How To Determine If Group Therapy If Right For You

Maybe you're someone considering trying psychotherapy for the first time, but don't feel quite ready for one-on-one sessions just yet. Or maybe you've been in talk therapy for a while now, but feel you may be in need of additional support to help reach your personal therapeutic goals. Whatever the reason, group therapy can be a great alternative or addition to one's mental health treatment plan.

Led by a psychologist or other mental health professional for about an hour or two a week, group therapy usually involves a gathering of anywhere between five and 15 patients to target a specific area of focus, reports the American Psychological Association (APA). This can include depression, anxiety, panic disorder, substance use, anger, developing social skills, self-esteem, and more. Here are some things you'll want to consider before starting group therapy to determine if it may be a good fit for your mental health needs.

Group therapy versus support groups

"Over the past decade or so, there has been a lot of research coming out that clearly shows that, for most of the things people present to services for, group therapy is as effective — if not more so — than individual therapy," says Dr. Noelle L. Lefforge, president-elect of APA's Division 49 and Group Specialty Council, via the APA

However, it's important to note what distinguishes psychotherapy groups from support groups. Experts at SELF report that group therapy is usually conducted by a licensed mental health practitioner, while support groups may be run by peers who have experienced a similar situation as those attending, but who may not have formal mental health training. Group therapy also usually operates with an established committed group, while those attending support groups may make an appearance as often or as little as they please. "Consistency of the group is important and ideal," psychotherapist Matt Lundquist, owner and director of Tribeca Therapy in New York City, tells SELF. "When you come and go, [it] doesn't just affect you; it impacts other people."

Pros and cons of group therapy

So who may group therapy be a good fit for? SELF reports that group therapy can be especially effective for those wishing to work on interpersonal relationship dynamics. This can include difficulty receiving love, people-pleasing behavior, or challenges with intimacy. The APA states that group therapy environments can offer many benefits, such as accountability, alternate perspectives about a problem or scenario, a support network, and can help one feel less alone in their struggles.

However, there are some cases in which group therapy may not be suitable for a patient. For example, SELF reports that fellow group members can sometimes offer feedback that may or may not be worded constructively, potentially triggering a patient. Additionally, the American Addiction Centers notes that group therapy may not be a good fit for those who are exceptionally shy, anti-social, passive-aggressive, or those who experience impulsivity. 

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.