Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy where one or more therapists work with clients in a group setting. Even though talking about your thoughts and feelings in a group setting might seem intimidating, group therapy provides wide-ranging mental health benefits that individual psychotherapy does not. At its core, group therapy helps members feel comfortable being vulnerable, navigating their emotions, and having honest, direct conversations with others.
Although group therapy is sometimes used as a standalone mental health treatment, it's commonly integrated into comprehensive treatment plans that also include individual therapy. Whether you're thinking about joining a therapy group or searching for social support, here's what you need to know to make the most of group sessions.
What does group therapy look like?
During group therapy sessions, one or more psychologists lead a group of 5–15 clients. Typically, groups meet one or two times a week. Some clients attend individual therapy in addition to group therapy, while others only participate in group therapy. In an intensive outpatient program, patients attend multiple sessions of group therapy each week. At Charlie Health, these are offered virtually, making treatment and attendance as accessible as possible
Different types of groups are available based on your needs and preferences, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral groups, which focus on identifying and changing negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including social anxiety, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Interpersonal groups, which focus on improving interpersonal relationships and social interactions. Interpersonal therapy techniques can help group members develop healthier communication skills and promote interpersonal learning.
- Skills development groups, which focus on improving social skills in individuals with mental health disorders or developmental disabilities.
Group therapists might be active in the group, helping group members develop skills or asking questions, or may only intervene in the group conversation to keep the group moving in a productive direction. Some therapists encourage a free-form dialogue during group sessions, while other therapists have a specific plan for each group session.
What's the difference between group therapy and support groups?
In both group sessions and support groups, people with similar issues meet and work toward positive change. While support groups can be a great complement to individual therapy, group therapy is an effective treatment for mental health issues that require professional guidance.
Unlike support groups, group therapy sessions are led by group leaders with specific training in the principles of group therapy. Group leaders help group members develop evidence-based strategies to manage specific problems and practice those strategies outside of therapy. For example, if you're in a social anxiety therapy group, your psychologist will help you develop new skills to communicate with other people.
By providing a safe space to express your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, group therapy helps clients improve social skills, boost self-awareness, and learn healthier ways to cope with difficult situations. Ultimately, expert guidance from a licensed therapist can help you make the most of your mental health treatment.
How can group therapy improve your mental health?
We all need a safe, supportive environment to navigate our thoughts and emotions, and group therapy can be a key source of support for people looking to make positive changes in their mental health. Some benefits of group therapy meetings include:
- Social support. Group members will start out as strangers, but after a few therapy sessions, you'll likely view members of the group as trusted sources of support. Therapy groups can act as a social support network and sounding board, helping group members navigate difficult situations in a healthier way.
- Outside perspective. Meeting with other group members also helps you put your own problems in perspective. In reality, many people experience mental health problems, but few people talk about them in front of strangers.
- Sense of belonging. It's completely normal to feel like you're the only one struggling—but you're far from alone. It can be relieving to hear other people open up about similar experiences and learn about their personal growth.
- Diversity. Diversity is another key benefit of group therapy. People have different backgrounds and personal experiences, and seeing how other people tackle similar problems can give you insight into your own mental health concerns.
Whether you're seeking mental health treatment for a diagnosed mental health condition or looking to improve your mental wellness, group therapy can be a valuable component of your treatment plan.
At Charlie Health, we provide virtual mental health treatment for adolescents, young adults, and families experiencing mental health crises. Our comprehensive intensive outpatient treatment program combines group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, and access to guided psychiatric support to jumpstart the healing process.
Our virtual model allows us to form group therapy sessions based on unique symptoms, diagnoses, and life circumstances. This is a trailblazing method in clinical practice that allows patients to relate more closely to one another, leading to higher rates of recovery and healing. Our compassionate, experienced mental health professionals will meet you where you are so you can start feeling better.