Group therapy provides a unique and important way to learn about one’s self and one’s relationships, to gain confidence, develop new skills and abilities, and to give and receive support and feedback from others. For many types of problems, group therapy is the treatment of choice. Group therapy provides the opportunity to observe others solving their problems, the advantage of a network of support, and is especially helpful in building trust, self-acceptance, intimacy, communication skills and empathy.
Although groups may differ, most meet weekly for 60 to 90 minutes, include approximately six to ten group members, and have mental health professionals who act as leaders/facilitators. Open groups meet on an ongoing basis and generally permit members to join and finish at different times. Closed groups usually meet for a predetermined number of sessions, with all members joining and ending together. There are many different types of groups including psychoeducational groups, support groups and general psychotherapy groups.
Psychoeducational groups help participants to develop new skills as they acquire and share information. These groups are often organized around topic areas, such as managing stress, assertion skills, or coping with depression.
Support groups also often include individuals who share common problems or issues and who are seeking help as they adjust to new roles or experiences. Examples include groups established to help individuals cope with parental divorce, sexual assault, bereavement, sexual orientation issues, and family substance abuse.
General psychotherapy groups aim to bring together individuals with diverse concerns and issues. All participants however, share a commitment to developing increased personal effectiveness and self-understanding, through the process of personal disclosure.
Another important part of any group experience is the effort and commitment shared by all in the creation of a safe, supportive environment in which to learn and grow. Group members are expected to respect and encourage each other and to work together to build trust. Members are expected to share aspects of themselves, their concerns, and their feelings, as they become comfortable in doing so. While everyone is encouraged to actively participate, no one is ever forced to speak. Just as confidentiality is a group norm, so too is respect for each person’s right to privacy and right to participate at a personal pace.