Group Therapy

Group Therapy

Group Therapy is a type of psychological therapy that is carried out with a group of people instead of with a person. While the term technically can be applied to any type of psychotherapy in which a group participates, it is associated with a specific type of therapy that makes use of group dynamics.

Therapy in a group setting can have many benefits, as it provides a support network and offers the opportunity to meet other people experiencing similar problems. They work together with the therapist and the other members of the group, who are encouraged to share their experiences and work on a greater understanding of themselves.


  • 1 What is Group Therapy?
  • 2 Objectives of Group Therapy
  • 3 Therapeutic factors of Yalom
  • 4 How can you help with Group Therapy?
  • 5 Group Therapy Activities
  • 6 Difference between Group Therapy, Support Groups and Self-Help Groups

What is Group Therapy?

SH Foulkes and Wilfred Bion were the pioneers in Group Therapy in the United Kingdom using the method as a form of treatment for combat fatigue during World War II. However, it was in the United States where group therapy was first used, after Joseph H. Pratt, Trigant Burrow and Paul Schilder founded the approach in the 20th century. After World War II, several psychotherapists including Irvin Yalom They developed the concept further.

Today, Group Therapy usually involves a small group of people (between 7 and 12 is considered the norm) and a therapist. During the first therapy session, group members can start by introducing themselves and sharing why they are there. After this, the therapist can encourage members to discuss their experiences and progress. The way in which a therapy session is structured will depend on the style of the therapist running the session and the nature of the concern explored.

The sessions are confidentialAs they would be in an individual therapy session when someone agrees to attend Group Therapy, in addition, they are likely to be asked to commit to attend a certain number of sessions. Some sessions may involve discussion only, while others may involve Group Therapy activities. Such activities could include skill development, problem solving or trust building exercises.

If you don't want to talk or participate in the activities, you don't have to. Some people spend a few weeks sitting and listening before they are ready to talk about their own experience, so you should not feel pressured to do something you don't want to do.

Group Analysis

Group Analysis is a specific method of Group Psycho Therapy originated by SH Foulkes in the 1940s. Within the group analysis the fundamental interest in the relationship between the individual and the rest of the group is established. With the combination of psychoanalytic ideas and an understanding of interpersonal functioning, this approach aims to improve the integration of the individual with their community, family and social network.

Objectives of Group Therapy

In some aspects, Group Therapy and Individual Therapy are the same and the objectives are usually similar. With Group Therapy, however, the therapist can make use of group dynamics to achieve these goals in a different way. Generally speaking, the objectives of Group Therapy are:

  1. Help people identify misfit behavior: Being in a group environment and in a therapy environment can help people identify their own behaviors and differences better. Since there is room for comparison, you may discover that you are perhaps not as adaptable as you would like. Group Therapy aims to help people see themselves and their behaviors more clearly.
  2. Help with emotional difficulties through feedback: Discussing emotional difficulties with your therapist and other members of the Group Therapy session will provide you with extensive feedback. This feedback could be advice from the therapist or even practical advice from other group members who have experienced a problem similar to themselves. The goal is to help you learn your own control methods so you can handle things if / when problems arise.
  3. Offer a supportive environment: Group Therapy is not only an opportunity to receive information and advice, but also an opportunity to reach and support others. What is discussed within their therapy sessions is carried out confidentially. Speaking to people who are going through self-similar problems also helps you feel less isolated and therefore more compatible.

Therapeutic factors of Yalom

As we have already mentioned, Irvin Yalom was a key figure in the development of Group Therapy and its therapeutic factors are still adhered to by many therapists who work with today's groups. The following factors are some of those listed by Yalom and help explain the theory behind Group Therapy in a little more detail.

  • Universality: This factor is to recognize that the experiences shared within the group can be universal, something that human beings experience throughout the world. Universality helps raise self-esteem by eliminating its sense of isolation.
  • Altruism: When you are participating in a Group Therapy session, you may be able to offer counseling help to other members. This sense of altruism can help you develop your own interpersonal skills and adaptive coping styles.
  • The instillation of hope: Sometimes a Group Therapy session involves people at different stages of their recovery. This means that you may find yourself in an environment with others who have been and have found ways to cope and / or recovery; Seeing this can offer hope in times of difficulty.
  • Exchange information: Being able to transmit and exchange information with others can be incredibly useful. Many members of Group Therapy have stated that they found it useful to learn more about other users, this could include information about their treatment or access to services.
  • Development of socialization techniques: Talking in a Group Therapy session allows you to improve social skills and interpersonal behavior in a safe and supportive environment. This can help build confidence and can put that knowledge into practice outside of therapy sessions.
  • Imitation Behavior: In some cases that are in the same environment as a therapist and even other members recovered from the group can help develop skills through observation and imitation. We will have the opportunity to see how others react and solve problems, which offers you the opportunity to learn through their positive behavior.
  • Cohesion: Human beings are gregarious animals by nature and for most of us being part of a cohesive group offers a sense of belonging, acceptance and validation. Working through themes in a group environment, therefore, can feel very comforting.
  • Existential factors: Talking with others about your experiences can help you learn about the responsibility and consequences of your decisions. Sometimes hearing about mistakes made by others can help give perspective.
  • Catharsis: Catharsis refers to the experience of relieving emotional distress through the uninhibited expression of emotion. Telling your story to a group of supportive and understanding people can be very cathartic and can offer relief from the feelings you had previously suppressed.
  • Interpersonal learning: Interacting with other people who provide information about their behavior and the impact this entails can help to achieve a greater sense of self-awareness. Understanding your behavior better is often the first step to change and recovery.

How can you help with Group Therapy?

While Group Therapy can technically be applied to a wide variety of problems, there are certain areas that can particularly benefit from group dynamics. Here are some examples:

  • Addiction: Having a strong support network is key when it comes to overcoming addiction. Listening to how other people face the same addiction, learning interpersonal skills and discovering how their behaviors can affect others can help overcome addiction.
  • Anxiety: For people suffering from anxiety, going out and interacting with those who understand you can be very useful. Knowing that they are not alone in their feelings and hearing how others handle their anxiety can be very valuable. They are also likely to develop better social skills, which can help if they suffer from social anxiety.
  • Depression: Patients with depression may feel very vulnerable and isolated. Leaving the house and talking with other people is always useful and in a Group Therapy session it can be even more useful. Knowing other people who are going through similar problems and discussing adaptation mechanisms can help a lot. You may also find that giving your own advice helps increase your sense of self-worth.
  • Eating disorders: For some people, the support network created by Group Therapy can help them recover from an eating disorder. For others, however, it can be counterproductive. If you find that you are comparing with others in the group (for example, your weight / size) it will be better to seek individual therapy instead.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Being alone with your own thoughts in times of anxiety can trigger severe symptoms when you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Talking with other people who understand your feelings and behaviors can help you better understand your condition. Together they can support each other and search to find ways to cope.
  • Relationship difficulties: If you find it difficult to forge and maintain relationships, Group Therapy can help. Being with other people on a regular basis can help develop interpersonal and social skills that can be practiced outside of your sessions.
  • Schizophrenia: Group therapy for people with schizophrenia can be beneficial, depending on the severity of the condition. It can be useful to reach other people who experience similar symptoms and who learn more about this disorder, can help you understand your own thoughts better. If you find that you feel insecure or paranoid during Group Therapy sessions, then it is important to discuss your feelings with your therapist.
  • Self-harm: Meeting others who fight self-injury can help you feel less alone. Hearing how others deal with their problems, including practical advice that you may not have thought about, can also be very interesting.

Group Therapy Activities

Some therapists incorporate Group Therapy activities in their sessions. The purposes and types of these activities used will depend on the nature of the concerns they are exploring and often adapt to the needs of the members.

The following activities are very popular in group therapy:

  • Icebreaker: Icebreakers are activities that help group members know each other and feel more comfortable. In some cases this simply involves going around the circle, introducing yourself and explaining why you are attending group therapy. Some therapists introduce games and activities to help you feel more relaxed and introduce alternative ways of thinking.
  • Trusted building activities: These types of activities are designed to help develop mutual respect, empathy and understanding. These can be particularly useful if you find it difficult to establish relationships or have difficulty trusting others.
  • Psychological exercises for self-awareness: Exercises of this type are designed to help you think differently and understand why you think or behave in a certain way.

Difference between Group Therapy, Support Groups and Self-Help Groups

Group Therapy is carried out by a professional therapist who monitors the behavior and progress of the members. Whereas in Support Groups and Self-Help Groups do not imply the presence of a therapist. Normally, support groups are made up of people who are experiencing the same problem or concern and meet to offer each other emotional support. In Group Therapy activities they may not all be involved in the same problem and the focus is generally on discussion and availability for empathy.

Self-Help Groups normally involve the exchange of information and advice regarding the concern in question. You can talk about external resources or just your own experiences. Support Groups and Self-Help Groups can be particularly useful for issues such as grief or a terminal illness.

Seeking the support of others can be very valuable when you are having emotional difficulties and it is important to find a method that works for you. Talking to a professional such as a doctor or a psychologist can help you decide if you would benefit from Group Therapy or Support Groups / Self Help.

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