General Information & FAQs About Group (Psycho)therapy

Are support groups and (psycho)therapy groups different?
How does a professionally led group work?
If someone is in a group, do they also need individual therapy?
Why is group therapy useful?
Will I have to talk a lot in the group?
Will there be people with similar problems in my group?
What kind of commitment do I need to make?
What if I feel uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?
What does group cost?
How do I find a good group therapist?


Are Support Groups and (Psycho)Therapy Groups Different?
Both support and therapy groups provide special settings in which a small number of people meet together to help themselves and one another as they share problems or concerns, work on better understanding of their own situations, learn from/with each other and gain mutual support.

Support groups and therapy groups also help people improve their interpersonal relationships. They address feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety, and help people to make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives.

Group psychotherapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and helps individuals learn how to get along better with other people under the guidance of a professional who acts as coach, model, catalyst for change, disseminator of information, and occasionally as leader/ participant. Group therapy also provides a support network for specific problems or challenges. The therapy group is different from a self-help group in that it not only helps people cope with their problems, but actively promotes change and growth.  Support groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom (for example, addiction to alcohol) or situation and are usually not led by trained therapists.

Therapy groups, however, are led by licensed mental health professionals. Licensed mental health professionals often lead support groups as well; however, anyone can decide to lead a support group without any training or experience at all. You should exercise caution in choosing a group and carefully consider the group leader’s training, experience, and credentials.

More About Professionally-Led Group Therapy
A professionally-led group therapy session is a collaborative effort in which the therapist assumes clinical responsibility for the group and its members. In a typical session, which generally lasts 60-90 minutes, members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible. Such exploration gives the group the important information needed to understand and help one another. Members learn not only to understand themselves and their own issues but also become "therapeutic helpers" for other members. The therapist serves as both a facilitator and guide, helping to keep the group moving toward growth and positivity.

How Does a Professionally Led Group Work?
The group therapist selects people (usually 5 to 7) who are likely to be helped by the group experience and who are likely to be compatible learning partners for one another. In meetings, people are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion.  The professionally trained group therapist provides productive examination of the issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group and guides the discussion.

Not every group is alike. There are a variety of styles that different groups use. For instance, some focus more on interpersonal development, where much of the learning actually comes from the interaction of members themselves. Others address cognitive behaviors, where the emphasis is on learning how to control negative thoughts, address phobias or relieve anxiety-inducing situations. The professional therapist uses her/his knowledge to interject, interpret, or teach new skills.

If Someone Is In A Group, Do They Also Need Individual Therapy?
It depends on the individual. Sometimes group therapy is used as the main or only treatment approach. Sometimes it’s used along with individual therapy. Often people find that working simultaneously in both group and individual therapy stimulates growth in mutually complementary ways. Clients may see two different therapists for individual and group therapies. In such cases, it’s generally considered important for the two therapists to communicate with each other periodically for the client’s benefit.

Why Is Group Therapy Useful?
When someone is thinking about joining a group, it’s normal to have questions or concerns. What am I going to get out of this? Will there be enough time to deal with my own problems in a group setting? What if I don’t like the people in my group?

Besides being cost effective, joining a group is useful because it provides opportunities to learn with and from other people, to understand one’s own patterns of thought and behavior and those of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. We live and interact with people every day and often there are things we experience or grapple with that can be beneficial to share with others. In group therapy, you learn that perhaps you’re not as different as you think you are, or that you’re not alone. You’ll meet and interact with people, and the whole group learns to work on shared problems -- one of the most beneficial aspects.

Will I Have To Talk A Lot In The Group?
The more you involve yourself in the group, the more you’ll get out of it. Involvement however does not equal time spent in verbal communication. It is perfectly fine to silently consider your own thoughts and feelings in the group setting. Contributing your own thoughts and feelings as you are willing and able to, certainly serves to enrich the experience of others who might benefit from your input. Bottom line though: The amount of time that one spends talking does not equate with benefit gained from the group experience.

Will There Be People With Similar Problems In My Group?
The professional therapist’s role and responsibility is to evaluate each member’s problems prior to forming the group. Usually there is a mix of members who can learn from each other. While some members will have similar circumstances, it’s not necessary for all members in the group to be dealing with exactly the same concern.  

What Kind Of Commitment Do I Need To Make?
The time commitment depends on the type of group and the nature and extent of your concerns. Short-term (“closed”) groups devoted to concrete issues can last anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks. There are also more open-ended groups in which members work at their own pace and leave when their particular needs or goals have been met.

What If I Feel Uncomfortable Discussing My Problems In Front Of Others?
It’s not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most people find that group therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk with others who are experiencing similar problems -- in a private, confidential setting. It is important that each group member take their contractual agreement to confidentiality seriously. Many people who have experienced group therapy believe that working together with others is helpful and they feel better by participating in this form of therapy.

What Does Group Cost?
The cost varies depending on the type of therapist and perhaps even the geographic area of the country. Typically, group therapy is about half the price of individual therapy. My fees for group therapy are $35 per group member for one-hour sessions and $45 per group member for 90 minute sessions. Your insurance may or may not cover this cost, so it is important to you call. in advance, the Member Services phone number on the back of your insurance card to understand your benefits and whether I am an in-network provider for the insurance company.

How Do I Find a Good Group Therapist?
It’s important to consider qualifications. A professional group therapist has received special training in group therapy and meets certain professional criteria. You have a right and a responsibility to yourself to ask about the license/credentials held by the group practitioner, prior special training in group therapy, years of experience, therapeutic style, and populations served.

When talking with therapists, here are four simple questions you may want to ask.

  • What is your background?

  • Given my specific situation, how do you think group would work for me?

  • What are your credentials as a group therapist?

  • Do you have special training that is relevant to my problem?

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