Interaction with a small group of people to share experiences and feelings and gain insight or support
Group therapy is thought to be helpful in improving a person’s ability to cope with and solve problems by discussing his or her experiences and emotions with a small group of people.
Each group session has one or more therapists who primarily help to guide the interaction that takes place. You may join a group directly or be referred to one in the course of individual therapy. Group therapy may use techniques from other forms of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalytic-based therapy, behaviour therapy, cognitive–behavioural therapy, and person-centred therapy.
When is it used?
Group therapy is used to treat a wide range of problems. For instance, it is helpful for people with irrational fears, those who have suffered serious physical or sexual assault, and those with addictions or habits that they are trying to break. It is also used to support and continue the therapy of people who have finished individual therapy.
Group therapy is not suitable for people who particularly need personal attention and privacy in which to examine their own experiences and feelings. It is also unsuitable for people who are shy or extremely introverted, or for those with severe disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder.
What does it involve?
There are two main types of group therapy. One is supportive therapy, in which people with similar problems share their experiences and learn how to cope from each other. In the other type of group therapy, people with diverse problems are brought together. The therapist conducts the sessions so that the interactions among the group members can be explored, with the aim of enabling individual members to develop increased self-understanding. The group setting also allows an individual to test out opinions or newly learned ways of thinking in the group before applying them to everyday life.
Supportive groups are usually run as open groups. The number of meetings is unlimited and members may join and leave when they choose. By contrast, mixed groups are usually run as closed groups. The therapist selects the members, who meet for a limited number of sessions, sometimes as few as six.
Groups usually meet weekly for sessions of 1–2 hours (see Having group therapy).
What can I expect?
It may take several sessions before you feel completely at ease in the group. You may also find that it will take some time before what you have learned in the group becomes part of your usual behaviour and thoughts. Some people find group therapy more useful than individual therapy, particularly if their problems relate to difficulties in interacting with other people.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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