What is Group Therapy, and Is It Right For You?

    Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves a counselor and/or psychologist working with more than one person at the same time in one room and is typically offered at private counseling offices, hospitals, and mental health clinics.  There are many different psychological problems and/or concerns addressed through group therapy sessions.   The group is typically held in a room where there are chairs arranged in a large circle so that all group members can see each other and speak directly to each other in the group session.  The group members are required to sign confidentiality agreements so that all information shared in the group sessions remains private.  People who participate in group therapy services typically also utilize other mental health services such as individual therapy, family therapy and/or medication management services in addition to the group therapy services.   This article will examine the ways the therapy groups are categorized as well as the benefits of group therapy.
    The most typical ways of structuring group therapy are by the time limit set on the duration of the group and by the focus/topic of the group.  A therapy group can be offered either as a time limited group in which there are a specific number of group sessions or as an ongoing group in which there are no set number of sessions for the group.  A time limited group will typically include anywhere from 8-20 group sessions and has a distinct set of goals that are typically achieved by the last group session.  An ongoing group , however, will continue indefinitely and there will likely be group members who terminate services because they have achieved the therapeutic goals they had set for themselves when they joined the group.   The  focus or topic of the group is another way of structuring group therapy.  Some groups are more general in the focus with goals that may be more related to improving overall life satisfaction and functioning especially with interpersonal relationships.  Alternatively, there are therapy groups that address specific topics, such as coping with grief, developing health coping skills for anger, or development of social skills for children.  A group that addresses a specific topic will typically include group members who are similar in terms of their presenting problems and will include psychoeducation so that group members learn and practice specific skills.  Before joining a group it is important to ask the counselor/psychologist about the structure and topic of the group to ensure that it will be a good fit for you.

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