Text Size

As human beings we are social creatures and much of what we do and feel is dependent on the reactions we receive from those around us.  In a group therapy environment, the group can provide social support and friendship, the inspiration of others overcoming similar challenges and the honest reactions we all sometimes need to hear from those we trust.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of therapy in which a small number of people, typically between 5 and 10, come and meet together. Led by a trained therapist of counselor, these people discuss a shared problem to help themselves and others in the group.1

Although group therapy is sometimes derided as a secondary treatment to individual counseling, group therapy has been shown to work as well, and in some cases, even better than individual counseling, depending on the situation. Importantly, people receiving group therapy for substance abuse are more likely to remain involved in treatment due to the relationships formed and the support received from within the group.2

Because self help groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are not led by a trained professional, they are not considered forms of group therapy.

What Is Group Therapy Used to Treat?

Group therapy has been found beneficial in the treatment of a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Addiction/substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief and loss
  • Overcoming trauma
  • Dealing with illness
  • Aging
  • Many more

4 Common Types of Group Therapy

Although all types of group therapy share a basic similarity (small groups, leader directed, etc.) there are 4 distinct types of therapy groups:

1. Psychoeducational Groups

These groups are counselor led with the intention of educating a group of people about a particular subject, the consequences of addiction, for example. Although these are educational in nature, groups are generally composed of a people with certain practical expertise on the real-life aspects of the subject material, and so although the counselor will present some material, much of the talking is discussion based amongst members of the group.

2. Skills Development Groups

These groups teach members skills needed for life success. For example, a group of people struggling with addiction or substance abuse might learn skills that are important in achieving abstinence and avoiding relapse –such as how to say no to drugs or alcohol, how to assert yourself or how to manage anger or other strong emotions.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Groups

These groups strive to help people develop new behaviors by helping them to change thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. Someone who believes ‘they can’t” quit drinking might, with the help of the group, look at how their thoughts and beliefs contribute to their drinking. With the help of the group, many of the thoughts, beliefs and perceptions that contribute to drinking may be proven false. Once a person can accept that their negative behaviors are in part caused by false beliefs, they can learn new ways of thinking that lead to healthier behavioral outcomes.

4. Support Groups

These groups help members deal with the challenges associated with a particular situation - for example, addiction, cancer, victims of violence, etc.. Group members gain emotional support and validation as well as advice on the day-to-day skills required for healthy and happy living while in recovery. Support groups can help people develop improved self esteem and interpersonal skills. They are also an important source of social interact for people who may lack other positive peer relationships.3

What Are the Advantages of Group Therapy?

Some of the advantages of group therapy include:

  • Group therapy can help to reduce isolation – literally, by encouraging social interaction and also emotionally, as it shows you that other people are going through similar experiences
  • It can provide a source of inspiration, as you watch others in your group overcome difficult challenges
  • It can provide useful information on how to deal with the day to day challenges of recovery – and since this information is sourced from others also experiencing similar challenges, it is useful and authentic (not from an ‘expert’ who may not understand the realities)
  • Group therapy members are generally quick to spot and call-out unhealthy or inaccurate thinking – thinking patterns that hinder recovery, such as denial, and since the group shares a similar collective experience, they speak with authority and weight.
  • Many people find emotional support and encouragement from their group therapy experiences
  • Group therapy sessions, particularly regular sessions, provide structure and content to the day
  • Group therapy tends to cost far less than individual therapy, as a single counselor treat a number of people at the same time.4
Subscribe Subscribe to this topic category

Page last updated Nov 13, 2014

Creative Commons License
Copyright Notice
We welcome republishing of our content on condition that you credit Choose Help and the respective authors. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Group Therapy in Drug Treatment - An Overview Is there strength in numbers when it comes to addiction therapy? Find out what's behind group therapy in drug treatment. Read Article
Addiction Treatment January 14, 2016
The Different Types of Counselors
The Different Types of Counselors – Which Kind of Counselor Do You Need? © Joe Houghton
An overview of the different types of professionals that commonly offer therapy and counseling services. Read Article
Counseling July 05, 2010 (1)
Addiction Treatment Options - Pros and Cons
The Pros and Cons of Different Addiction Treatment Options © Danielle Zeda
This article outlines the different treatment options for alcoholism and drug addiction. It explains what each treatment is like and gives some of the pros and cons of each type of treatment. Read Article
Addiction Treatment April 03, 2013 (3)

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information.

Find Treatment
Browse by region »
Scan to call us
using your phone camera app