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What are the Advantages of Group Therapy?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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When an individual first seeks professional help to deal with an emotional or psychological issue, counseling sessions are usually one-on-one with a trained psychotherapist or psychologist. As these sessions progress and the client becomes more comfortable, however, some counselors may introduce the idea of group therapy. This often consists of a small group of clients, usually no more than 10 to 15 in number, who are selected specifically for their varied viewpoints and experiences. Therapists hope that the social interaction and dynamics of group sessions will provide each individual client with much-needed perspective on his or own own circumstances.

One advantage of doing therapy in groups is the diversity of opinions. The relationship between an individual client and a therapist can become very insular. Thoughts expressed in these sessions are not often challenged by the therapist, only examined more closely. In a group session, however, each participant is free to challenge or critique another participant's statements, within certain boundaries. An experienced addict in recovery, for instance, may recognize another addict's denial and persuade him or her to face reality. By encouraging diverse opinions, group therapy can effectively motivate each participant towards more honest interaction with others.

Another advantage of this type of therapy is the social interaction between different ages, cultures and sexes. Many group therapy leaders insist on a form of anonymity and discretion outside of sessions, so each participant is free to assign their own 'identifiers' to other participants. One may represent an oppressive parent, while another may be seen as a spouse. This diversity is helpful for those suffering from social anxiety disorders or self-esteem issues. For example, while in sessions, a young man suffering from social anxiety disorder may learn how he is perceived by an attractive female, an older parental figure, and a male his own age. When participants start to reconcile their irrational beliefs with reality, true emotional healing can begin.

Some participants in group sessions may feel an improved sense of purpose or structure. By attending regularly scheduled meetings, some who suffer from social disorders may feel a sense of belonging. A participant who felt especially needy or helpless one week could become a confident group leader the next week. Participants can use their own strengths to bolster each other during times of crisis. Many people in counseling for anger management or social maladjustment disorders often benefit from group therapy, because they can see others who are facing the same difficulties.

While group therapy may not be an ideal arrangement for all who seek personal counseling, these sessions have proven effective for most participants. Group sessions generally last a few months to a few years, and participation is almost always voluntary. A number of recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, use group therapy techniques to help addicts find strength in numbers and realize that they are not alone in the world.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Nov 22, 2010

Bhutan-I know that group therapy topics can pertain to weight loss if this is a support group for people with food addictions.

Often people that had a troubling week might discuss their obstacles and how they might perform better in the future.

Here the group can offer support by another member of the group providing advice for that member and letting them know that also suffered setbacks and that setbacks are a natural part of any life long journey.

Group therapy models always involve the members revealing something about themselves because it is through these revelations that the majority of the group learns to heal.

This is why groups like Weight Watchers are the most effective weight loss program in the world because members discuss challenges and positive developments in a supportive way that encourages most members to continue to attend the meetings and lose weight.

By Bhutan — On Nov 22, 2010

SurfNturf- Group therapy with adolescents can be particularly valuable because children of this age seek peer validation above anything else.

In adolescent group therapy, kids get to see that they are not alone in their feelings and often get to bond with other members of the group their own age.

Sometimes group therapy with adolescents involves family therapy. This usually occurs with dysfunctional family dynamics or often to resolve issues that arise from blended families.

Here the family is the group and each has to be in agreement in order for the therapy to work

For example, if one member of the group fails to attend therapy sessions then the effectiveness of the family therapy is in jeopardy.

However, if all of the members of the family attend, significant progress could be made because all of the members of the family get to voice their frustrations and get to receive constructive criticisms that will help the family heal.

By surfNturf — On Nov 22, 2010

A group therapy program is beneficial to the entire group for many reasons. Group therapy topics might include areas of weakness by some of the members.

The members are forced to acknowledge these feelings and discuss their circumstances. This discussion aids the rest of the group because the other members see that they are not the only ones struggling with the same issue, and they get to see another perspective to the problem by hearing someone else discussing it.

It also might allow another member of the group to offer words of comfort or an acknowledgement that they have experienced similar feelings. This is a form of self esteem group therapy because everyone’s self esteem is elevated through the process of discovery and sharing.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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