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Decoding the Different Types of Group Therapy for Your Needs

types of group therapy

Navigating life’s challenges can often feel isolating. Sometimes, connecting with others makes the journey toward healing and self-discovery easier. This is where group therapy steps in, offering a supportive environment to explore personal struggles alongside individuals facing similar experiences. Choosing the right group from the wide variety of types of group therapy can be an important step on the road to recovery and emotional well-being.

Understanding the intricacies and benefits associated with different types of group therapy may let you approach this process with more confidence. As its name implies, group therapy involves a therapist facilitating sessions for a group of individuals, often those grappling with similar struggles, difficulties, or conditions.

However, group therapy is not just about talking in a room. From CBT groups focusing on restructuring thinking patterns to skills development groups where members gain social or coping skills, a spectrum of approaches is designed to support different needs. So let’s explore how choosing among different types of group therapy might empower you.

Why Consider Group Therapy?

The decision to pursue therapy, group or individual, is incredibly personal and hinges on a range of factors unique to your experience. Perhaps you feel alienated from family or friends who can’t relate to your struggle, maybe your financial limitations have made finding a therapist feel daunting, or possibly you have the gut sense that seeing a therapist would be beneficial even though there’s no specific diagnosis.

While it’s tempting to convince yourself other approaches will get you to where you need to go without paying for professional mental healthcare services if that familiar feeling creeps in—you know, the one where a small but relentless part of your brain whispers that something in your life is off—seeking help should not be dismissed. If traditional psychotherapy has not been in the cards, know that different types of group therapy are not only a much more affordable way to seek therapy, but group support is, in some cases, completely free.

Reasons to Seek Out Support

Seeking support can be intimidating and a key component in staying committed to group therapy is connecting with its mission—but how do you determine whether or not group therapy might help? If any of the following resonates, investigating more is worthwhile.

Although not every group setting has an educational component, support groups are typically effective for:

  • Improving mental health
  • Coping with major life changes
  • Working with family dynamics

For some people, groups help with:

  • Goal setting
  • Learning how to communicate with their kids or their boss
  • Coping with stress
  • Identifying negative thinking patterns
  • Creating healthier behavioral patterns

Plus, they can serve as a vital source of support for friends and loved ones who want to provide encouragement and understand a little more about what you might be going through but are not quite able to grasp what that might be.

What Types of Group Therapy Might Help?

The following situations often lead people to investigate different types of group therapy or support groups:

  • Challenges communicating effectively, especially if these problems repeatedly lead to conflicts.
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as an inability to make and maintain meaningful, satisfying relationships with others. 
  • Lack of empathy and self-compassion as well as poor impulse control.
  • You may be prone to catastrophizing or negative thoughts or feeling too overwhelmed to meet self-set goals.
  • Maybe you constantly set goals for yourself but find they’re more about expectations rather than actions—so ultimately they feel out of reach and leave you feeling dejected or unaccomplished.

Some examples of relationship patterns group therapy might help with are:

  • Infidelity
  • Attachment wounds
  • Communication and trust issues
  • Difficulty creating boundaries
  • Feeling uncomfortable around certain types of people or situations
  • People pleasing tendencies
  • Fears of being criticized or rejected,
  • A tendency to date people who seem wrong—perhaps too emotionally unavailable, quick to anger, uninterested in you and your needs, always critical of what you say or do, and never open to talking about your concerns.

You might have experienced the painful pattern of feeling unseen in a relationship or unseen at work. Group therapy has the potential to unlock better relational patterns.

What To Expect in a Group Session

Though many aspects of each group vary—you’ll want to investigate things like:

  1. The kind of training and qualifications the therapist or facilitator has
  2. Whether or not sessions have an education component
  3. What conditions each group will be best for treating or working with
  4. Any group rules established by the facilitator or by group members together
  5. Whether group participation involves audio or video.

The most common types of group therapy tend to follow these core characteristics.

Group Setting and Structure

A traditional therapy group session typically includes a group of eight to 12 members who meet for a few hours, or less, once a week or more. There is either one or more therapists present. Usually, meetings take place in a circle to facilitate face-to-face interactions for each of the members of the therapy group.

Members may get a brief opportunity to explain what they want to discuss during the meeting as well as explore their experiences and their progress toward treatment goals. Though they vary from meeting to meeting, sessions may involve exercises, education, sharing activities, or role playing. Keep in mind, though, that this will vary.

Principles of Group Therapy

In the classic text on the subject, Inpatient Group Psychotherapy, the following characteristics form the benefits of group support:

  1. Universality (members feeling understood because others share similar difficulties or experiences)
  2. Altruism (feeling more capable and worthy of acceptance as a group member’s strengths help others cope and grow)
  3. Development of socializing skills (in a safe and empathetic environment)
  4. Catharsis (alleviating pent-up emotion by releasing difficult or repressed thoughts and feelings as a way to unlock deeper personal awareness)
  5. Interpersonalskills (including self-awareness, emotional maturity, accountability, self-reliance, and boundaries)
  6. Hope—for many, the concept of seeing other members who have overcome the same issue provides strength and encourages commitment to a lengthy therapeutic journey.

Most Common Types of Group Therapy

Though every group takes its shape from both the facilitator or therapist and those attending, there are five types of therapy groups frequently utilized to manage mental health issues, provide emotional support, explore behavioral challenges, and create personal or professional change in members’ lives.

These approaches vary depending on factors like structure and treatment length as well as the therapist’s role and qualifications and the level of group member engagement. However, just as in individual therapy, no matter which of these types you sign up for, it can be comforting and confidence-boosting to see other group members working with and even overcoming the same issue that you’re experiencing or who share a similar dynamic. Let’s face it, may be more powerful and supportive than all the one-on-ones you can book with even the very best therapist. 

1. Psychoeducational Group Therapy

Psychoeducational groups, like some online support groups, typically involve a qualified mental health professional leading and educating participants in a semi-structured or unstructured format on a specific issue. By examining the complexities of our minds, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves. This learning process unfolds through thought-provoking discussions and engaging exercises.

It’s a journey that helps you build skills and absorb valuable insights. The ultimate goal is to improve your daily life, no matter what challenges you’re facing. You might be coping with a recent loss, struggling to adjust to a major change, or simply seeking a sense of balance. Whatever your circumstances, you’ll develop strategies to better manage your emotions and emotions, finding a path to self-acceptance.

The focus tends to be on information—including education, skill-building, behavior change, communication tools, goal visualization, and interpersonal dynamics. The group members generally meet every week or more depending on whether the program is designed to run over eight to 12 weeks, for a shorter period (brief therapy programs), or continuously with no set treatment endpoint.

If your employer does not have employee assistance program services in place, psychoeducational groups are commonly used for company meetings aimed at reducing employee stress, teaching time management skills, or working with office conflicts in workplaces. 

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Based on CBT treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy groups have been proven in several research studies to be incredibly beneficial—both individually and in groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy, regardless of the setting, rests on a specific premise—for many, their responses to events are largely determined by:

  • Beliefs (how the world works; how they should be treated)
  • Values (what should be praised and protected, punished or feared)
  • Perceptions of events and interactions
  • Feelings (some valid, some simply triggered by past experiences rather than by actual reality)
  • Patterns of thought
  • Responses to the people around them
  • And behaviors (many of which get embedded and create difficulty in life as adults even though they had their original basis in a situation they have likely outgrown)

Maybe a hurtful experience in their past, an unhealthy family dynamic that had them reacting in unhelpful ways just to manage what seemed unmanageable,  or a stressful, unpredictable environment that was beyond their capacity as a child to address, so instead, they became conditioned to take a reactive role rather than an action-oriented role.

CBT is great if the immediate goals involve tangible changes like:

  1. Better boundaries
  2. Anger management
  3. Healthy ways to manage grief or loss
  4. Reducing drinking or substance use
  5. How to deal with an ongoing mental health diagnosis or challenge

It can be used for groups, individuals, and even relationships as a method for couples to resolve issues and get a little bit of distance between the triggering event and the inevitable reactive response, as we will explore later when reviewing how some therapists specialize in types of group therapy with proven effectiveness. 

3. Support or Self Help Groups

Support groups take many shapes—possibly:

  • In-person or through online therapy meetings
  • Open or closed, guided by a facilitator (often a licensed professional or with lived experience)
  • Led by peers, or even independently

Mutual support groups have a remarkable track record of success in tackling mental health challenges, such as substance abuse. By fostering a sense of community and connection, these groups provide a comforting space for individuals to share their experiences and find support without the financial burden or privacy concerns often associated with traditional therapy.

This makes them great if you are just starting to dip your toes in therapeutic support or find traditional talk therapy (aimed at processing past experiences in the belief that it’ll positively change the future) to feel counterproductive or too expensive. For example, for anyone whose family does not place high value on traditional therapeutic options, support groups can be less stigmatizing or frightening to discuss even with the very best therapist.

4. Skills Development Groups

The content for these groups varies significantly based on factors like facilitator preference, expertise, and location. Skills development groups often utilize CBT therapy techniques as well as the interpersonal components inherent in all group sessions to introduce and cultivate the type of adaptive skills, methods, resources, strategies, and behavioral changes that participants will use for growth outside the therapy group.

Some examples of these are:

  • Assertiveness training
  • Anger or stress management
  • Impulse control to improve unhealthy thought
  • Relationship or reactive tendencies

In a supportive group setting, members benefit from direct guidance, empowering them to put new skills into practice and experiment with different techniques and concepts. This hands-on approach is essential for turning knowledge into tangible results.

We’ve all been there – drawn in by a compelling title, eager to kick-start change. But more often than not, reading a self-help guide or scrolling through listicles doesn’t translate to lasting transformation. Without opportunities to practice and internalize new skills, progress remains fleeting.

Therapy and support groups offer a unique environment where individuals can move beyond theory and ideology, and actually implement lasting changes in their lives. This space encourages participants to take action, seek feedback, and fine-tune their approach – leading to more sustained growth and development.

5. Interpersonal Process Groups

This approach for groups rests on the premise that examining interpersonal relationships within the group will benefit participants. In many ways, it’s very similar to psychodrama—with some therapists trained specifically in psychotherapy group types known for being adept at spotting group member dynamics and encouraging members to work with one another in sessions rather than offering directive insights as therapists tend to do when running groups.

That can ultimately make it easier to get those needs met—particularly the kinds of needs you’ve wanted to get met for a long, long time but have continued not to. This doesn’t need to involve a major personality shift. However process-oriented approaches are commonly used in psychotherapy groups and programs because group member support, feedback, and reactions can expose unhelpful patterns and encourage new and adaptive responses that might start breaking repetitive behaviors in places that have kept those deeply embedded.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Before committing to group therapy, take a step back and reflect on your own needs and concerns. If the idea of sharing your struggles with strangers – or even close friends and family – fills you with anxiety, that’s completely normal. Taking the leap into group therapy can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure what to expect.

You might wonder how you’ll open up to a room full of people you’ve never met, or how you’ll process their stories and experiences alongside your own. Despite your reservations, it’s essential to weigh the potential benefits of group therapy. You might find comfort in knowing you’re not alone, or that others have faced similar struggles and overcome them.

By being open to this experience, you might just find the support and guidance you’ve been searching for. Taking that uncomfortable first step can be tough, but it’s often the key to unlocking a better outcome. Just like in other areas of life, moving forward can lead to incredible growth and improvement.

1. The Strength of Numbers: Universality

Support groups and group psychotherapy services allow participants to meet, connect, listen, and ultimately relate to others—in their goals, concerns, fears, and perhaps even their vulnerabilities. They gain hope when they see individuals struggling with and often overcoming the same condition. They feel encouraged to practice healthy coping methods by watching the behaviors, interactions, changes, choices, and results that emerge.

2. Affordability and Efficiency: Time Saved, Less Money Spent

Online and offline support sessions—particularly if you join one of the types of group therapy that has participants covering expenses, possibly with a one-time fee—tend to be a fraction of the cost of those sessions you book with your psychologist because group session expenses get divided between all those attending. Convenience is a major factor for those with demanding jobs, where taking hours off for appointments can be a luxury they can’t afford.

Is Group Therapy Right For You?

If you’re at a turning point and seeking healing, understanding the unique features, benefits, limitations, and possibilities you get from these different types of group therapy and those different kinds of therapists can be a step you want to explore more. It has the possibility of improving your interpersonal effectiveness by creating a dynamic that encourages a positive shift. For more information or to learn about our group therapy sessions, contact Therapy-Unlocked today!


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