a space to be heard. But how do you know if group therapy could be beneficial for you? How does it differ from individual therapy sessions? Today, I’m going to break it down and highlight how this form of therapy can be a positive addition to your life. 

The Power of Group Therapy: How It Could Be Useful for You

Let’s start with the basics. Group therapy is a group conducted over Zoom or in a large space with usually up to 15 people in attendance and one or two facilitators. The facilitators can be licensed counselors, social workers, psychologists or anyone else in the mental health field. Depending on what the group is for, the groups can look different. A process group is where individuals share their story and their experiences with the rest of the group providing support, empathy and feedback for the individual. In contrast, a skill group is where the group follows a certain structure for the session and usually involves worksheets, activities or the learning of a tool. Both types of groups can be helpful and many groups use a mixture of the two to make the sessions more balanced. There is also the matter of open and closed groups where new members can join at any time with an open group, sign-ups are closed once the first session has started in a closed group. 

Depending on the group that you are thinking about joining, there will be various benefits involved. According to the American Psychological Association (2019), you will find four main positives: 1) sounding board, 2) validation, 3) multiple strategies and 4) support. By expressing your story to a group of people, you can use the group as a sounding board to get feedback and encouragement surrounding stuck points or where you are needing accountability. The second positive is receiving validation from the group. Most of the time when we are reaching out to do therapy, it is a need to know that you are not alone in feeling that way. Group can be a great place to feel heard and understood by others who might be experiencing similar issues and emotions. Linked to using the group as a sounding board, the third positive is that group therapy can be used as a way to get multiple strategies. If you have an issue that you are bringing into the group, other members might be able to comment or suggest what has worked for them in the past. Something also to take into consideration is that there is also a facilitator in the room who can also provide guidance in moving forward. 

Finally, the last and most important reason that group therapy could be beneficial is the support and community that you gain from joining a group. It can allow you to have a safe and comfortable space to go to where you feel understood and wanted. 

Now how does group therapy differ from individual sessions? In individual therapy, the allotted time is all about you and you can use that time in whatever way you see fit. There is 100% concentration on you from the counselor and there is more opportunity to seek guidance as more of the client’s story is unpacked in these sessions. There is definitely a lot more flexibility with being in a session by yourself which can allow for a more tailored experience and more work to be done in exploring the past, present and future of the client’s concerns (Oxford Treatment Center, 2020). 

Whether you would like to attend individual sessions or group sessions, at the end of the day, it is a personal choice and something that would best be talked through with your counselor. Depending on the different concerns that come up for you, there might be several paths and combinations that will work best for you. If you are considering joining group therapy, your counselor and practice can also be helpful in stirring you in the right direction! 

American Psychological Association. (2019, October 21). Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/group-therapy

Oxford Treatment Center. (2020, August 17). The Differences Between Individual vs. Group Therapy. https://oxfordtreatment.com/addiction-treatment/drug-therapy/individual-vs-group/

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