Understanding Group Therapy
Group therapy is well known for saving lives in the world of mental health and substance abuse treatment. Before we jump into all the remarkable benefits group therapy has to offer, let's get a few simple Q & A's out of the way first for anyone who might not be familiar with this particular form of therapy. What is group therapy? Group therapy is a slang term for Group Psychotherapy. Not to be confused with "community-based support groups" such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), or skill-building educational groups, group psychotherapy is a form of clinical therapy. It's a behavioral health treatment reimbursable by most health insurance policies. Whereas, individual therapy involves one participant and one therapist or practitioner, group psychotherapy involves multiple participants and generally one therapist or practitioner. In groups larger than eight, two therapists are often present. The American Psychological Association frowns on group therapy sessions containing more than 15 participants. What is the purpose of group therapy? The purpose of group therapy is to clinically treat a group of individuals struggling with similar mental health or addiction-related issues in a confidential setting. Group participants share a common goal which is to reduce symptoms, defeat challenges, and overcome obstacles related to a specific illness or condition. How long does group therapy last? Typically, group therapy sessions take place once per week and last between one and two hours. Length of total treatment time varies, but as a general rule, six to twenty weeks of treatment in a group format is considered standard. What conditions can group therapy effectively treat? Research shows that group therapy can effectively treat a wide variety of issues, diagnoses, and conditions including but not limited to, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, low self-esteem, unresolved trauma, eating disorders, anger, relationship issues, and grief. Who is qualified to facilitate a group therapy session? According to Oklahoma state law, one must have an appropriate master or doctorate degree AND also must be state-licensed to provide individual or group psychotherapy. Whether you have been court-ordered or are self-referring for "group therapy," take the time to inquire about the license level of the person facilitating the group you plan to join. "Are you licensed to practice psychotherapy in the state of Oklahoma?" is an important question to ask when searching for a fully-qualified outpatient behavioral health provider. Which modalities are primarily used in group therapy? The therapist leading the group session may draw from a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as; Cognitive Behavioral, Solution Focused, Interpersonal, Client Centered, Psychoanalytic or a combination which is known as, integrative techniques. What is the difference between an open therapy group and a closed therapy group? Open therapy groups are those in which new participants can join at any time. Closed groups are those in which all members begin a group at the same time. They may all take part in a 12-week session together, for example. What are the benefits of group therapy? The complete list of benefits is both subjective and extensive. Group therapy has proven to be just as effective as individual therapy in many cases and even more effective with certain age groups such as teenagers who often have an easier time opening up to peers versus adults they deem as authority figures. If you are contemplating group therapy, here are 6 of many benefits to consider. Decreases isolation - one of the most basic needs a human has is a connection to other human beings. Often, preconceived notions can lead to isolation and serve as a roadblock for making positive change. All group members have an opportunity to develop trusting, healthy relationships with other people which decreases isolation and loneliness. Learning that "You are not alone," can be a game changer when it comes to improving overall wellness. Discovering there are others, (other regular people...just like you) who are experiencing similar challenges promotes therapeutic change. Sharing is healing- Group therapy allows you to safely, process painful and sometimes scary feelings with other "people who get it." It's powerful to tell your story, to share your symptoms, while simultaneously feeling genuine connections with peers who are experiencing something similar. Unconditional support from fellow group members expedites growth and healing. Promotes empowerment- processing pain with others can feel empowering. Coming to the revelation that it's okay to suffer, to have problems, can instill hope for yourself and other group brave members who are fighting the same battle you are. Its challenging- Group therapy is designed to challenge participants therapeutically. This process helps participants see their situation through the lens of other group members which increases perspective. Being challenged, in an empathetic manner, by fellow group members amplifies insight in a unique way that individual therapy simply cannot provide. Increases accountability- Group therapy increases accountability in the change process and has an almost magical way of prompting participants to face their fears, as well as, identify and work through adverse life experiences in a non-judgmental atmosphere. Easier on the wallet- in general, group therapy sessions cost less than one-on-one sessions with a therapist because the cost of the therapist's time is dispersed among multiple group members. Misti Luke, LCSW is licensed to practice psychotherapy in Oklahoma where she maintains a small, private counseling practice and provides individual, group therapy, and clinical assessments to residents in SE Oklahoma both in person and online. For correspondence, email Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional health care advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are struggling with a physical, mental or emotional health issue contact your primary care doctor. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog post.