Group therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy that involves a therapist working with several people at once. Multiple therapists may be involved in the session as well. This allows people at different stages of coping or recovery to come together to understand that there are similar challenges being faced. This creates a support network that can be utilized because each person realizes that they are not alone in what they are going through.
The primary advantage of group therapy is that it engages the natural social constructs that form the foundation of humanity. People are naturally social by nature at some level. When surrounded by others, this social construct encourages a level of accountability that isn’t always available to someone using and individualized therapy option.
The primary disadvantage of group therapy is that a social fear can hold people back from achieving their full potential. Some people have a phobia of public speaking. Others may be afraid of being with several people in close quarters. Sharing a secret is never easy, and when those secrets are heard by strangers, the difficult level increases exponentially.
Here are some additional key advantages and disadvantages of group therapy to take a look at.
The Advantages of Utilizing Group Therapy
1. It can create a sense of belonging.
In today’s world, it is very common for a person to feel like they are an outsider. Information on the internet is shared regularly and opinionated comments are everywhere. Within the confines of a group setting, there are similar mental issues that are being addressed. There are similar social issues being discussed. Group therapy becomes a place where a person feels like they can finally be understood.
2. It is a chance to benefit from practical wisdom.
Therapists can provide the foundation required to take forward steps on almost any issue. The process of taking the actual steps, however, is wisdom that can only be provided by someone who has already “been there” and “done that.” Group therapy allows people to benefit from the wisdom of others who have had similar struggles, but found a way to overcome them to reach their goals. This type of information can be invaluable to those who feel like they are struggling.
3. Group therapy provides a chance for people to look in the mirror.
Therapy sessions come about because of negative thoughts, actions, or behaviors. When a person is trapped in this cycle of negativity, it can be difficult to see that what they are deciding to do is wrong from their perspective. By seeing others with similar thinking patterns, it can become possible to address a personal negative cycle by seeing similar cycles in others.
4. Talking to people makes it easier to talk with family.
Many people who struggle with something tend to hide it from the people who are closest to them. This makes the individual feel like they are on an island with no support. Because group therapy sessions often require talking about difficult issues, the practice and safety of sharing in this environment can encourage people to talk with their family or friends about their struggles. In turn, this can lead to a larger network of supporters who can keep that person on the right track.
5. There is often less judgment in a group therapy session.
People who don’t understand the decision-making processes that can lead to group therapy are often critical and judgmental. Within a group therapy session, there is more sympathy and less judgment because there is a greater understanding of the thinking cycles and behavioral choices. Even if there are outbursts or destructive behavior, judgment levels are much lower.
6. It can help to develop healthy coping skills.
Many people believe they have developed coping skills, but what they’ve really done is create a “distraction” skill. Listening to music might calm a person down, but it doesn’t address the core issues that led to uncomfortable thoughts or decisions in the first place. Group therapy provides a place where the option to run away is virtually eliminated. That makes it easier for a person to discover which coping mechanisms can work well for them.
The Disadvantages of Utilizing Group Therapy
1. There can be personality conflicts.
In a 1-on-1 therapy session, a personality conflict between a therapist and patient can be easily controlled. In a group therapy sessions, every additional member of the group increases the risk of a conflict occurring. These personality conflicts can hold people back from the coping mechanisms they need to work on and could even lead to additional concerns.
2. It can make people uncomfortable.
Many group therapy sessions involve personal discussions that can become very intense. Some therapists may use role-playing scenarios or encourage group members to share very graphic details of the issue at-hand. That kind of setup can make anyone squirm, but the level of discomfort can peak to a point for some where there is no therapeutic value to being in the group.
3. Not every person is a good candidate for group therapy.
An individual must be able to function on their own, completing daily living activities successfully, for group therapy to be a potential success. Individuals who find themselves in a crisis situation or are struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies are not good candidates for group therapy. Higher levels of crisis create lower-level results with this type of therapy.
4. There may be privacy violations that occur.
Therapists are bound by HIPAA requirements not to share personal patient data with others. The people in a group therapy session are not bound by the same professional requirements for confidentiality. Even if everyone in the group agrees not to share anything that is said, there will always be a level of risk that something shared in confidence will be shared to others without the knowledge of the person involved.
5. This form of therapy enhances rejection.
Bonding between a therapist and patient is often required for a therapeutic session to be successful. In a group setting, it is difficult for individualized bonding to occur. Some patients may feel like they are not receiving an adequate level of attention, which would create feelings of rejection. If a person in therapy feels rejected by their therapist, the likelihood of having a successful session decreases dramatically.
The advantages and disadvantages of group therapy must be addressed on an individualized level for them to be effective. Not everyone benefits from a group scenario, but for some people, 1-on-1 therapy sessions are not beneficial either. By matching people to the right group, it can become easier to cope with life.
Would you like to share some of your personal experiences with group therapy? How do you think it may have helped you?