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Pros and Cons of Teen Group Therapy

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Getting a group of teenagers in the same room at the same time to discuss their feelings and resolve their problems. Well, that sounds like a pretty big goal. To some, it may even sound impossible.Similar to any other type of counseling, there are pros and cons to teenage group therapy.

Understanding the basics of teen group therapy can help you determine if this counseling method is right for your teen.

What is Group Therapy for Teens?

Teens are used to being in groups. They attend class in groups, they play sports in groups and they gather in groups. Therapy in groups should feel somewhat natural to most teens.

Group therapy usually lasts ninety minutes or a little less. After brief introductions and check-ins at the beginning of the group, the therapist will begin activities to guide the teens through learning more about their thoughts, feelings and actions.

Therapeutic groups for teens will typically consist of no more than ten members. Ten may even be high for some therapists. Groups of six to eight tend to be more cohesive. This size group allows time for everyone to speak and participate.

It is up to the therapist to be a good facilitator. Some groups for teens have two counselors sharing leadership duties. This protects the counselors and the group members. It also provides teens with a choice of who to talk to when they are struggling.

Leadership style, however, can benefit some members while hindering others. Not all counselors were meant to be group counselors.

The main goal for teens in group therapy is that they are given the opportunity to be heard, be respected and to give back to their peers.

Through group discussions, worksheets and homework activities, teens can take away a great deal of information to help improve their mental health.

Pros and Cons of Group Styles

Open and closed are two styles of groups. An open style of group therapy means that new group members can join at any time. With teens, this could be a hindrance to making progress. Sometimes it can feel as if they are restarting the group each time a new person joins.

Trust is a huge aspect of successful groups. When new teens are constantly joining the group, trust remains an issue throughout the process. However, an open group is most like the real world, where people come and go throughout your life.

A closed style group is when group members start and stop the group at the same time. Groups usually run from six to twelve weeks. In a closed style group, teens can make a lot of progress in relationship building and trust if it is with the same people.

On the other hand, they are lacking the opportunities to be introduced to new and different people, with different issues. This can make it hard for teens to learn to deal with unexpected problems, or to welcome new perspectives.

There are several types of groups to choose from for your teen, including educational, skills development, support groups and specialized groups.

Pros and Cons Related to Group Diversity

Teens can participate in co-ed groups, or they can attend groups with only the same sex participants. All boy or all girl groups have advantages. There are no distractions among the youth who may become interested in one another romantically.

Also, the issues that girls face can be quite different than those of boys. When in a same sex group, teens are more likely to open up about their problems without the fear of being embarrassed in front of the opposite sex.

For example, girls are more likely to talk about feminine problems when teen boys are not around.

Just as the group is diverse, so are the suggestions and advice offered by the teen members. Creative solutions are given by teens based on their background and cultural knowledge.

Diversity in groups revolves around respect and acceptance.

Disadvantages of same sex groups are that teens are not learning to respect the problems of the opposite sex. They are not learning needed social skills that can help them in the real world. While they are learning conflict resolution skills, it is only with teens who are like themselves, making the lack of diversity an even bigger issue.

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The Balance of Group Dynamics

In most every group, there are varying personalities. There is a quiet one, a clown, an instigator, a flirt, and aggressor. These are a few of the personalities that can make up a group. When having these personalities in one room, trying to reach one goal, it can sometimes be difficult, especially if leadership is weak.

An advantage of having these many dynamics within a group is that it can break down barriers between the teens. It can also help improve communication among teens and can teach respect for unfamiliar cultures and backgrounds.

In group therapy, teens can feel a sense of belonging. All teens want is to fit in. With the right dynamics, teens can fit in with their peers, thus raising their self-esteem and giving them purpose.

Personalities are likely to clash in group therapy. This can create unwanted drama for the rest of the group. It interrupts the learning process and can be a setback in mental health growth. Unnecessary drama can take a teen who has made incredible progress back to square one.

Additional Pros of Group Therapy for Teens

Teens are experiencing so many changes within themselves due to hormones, social issues, academic pressures and even possibly family problems. Group therapy can be a suitable place for them to discuss and get feedback regarding these issues.

Additional advantages of teen group therapy include the cost. Individual counseling usually costs much more than group therapy. Groups also help you learn a lot about yourself and how you interact with others.

Group therapy can help teens build a network of support and learn how to set boundaries. Often teens trust their peers more than they trust adults. Finding friends who know exactly what they are going through can make group members feel less alone in their journey.

In groups, teens can be introduced to role playing activities, giving them practice on how to deal with issues outside of the group.

Whether open or closed style, and no matter what the dynamics, group therapy can be a positive experience for teens.

Learning can happen even during the negative moments within a group, like when two teens get into an argument.

The key is to find a group leader you trust to lead your child’s group. A good leader will implement therapeutic activities that are adaptable and beneficial for all.  It is this leadership that will ultimately affect how the group operates and the benefits your teen can receive.


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.