Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. This type of therapy is often performed on many occasions and includes private therapeutic practices, hospitals, mental health clinics, and community centers. Group therapy is sometimes used alone, but it is also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that includes individual therapy and medications.
The principles of group therapy
There are some therapeutic principles that are key so that the group therapy process is successful and that the people who participate in it, get the most out of it. These principles are:
- Maintain or increase hope. The group contains members at different stages of the treatment process. Seeing people coping or recovering gives hope to those at the beginning of the process.
- Universality Being part of a group of people who have the same experiences helps to see that what they are going through is universal and that they are not alone.
- Impartial information. Group members can help each other by sharing information. What happens to you may have been experienced by someone else at another time in their life and their experience may be of help.
- Altruism. Group members can share their strengths and help others in the group, which can increase self-esteem and confidence.
- Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group. The therapy group is similar to a family. Within the group, each member can explore how childhood experiences contributed to the personality and behaviors of others or oneself. They can also learn to avoid destructive or unhelpful behaviors in real life.
- Development of socialization techniques. The group setting is a great place to practice new behaviors. The setup is safe and supportive, allowing group members to experiment without fear of failure.
- Imitative behavior. People in the group can model the behavior of other group members or observe and imitate the behavior of the therapist.
- Interpersonal learning. By interacting with other people and receiving feedback from the group and the therapist, group members can gain a greater understanding of themselves.
- Group cohesion. By being united and having a common goal , the group members acquire a sense of belonging and acceptance that will make them value themselves more. Sharing feelings and experiences with a group of people can help ease pain, guilt, or stress.
In addition, people who are in group therapy realize the responsibility they have in their lives and how they should take responsibility for their own actions to achieve better results. Their physical and emotional well-being only depends on themselves.
How Group Therapy Works
Groups can be small (3 or 4 people) or larger (7 to 12 people, although there may be more). The group generally meets once or twice a week for an hour or two. The minimum number of group therapy sessions is usually around six, but a full year of sessions is more common. These meetings can be open or closed.
In open sessions, new participants are welcome to join at any time. In a closed group, only a core group of members is invited to participate. In many cases, the group will meet in a room where the chairs are arranged in a large circle so that each member can see everyone else in the group. A session can begin with group members introducing themselves and sharing why they are in group therapy. Members can also share their experiences and progress since the last meeting.
The precise manner in which the session is conducted depends largely on the goals of the group and the style of the therapist . Some therapists may encourage a freer style of dialogue, in which each member participates as they see fit. Instead, other therapists have a specific plan for each session that may include clients practicing new skills with other group members.