Group therapy is not something new or unitary in psychology since it has been put into practice from many orientations and since the beginning of this discipline.
Already at the beginning of the last century some doctors, among whom we can mention Joseph Pratty and Edward W. Lazell as pioneers , organized support groups for their patients, obtaining positive results.
Within the psychological clinical practice , the most important figure in group therapy is Jacob L. Moreno, who introduced the term “group psychotherapy ” and promoted the dissemination of this form of work beginning in the United States to the rest of the world.
Another important antecedent is represented by the German psychologist Kurt Lewin who, in the 1940s, coined the term “group dynamics ” in order to emphasize the different properties of individuals that emerge in the group. That is, he had a perspective of the group as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
What is group therapy?
Group therapy is a form of psychological treatment that focuses on exploiting the therapeutic value that social interactions can have between people who generally share a number of characteristics.
As an individual psychotherapeutic session to use, this working method seeks to find a solution to conflicts and emotional problems that people bring to consultation with the advantages of a group intervention.
The main advantage that stands out in a group treatment format is the possibility that the group becomes a support for the person . A place to feel fully understood and among equals. The experience of sharing experiences and emotions can be very satisfying and favor change .
The session, in most cases guided by a psychologist, serves to train social and coping skills, share experiences and give mutual support . Being the vital support especially for those people who do not have a strong social network or whose environment does not understand their situation.
What are the advantages of group therapy?
– It assumes a situation of equality: although they may be more or less homogeneous groups, generally the fact of having a problem constitutes a fact shared by all. The figure of the psychologist is partially diluted and, with it, his role as “the person who is the bearer of all the answers.” This situation encourages participation and group cohesion.
– Not feeling judged: it is very common for people who suffer from any mental disorder to feel judged by their immediate environment. This situation can be avoided in the group, where everyone collaborates to help without looking down on anyone.
– The feeling of belonging: feeling part of the group is a fundamental aspect that contributes to often diminished self-esteem.
– Learn from the experiences of others: both their successes and their mistakes and share ours with the rest of the group.
– Direct practice of possible difficulties: especially when we meet a group with people with problems in their personal relationships, a work group is very useful by allowing practice to solve situations.
Who can benefit from group therapy?
Group therapy is indicated for practically all psychological disorders, but especially for the most common ones: anxiety and depression .
In clinical practice, it is used both as a complement to individual therapy and as the main form of intervention and only intervention for a very broad set of problems. These include, in addition to those already mentioned: grief situations , post-traumatic stress, addictions, eating disorders, and medical illnesses such as migraines or cancer .
Is individual or group therapy better?
The research has shown that many forms of psychological treatment are so effective in individual format as a group. Considering group therapy as a tool in our health system would mean greater service efficiency, without sacrificing quality (as research has shown).
On the other hand, it could bring many people who are reluctant to go to a psychologist closer to treatment , which in itself would contribute to reducing the existing high prevalence rates.