Group Therapy FAQs

1.) How does group work?

A group therapist appropriately selects people (usually 5 to 10) who would be helped by the group experience and who can be learning partners for one another. In meetings, people are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion. A professionally trained therapist, who provides productive examination of the issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group, 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.

2.) If someone is in a group, do they also need an individual therapist?

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. And 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. Ask your therapist about the type of therapy that will best meet your needs.

3.) How is group therapy different from support groups and self-help groups?

Group therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and helps individuals learn how to get along better with other people under the guidance of a professional group therapist. Group psychotherapy also provides a support network for specific problems or challenges. The psychotherapy group is different from self-help and support groups in that it not only helps people cope with their problems, but also provides for change and growth. Self-help groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom or situation and are usually not led by a trained therapist. Support groups, which are generally led by professionals, help people cope with difficult situations at various times but are not geared toward change.

4.) Why is group therapy useful?

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 that other people are experiencing or grappling with that can be beneficial to share with others. In group therapy, you learn that perhaps you’re not as different as you think 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. The more you involve yourself in the group, the more you get out of it.

5.) What if I don't like the people in my group?

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 that other people are experiencing or grappling with that can be beneficial to share with others. In group therapy, you learn that perhaps you're not as different as you think 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. The more you involve yourself in the group, the more you get out of it.

6.) What kinds of people should participate in group therapy?

Group therapy can benefit many different people, from those having difficulties with interpersonal relationships to those dealing with specific problems such as a serious medical illness, loss, addictive disorders or behavioral problems. With adolescents, for example, group therapy teaches socialization skills needed to help function in environments outside the home.

7.) Will there be people with similar problems in my group?

The therapist's role 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 problem.

8.) 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 problems. Short-term groups devoted to concrete issues can last anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks. Support therapy groups (for example, those dealing with a medical illness such as cancer) may be more long-term. 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. It's best to talk with your therapist to determine the length of time that's right for you.

9.) What if I'm 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 clients 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. 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.

10.) How much does group therapy cost?

The cost varies depending on the type of therapist and perhaps even the geographic area of the country. Typically, group therapy is considerably less than the price of individual therapy. Some groups are covered by insurance and some are not. Consult with your group leader about insurance questions.


11.) How do I find a good group therapist?

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?

P.O. Box 356, Belmont, MA 02478     (617) 431-6747

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