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What Is Group Therapy?

Learn about group therapy, what happens in sessions, the different types, and its benefits in this comprehensive article.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving one or more licensed mental health counselors treating and helping more than one individual simultaneously. Group leaders guide members to work together to improve their emotional and mental health. Group therapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions and allows the treatment and care of multiple patients simultaneously.

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How Is Group Therapy Different From Support Groups and Self-Help Groups?

Support and self-help groups enable individuals to offer help and receive help from people with similar conditions. In these groups, members help each other by sharing information and coping strategies. 

Although members of a therapeutic group can also be sources of help and encouragement to one another, group therapy interventions must involve professional help and guidance from healthcare providers. Along with the factors of support groups, group therapy takes it further by offering its members opportunities to grow and change.

What Happens During Group Therapy?

There are a few essential factors that carry on in each group therapy session, including:

Participants Have Something in Common

One purpose of group therapy is to help individuals connect with others experiencing similar conditions or situations. Participants in group therapy have gone through similar experiences, making it easier for them to understand one another.

They Instill Hope in One Another

Group therapy helps individuals realize that they are not alone and that other people with similar conditions are also trying to be better. Members of a therapeutic group witness change in others and have their efforts acknowledged by group members, which gives them hope.

Patients Help One Another, Which Helps Themselves in Return

Aside from professional help offered by the group psychologist, participants form a support group for one another, sharing coping strategies and experiences.

Therapists and Patients Share Information With the Group

Therapists share information to educate group members about their situation, as well as motivate and help participants and hear how other people have dealt with similar problems. The information can range from past members’ experiences to factual data. Patients can also share their personal stories, thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

What Happens in Group Therapy Stays in Group Therapy

Group therapists discuss and inform prospective group participants about the importance of maintaining confidentiality. The absence of confidentiality within a group limits therapeutic discussion and is one of the significant group therapy challenges.

What Group Therapy Proposes

Group therapy can lead to a variety of positive outcomes and perspective shifts. These will be detailed below.

Persistence of Hope

Group therapy techniques include instilling hope in group members. Therapists can instill hope in group members by acknowledging current and former members’ progress toward achieving their goals during group sessions. Members benefit from observing the success of other members and can see themselves going down similar paths.

Being One

Group therapy brings together people from varying scopes of life with similar experiences, helping patients realize that they are not alone. This togetherness fosters participation, inclusivity, and accountability among therapeutic group members. A meta-analysis of forty studies concluded that groups are more effective when members share a common identity and a sense of purpose.1

Imparting Information

During group sessions, patients gain information and knowledge from other group members and the therapist. Group members can help one another by sharing advice as well.


Group members can help, assure, improve and support each other. Participants are allowed to be concerned about the well-being of fellow members and can help by assisting other patients.

Corrective Behavioral Commentary

The group therapist and members are allowed to give and receive corrective feedback.

Remaining Social While Healing

Being around relatable individuals while healing cultivates a special bond. Remaining in social settings while healing is proven helpful for many conditions, such as anxiety and depression.


Members of the group gather insight and understanding through observing other group members. New participants might also want to imitate good behavior seen in senior group members or the group therapist in hopes of recovery.

Interpersonal Learning

Patients gain more insight into their interpersonal impact and develop new and better interpersonal skills through interactions with other group members. Through discussions and feedback, members learn about the strengths and limitations of their interpersonal behavior while creating an environment to learn from one another.


Patients get relief from releasing suppressed emotions by sharing their experiences and pain with other group members.

Existential Factors

Through group counseling, patients learn that they are responsible for their actions, lives, and choices, helping them develop a strong sense of self-reliance.

What Group Therapy Can Help With

Group psychotherapy is a group talk therapy treatment used to treat various mental health conditions. This treatment method has proven effective for many health concerns. For example, one study indicated that patients with schizophrenia experienced more effective outcome ratings in group psychotherapy compared to individual therapy at twelve- and twenty-four-month follow-ups.2

An individual can decide to carry out group counseling alongside individual therapy. However, group therapy can be offered more broadly and is less expensive than individual therapy. Group counseling is an essential aspect of treatment that allows individuals to reclaim their memories and sense of self. One of the significant goals of group therapy is applying what individuals have learned in the outside world.

Group Therapy Applications and Uses

 Group therapy can help with the following:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorder
  • Anger management
  • Chronic pain

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group psychotherapy can also help with other mind-related and relational issues and benefit all age groups. Group therapy is often helpful for children with special needs. Mental health group therapy activities for adults include group counseling evaluation, character development, and group and family therapy. Group therapy techniques enhance participants’ ability to cope and recover.

The benefits of group therapy include but are not limited to the following:

  • Improvement in self-awareness, self-responsibility, and instilling a motivation to change
  • Ability to practice and learn new positive skills and behaviors
  • Feedback from peers
  • The ability to build confidence and self-esteem
  • Chance to build interpersonal relationships with like-minded peers
  • Improves honest communication skills, both external and interpersonal
  • Ensures that isolation and withdrawal do not happen
  • The ability to discuss personal issues directly allows these issues to come to the surface more quickly
  • Solving personal issues is achieved more easily under the guidance of a therapist and other members

Types and Models of Group Therapy

Group psychotherapy is a widely used method of treatment to address various issues, including mental, behavioral, emotional, and co-occurring disorders. To address different concerns properly, various types of group therapies are available. Types of group therapy include:

Psychoeducational Groups

This type of treatment group involves group psychotherapy carried out by a mental health care provider to educate group members about their conditions, triggers, possible treatment plans, and outcomes. Psychoeducation is a group therapy technique that involves group counseling and family therapy. 

Clinicians can use it for a wide variety of concerns, such as substance abuse disorders, schizophrenia, and depression. Implementing group and family therapy in psychoeducation have proven to reduce relapse and promote adherence in cases of schizophrenia.

Skills Development Groups

A skill development therapy group is a group therapy program that focuses on introducing and improving skills members will need to help them cope with their condition. A skill development group is most commonly implemented in mental health group therapy to help individuals with mental health disorders or children with developmental disabilities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Groups

Cognitive behavioral therapy groups implement behavioral, relational, and cognitive procedures to enhance the coping skills of members. Coping skills are a set of behaviors that help an individual to adapt to stressful or problematic situations. A study evaluating the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy for bipolar disorder found that patients presented decreased symptoms of mania, depression, and anxiety and fewer and shorter mood change episodes.3

Support Groups

Support group therapy can occur without professional help. Support group therapy involves participants helping and depending on one another to stay grounded. Support groups help patients feel less lonely and improve their perception of their condition; they also serve as a good structure for mental health group therapy.

Interpersonal Process Groups

An interpersonal process group is a form of group psychotherapy that aims to help members understand the impact of their symptoms on others and themselves, as well as develop effective and efficient interpersonal and communication skills.

Things to Consider Before Starting Group Therapy

A few of the key things to consider before starting group therapy will be discussed below.

You Need to Be Willing to Share

In group therapy sessions, a member may be required or allowed to speak and share their experiences. Members should be willing to open up enough to get help from group therapy techniques. However, this may not be easy for those who love to lead private lives or feel very uncomfortable around strangers. The lack of willingness to share is one of the possible group therapy challenges.

You May Need to Try a Few Groups

It is advisable to consult with a mental health professional before taking on group therapy. Additionally, individuals might need to try out a few groups while considering their personal preferences.

For example, one survey found that 95% of people in group therapy for substance use disorder prefer an open group format. Another preference could be to have the location for group therapy meetings far from where they stay. The group therapy structure also matters, with some preferring groups with fewer people.4

It's Not Meant for Crisis

Crisis counseling is a psychotherapy treatment that aims to get an individual to a place of safety and minimize immediate threats to keep them from further breaking down. Crisis therapy involves delivering short-term treatment to resolve a crisis immediately, which is not the case in group therapy sessions. Group therapy sessions are often more long-term and focus on helping participants and sharing activities and experiences.

Begin Group Therapy at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Ripple Ranch Recovery is a distinctive addiction treatment center in Texas. We have highly qualified and experienced care providers and group therapists offering group stages counseling, practical group therapy sessions, and therapy interventions to ensure healing, rebuilding, and relapse prevention in our patients. Although our group therapy programs are suited for various mental health conditions, we also offer professional guidance in selecting the best treatment group for you.

Would you like to know more about group therapy? Talk to one of our experts today.