Group Psychotherapy: Explanation and Benefits

Group psychotherapy, also known simply as group therapy or group counselling, involves a therapist working with multiple patients at the same time. Groups are typically made up of five to ten people.

Unlike in individual therapy, patients have the opportunity to learn from other patients. They each have less direct interaction with the therapist, but they benefit by hearing from others with similar problems.

Is group therapy difficult?

It can sometimes be intimidating to join group therapy. At first, patients might find it more difficult to disclose sensitive information about themselves to a larger number of people. If this challenge is overcome, group therapy should be no more difficult than individual therapy.

Why is group therapy effective?

Though it can be more difficult for some people, group therapy offers its own benefits. Patients can feel that they are understood by people in a similar situation. The empathy, acceptance and understanding of their fellow patients can have a potent therapeutic effect in itself.

Moreover, each patient may have the opportunity to help other patients. Helping others can have positive effects on mental health and can give meaning to the patient’s difficulties.

Group therapy offers a different sort of feedback to individual therapy. A group environment can be motivating for many people.

What happens in a group therapy session?

The five to ten participants sign on for a course of sessions (six or twelve weekly meetings are common structures) with the same group with the same therapist.

In a session, the therapist will guide the conversation (for instance, by leading introductions in the first session and making sure everyone gets time to speak) but will try to let things develop naturally. They will offer their professional insight when it feels appropriate but will also allow the participants to comment on each other’s stories and experiences.

Sessions last approximately 1 hour. Depending on the therapist/practice, they might last 50 minutes, 1 hour 10 minutes, or longer.

Can you get group therapy online?

Group sessions are more commonly run in person, though as therapy through video calls becomes increasingly common we believe group therapy sessions will also be held online in the future.

You can find out what forms of therapy are available online with E-Therapy by visiting our Find A Therapist page.

Benefits of group counselling

These are the seven main benefits of group therapy compared to one-on-one therapy:

1. It helps the clients to learn from one another.

People suffering similar issues might have perspectives, experiences and methods of coping that a therapist alone cannot provide.

2. The individual can help other people in the group.

Sharing the things that have worked for them, and thereby assisting the other members of the group, is very meaningful for most people. It helps kindle a sense of purpose.

It is a safe social environment that helps people to practice different behaviours.

Group therapy is a safe and convenient middle ground between a professional, one-on-one therapy session, and a “real-life” social setting.

4. Acts as a motivation for some.

With one-on-one therapy, a patient is only letting themselves down if they do not attend. In a group setting, there is a social incentive to go to every session.

5. Helps to have a participant-therapist to model certain behaviours.

Support grounds without a therapist can also be effective, but group therapy with a medically trained participant offers an important scientific perspective.

6. Provides feedback.

Therapists are trained to react in a professional way. Group therapy gives a more “real” (but still sympathetic) form of feedback for a patient.

7. It is value for money in terms of resources and time.

A therapist can afford to provide group therapy at a lower cost per person.

Is group psychotherapy private?

All participants are expected to respect the privacy of everybody involved in a group therapy session.

Where can I find out more about therapy?

Other forms of therapy are explained on our Therapy Types page. You can get other advice from our blog.

Lower cost is one of the benefits of group therapy. Another way to save money when it comes to therapy is to choose an online video therapy platform like E-Therapy. Find out more here.