What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy—also called talk therapy. Psychotherapy is a main component of treatment for people with mental health conditions and emotional challenges. Therapy is provided by a mental health professional and is based on a trusting relationship between the therapist and the client. Group therapy involves one or more therapists counseling a group of people at the same time.

This article discusses group therapy, including how it works, what it helps with, and who it is for.

A group of people sitting in a circle during group therapy

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What Is Group Therapy and How Does It Work?

Group therapy is psychotherapy provided by one or more therapists, to a group of people, at the same time. Groups can be any size but often include five to 15 people. Open groups allow members to join at any time. Closed groups are made up of a specific group of people who all join at the same time.

Group therapy is typically held weekly, and sessions are usually 1 to 2 hours in length. A client might attend group therapy only, or attend group in addition to individual therapy sessions.

Group therapy typically focuses on a specific topic, behavior, or diagnosis, such as substance misuse, depression, anger management, chronic pain, social anxiety, grief, or low self-esteem. Participants take turns talking about their experiences around that particular topic, while the therapist typically acts as a facilitator during these sessions.

What Does Group Therapy Help With?

One of the goals of psychotherapy is to learn more about yourself and how your emotions impact your life and relationships. Group therapy provides an environment for you to learn more about yourself while interacting with other people who are experiencing something similar. Having a mental health condition or emotional challenges can be isolating. Group therapy helps you to see that you are not alone in your struggle.

Group therapy provides additional support and accountability. If you keep an open mind, you will likely learn new coping skills as you listen to other people's experiences with your particular challenges.

Techniques Used in Group Therapy

During group therapy, participants often sit in a circle so that they are able to see each other during the session. When a new group is formed, the therapist will explain the purpose of the group, and members will introduce themselves and share some information about why they are in the group.

Techniques used in group therapy are different than individual therapy. During a one-on-one therapy session, the therapist will focus on the emotional dynamics of the individual client. During group therapy, the therapist often acts as a facilitator, encouraging group members to talk with each other about their problems and work together to find solutions.

Goals for group therapy are based on specific therapeutic factors:

  • Instillation of hope: Group therapy allows members to talk with people who struggle with similar issues, which can help members feel less overwhelmed and more positive about recovery.
  • Universality: Group therapy shows members that they are not alone in their struggles.
  • Imparting information: Group members share their personal experiences with each other, allowing members to learn from each other.
  • Altruism: Group therapy helps members focus less on themselves and more on helping the people around them.
  • Corrective recapitulation: Group therapy provides members with a "family." This can help members work through issues within their families of origin.
  • Socializing techniques: Group therapy teaches social skills and helps its members feel less isolated.
  • Imitative behaviors: Members can learn new coping skills from the behaviors of other members.
  • Interpersonal learning: Group therapy teaches members about intimacy and relationship-building.
  • Group cohesiveness: Group therapy provides members with a sense of acceptance and belonging.
  • Catharsis: Members are encouraged to express suppressed emotions during group therapy.
  • Existential factors: Group therapy helps members learn to deal with life as it occurs, and how to work through the emotions that occur in different life circumstances.

Who Should Not Try Group Therapy?

Group therapy isn't appropriate for everyone. People who are very shy might find it difficult to share openly about their problems. Group therapy requires confidentiality and trust, which can be another area of concern for some people.

During group therapy, members share the spotlight with other people. Some people have mental health issues that require a higher level of attention. Other people might use the group setting to hide their issues. In these situations, individual therapy might be a better fit.

How to Join a Group

In order for group therapy to be successful, it's important that you join the right kind of group. Talk to a mental health professional to ensure you make the best decision. If you don't have a therapist, consider using a database such as the APA Psychologist Locator sponsored by the American Psychological Association.

Be patient—you might not click with the first group you join. Continue to try out groups until you find people you feel you can trust.

Summary

Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is generally centered around a particular topic or problem. Sessions are typically held weekly and consist of five to 15 clients and one or more therapists. During group therapy sessions, the therapist acts as a facilitator, encouraging group members to learn from each other's experiences. Group therapy can help decrease feelings of isolation and empower people to face their challenges with the support of other people.

A Word From Verywell

If you're dealing with mental health challenges or emotional issues, group therapy could be an effective tool for you. Talk to your therapist to ensure that you are ready for a group setting, and that you choose the right type of group for your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is DBT therapy?

    Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a type of psychotherapy that is most commonly used to treat people who have borderline personality disorder. DBT often uses a combination of individual therapy and group therapy to address mental health challenges.

  • How much does group therapy cost?

    The cost of group therapy varies based on factors such as geographical location, frequency of treatment, and your personal insurance plan. However, group therapy is often a third to half the cost of individual therapy.

  • How much is therapy without insurance?

    The cost of therapy sessions varies based on geographical location, type of therapy, training of the therapist, and the frequency of your sessions. Individual therapy can range from $100 to $250 per session, on average, while group therapy can be a third to half that amount.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy.

  2. American Addiction Centers. Psychotherapy guide: group therapy vs. Individual therapy.

  3. Treatment C for SA. Chapter 9—Time-Limited Group Therapy. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999.