Group therapy, as the name implies, is a type of psychological therapy that is conducted with a group of people, rather than between an individual and mental health professional. Usually, people in the group are facing similar issues, like anxiety or addiction.
Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Health
Probably the biggest advantage of group therapy is helping a patient realize that he or she is not alone — that there are other people who have similar problems. This is often a revelation, and a huge relief, to the person.
Being in group therapy can also help you develop new skills to relate to others. The dynamics of a group often mirror those of society in general, and learning how to interact with the other members of the group can help you in your relationships outside the group. In addition, the members of the group who have the same problem(s) can support each other, and may offer suggestions to dealing with a particular problem that you may not have thought of.
You may be uncomfortable at first when it comes time to discuss your problems in front of strangers. However, the fact that others are facing the same type of situation as you may help you open up and discuss your feelings. In addition, everything that takes place within the group therapy session is kept confidential.
What to Expect in Group Therapy
Group therapy sessions vary, but the basic format is a small group of patients meet on a regular basis to discuss their feelings and problems and provide mutual support. Unlike self-help support groups, sessions are guided by a professional therapist who is specially trained in group therapy. The therapist acts as moderator and may suggest a “theme” or topic for the group’s discussion. Sometimes, the therapist will allow the group members to pick the topic for the session.
As part of the group therapy session, members try to change their old ways of behaving in favor of newer, more productive ways. Typically, there is a great deal of interaction and discussion among the members of the group. The members may also undertake specific activities, such as addressing certain fears and anxieties.
Who it’s for
Group therapy is for adults experiencing psychological distress.
Issues we can help with
Group therapy can help with a wide range of psychological difficulties including:
- relationship difficulties
- post traumatic symptoms
Group therapy is not recommended for psychotic illness, but can be very helpful in relapse prevention and when a psychotic episode has come to an end.
Length of treatment
Group therapy sessions last for 1 hour and 15 minutes. They take place every week.
People only enter group therapy after a detailed individual consultation, which takes place over two to six meetings. During consultation we try to get to know you and get a picture of your difficulties. This is called brief psychotherapy and we offer it to everyone.
The consultation gives you and your therapist an idea of whether talking to someone in this way is going to help you or not. At the end of the consultation your therapist helps you to think about the most appropriate treatment for you.
If you are offered group therapy, you may have to wait for a vacancy in a group to become available. If you do have to wait, your therapist helps you access appropriate support during this time.
Each member’s participation in the group is central to their own and other members’ treatment. The group therapist leads the group and helps members to develop an understanding of each person’s mind and personal situation.
Group therapy works partly because being understood is itself beneficial. It can be a relief. It can put into words something that has not been understood before.
During the group you are exposed to different points of view and have the opportunity to learn from others, to receive feedback and support. Each individual brings with them their history and character, which contributes to any group situation. Understanding this can reduce confusion between how we are both similar and different to other people.
It is difficult to share the therapist with other group members but this is also like problems in life.
While a group may seem a bit intimidating at first, many people find that once they’ve overcome this worry, they really benefit from sharing and meeting with other people.
We expect all discussions in a group to be kept private and confidential. There should be no social contact between members so that the privacy of a group to express difficult things is preserved.
Research shows that group therapy using psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective in the treatment of both mild and complex mental health problems.
Studies show that psychotherapy in addition to antidepressant medication significantly reduces depressive symptoms, compared to antidepressants alone.
Studies also show that for somatic disorders short term psychoanalytic therapy can be more effective than other therapies. Somatic disorders are physical complaints that initially appear to be medical but after investigation can’t be explained with a medical diagnosis.
Risks and side effects
Talking and thinking about emotional problems can be difficult. For this reason some people can feel worse before they feel better. We work with you to manage strong emotional reactions.
For some people participating in a group session can make them feel angry or makes the feelings of depression worse, or feel that they are being criticised by other group members.
It can be painful to face the past and the truth, but this has its limits and the therapist leading the group respects that. The therapist also has their limits on what they can understand and help with.
Group therapy is not for everyone. There is a range of alternative treatments that your therapist talks to you about during consultation.
Other psychological treatments include:
- individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy
- cognitive behaviour therapy
- cognitive analytic therapy
- dynamic interpersonal therapy
- couples therapy
- family therapy
In some cases patients are helped by medication which can be prescribed by a doctor and on rare occasions by our staff.
Patients may choose not to take up any form of professional help for their issue and manage the problem themself.