Group therapy is one of the primary treatment modalities we use in working with our adolescent and adult clients here at Eagle View Behavioral Health. Group therapy is an evidence-based treatment shown to be just as effective as individual therapy for a wide variety of mental health conditions.
Conditions That Respond Well to Group Therapy
As reported by the American Psychological Association (APA), “In a recent series of 11 meta-analyses encompassing 329 studies comparing group with individual therapy, group therapy was found effective for depression and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders, and chronic pain.”
The APA also makes the point that implementing more group therapy opportunities in the United States would mean billions of dollars saved and millions more people reached. Part of the reason we don’t see more group therapy offered in the U.S. is that therapists are not extensively trained in running groups. In addition, many people think they prefer individual therapy.
After all, it can feel scary enough to open up one-on-one with a therapist, so why would anyone want to share their vulnerabilities with 5-15 other people? In fact, there are many good reasons why you might want to do so…
Benefits of Group Therapy
- Stigma Reduction – It’s unfortunate but true that many mental health conditions are stigmatized in our culture. People with mental health disorders are often stereotyped and marginalized. It can feel like a dangerous move to admit you are struggling with mental health, much less seek treatment for it. As a result, people with mental health issues can feel isolated and lonely. While individual therapy can provide great relief, group therapy reminds people that they’re not alone in their struggles.
- Collaboration – Although a qualified therapist directs a group therapy session, everyone in the group helps each other by sharing their stories and the tools they’ve found useful in dealing with their particular struggles. As the group bonds, members feel like they’re participating in the healing of everyone involved.
- Diversity – Generally, groups are made up of people who have fairly similar difficulties and levels of functioning. Still, each person is unique, and working with a group teaches people to appreciate the many possible approaches to mental health and that what works for each person is valid, even if different.
- Skill development – Group therapy helps clients develop social skills and communication skills, even if those skills aren’t the main focus of the group.
How Does Group Therapy Work?
In our facility in Bettendorf, Iowa, our group sessions are led by a professional, experienced therapist. Group sizes are small enough to allow time for focus on individuals but large enough to provide group members with diverse perspectives.
Group therapy can focus on several types of intervention:
- Psychoeducation – the therapist teaches group members about their conditions and the behavioral, psychological and medical struggles they may face. This type of group works best when everyone in the group has the same issue (substance use disorder, depression, PTSD, etc.).
- Skill development – the therapist focuses on teaching the group members some basic coping skills that can help with their mental health condition/s. In addition, these groups may also teach basic life skills, like communication and anger management, that might have been compromised by the mental health condition.
- Cognitive-behavioral – the therapist helps clients “change learned behavior by changing thinking patterns, beliefs, and perceptions.” In a group focused on anxiety disorders, for example, the therapist might encourage clients to share examples of their anxious thoughts and how those thoughts affect their behavior.
- Interpersonal process – the focus in this type of group is on interpersonal relationships and communication among group members. As the members interact with each other, they will become aware of issues with their communication style. Members can help each other better manage their emotional reactions and express themselves clearly.
- Support – in these groups, people primarily gather to share their stories and get encouragement from other group members.
Most group therapy sessions in a behavioral health setting will involve all five of these approaches, which often overlap with each other.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a behavioral health concern, know that you are not alone. Contact our compassionate team at Eagle View to learn more about how we can help you.