Group counseling is a form of therapy that can be just as beneficial as individual therapy. In individual therapy you have the gift of meeting with a mental health professional one on one. He or she can hear your concerns and provide a compassionate and warm milieu in which to be heard. Many men, women, and children would say that individual therapy has significantly affected their personal growth and well being.
Group counseling can provide similar benefits. However, the experience is slightly different. This type of therapy differs from individual in that there are others in the room who are experiencing the same primary concern as you. For instance, there might be group counseling for parents of children with mental illness, or for teenage girls with low self esteem. Essentially, in this form of therapy, there is a therapist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional facilitating treatment for a group of people. Typically, everyone in the room, aside from the therapist, is experiencing the same struggle, which is why the group can become a supportive community. Group counseling for women with addiction might be another example of a therapy group.
Participating in this form of therapy can be incredibly helpful and healing. In group counseling the benefits come from not only the relationship with the therapist, as in individual therapy, but also from the other participants in the group. For instance, one significant benefit to group therapy is that you get to hear what you may not be able to express yourself. You might be feeling incredibly sad, for example, and then when one of other participants in a group about divorce says, "Gosh, it's been so hard, and I feel so sad that my family is breaking up." Hearing that might feel like a weight has been lifted. And hearing it might give you the freedom to also say what has been hard for you to express. Being able to say what you couldn't up until now can be incredibly healing.
Another benefit to group therapy is the community. In a community of others who are struggling with the same life challenge, you can find support, love, friendship, and safety. In the community of a group, with the groups additional support you can make it through the challenge you are going through.
There are different types of groups that are available. For instance, there are:
Psychoeducational Groups – These groups are a means to provide education on a wide variety of topics.
Skills Development Groups – These groups are specifically aimed at teaching a group new skills.
Cognitive-Behavioral / Problem Solving Groups – These groups will use the underlying principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They are aimed at exploring the thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that contribute to the circumstances in the lives of the participants.
Support Groups – These groups are primarily run by those within the group. Although a mental health professional might be in the room, he or she is not facilitating. Instead, the members of the group are supporting one another. An example of this is a 12-step group, where everyone is supporting each other in working the steps and maintaining their sobriety.
Interpersonal Process Groups – This is another group that is not facilitated by a professional. There is likely a mental health professional in the room; however, he or she might only serve as a witness. The members of the group may be processing their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors with others who can relate. Members of the group are supportive and use active listening skills as others share their story.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a depression, anxiety, addiction, or another mental health challenge, contact a therapist or psychologist. You might find that group therapy is a helpful form of receiving support not only from a professional but also from peers with your same issue.
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