The following information about group psychotherapy is from the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA):

Group psychotherapy is a special form of therapy in which a small number of people meet together under the guidance of a professionally trained therapist to help themselves and one another. The therapy has been widely used and has been a standard treatment option for over 50 years.

If you stop and think about it, each of us has been raised in group environments, either through our families, schools, organized activities, or work. These are the environments in which we grow and develop as human beings. Group psychotherapy is no different. It provides a place where you come together with others to share problems or concerns, to better understand your own situation, and to learn from and with each other.

Group therapy helps people improve their interpersonal relationships. It addresses feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety. And it helps people make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives.

Group works! In studies comparing group psychotherapy to individual therapy, group therapy has been shown to be as effective and sometimes even more effective. In cases of medical illness, there is substantial evidence that this form of therapy helps people cope better with their illness, enhances the quality of their lives and, in some cases, such as breast cancer, has even been shown to help people live longer.

If you are considering therapy, together you and your therapist can explore the nature of your problem. You will work to develop a better understanding of the problem and discuss what changes might make the situation better. In addition to group therapy, there are several other options available, including:

  • Talking with an individual therapist
  • Participating in therapy as a couple or family
  • Receiving medication
  • A combination of the above treatments

The Group Psychotherapist

Your therapist can help you understand the benefits of each of these treatment options and determine what‘s right for you. Group psychotherapists are mental health professionals trained in one of several areas: psychiatry, psychology, social work, psychiatric nursing, marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling, creative arts therapy or substance abuse counseling. In considering a therapist for group, make sure he or she is also qualified to lead group psychotherapy.  The National Registry of Certified Group Psychotherapists certifies group therapists by the designation “CGP”.

Who Can Benefit

Like individual therapy, group therapy can benefit almost anyone.  While some groups are focused on specific life issues or cater to specific client populations, the general purpose of group is for its members to learn about themselves internally and externally.  Members have the opportunity to discover how they think and why they react internally the way that they do, and how they operate and are perceived by others in the group.  Members talk about what goes on in their lives outside the group but also focus in a concentrated way o what happens between members in the here-and-now of the group’s life, providing each other feedback and learning through witnessing and relating to each other.  The end result is that group members ideally gain greater control over their emotional lives through developing an increased ability to make conscious choices that impact how they feel moment to moment.

The Group Therapy Session

The group therapy session is a collaborative effort in which the therapist assumes clinical responsibility for the group and its members. In a typical session, which lasts about 75-90 minutes, members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible. Such exploration gives group members the important information needed to understand themselves and to help one another in the same endeavor.