about Group Psychotherapy
the American Group Psychotherapy Association
¡Grupos Ayudan! (Spanish Translation
of Group Works!)
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.
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.
therapy helps people learn about themselves and 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.
Additionally, group therapists can apply the principles of group to other settings
and situations such as businesses, schools and community organizations.
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
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:
with an individual therapist
in therapy as a couple or family
- A combination
of the above treatments
therapist can help you understand the benefits of each of these treatment options
and determine whats right for you.
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 International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists
certifies group therapists by the designation "CGP," which means the
therapist has received specialized training in group therapy. Clinical Members
of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) also have received specialized
Like individual therapy,
group therapy can benefit almost anyone. Some of the issues typically addressed
with interpersonal relationships
facing children and adolescents (such as impact from a divorce, peer issues, learning
or behavioral problems)
issues within a traditional culture
Group Therapy Session
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
the group the important information needed to understand and help one another.
Members learn not only to understand themselves and their own issues but also
become "therapeutic helpers" for other members.
does group work?
group therapist appropriately selects people (usually 5 to 10) who would be helped
by the group experience and who can be learning partners for one another. In meetings,
people are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion.
A professionally trained therapist, who provides productive examination of the
issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group, guides the discussion.
every group is alike. There are a variety of styles that different groups use.
For instance, some focus more on interpersonal development, where much of the
learning actually comes from the interaction between members. Others address thoughts
and behaviors, where the emphasis is on learning how to control negative thoughts,
address phobias or relieve anxiety-inducing situations.
someone is in a group, do they also need individual therapy?
depends on the individual. Sometimes group therapy is used as the main or only
treatment approach. Sometimes its used along with individual therapy. Often
people find that working simultaneously in both group and individual therapy stimulates
growth in mutually complementary ways. And clients may see two different therapists
for individual and group therapies. In such cases, its generally considered
important for the two therapists to communicate with each other periodically for
the clients benefit. Ask your therapist about the type of therapy that will
best meet your needs.
is group therapy different from support groups and self-help groups?
therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and helps individuals learn how
to get along better with other people under the guidance of a professional. Group
psychotherapy also provides a support network for specific problems or challenges.
The psychotherapy group is different from support and self-help groups in that
it not only helps people cope with their problems, but also provides for change
and growth. Support groups, which are generally led by professionals, help people
cope with difficult situations at various times but are usually geared toward
alleviating symptoms. Self-help groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom
or situation and are usually not led by a trained therapist.
is group therapy useful?
someone is thinking about joining a group, it is normal to have questions or concerns.
What am I going to get out of this? Will there be enough time to deal with my
own problems in a group setting? What if I dont like the people in my group?
a group is useful because it provides opportunities to learn with and from other
people, to understand ones own patterns of thought and behavior and those
of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. We live and
interact with people every day and often there are things that other people are
experiencing or grappling with that can be beneficial to share with others. In
group therapy, you learn that perhaps youre not as different as you think
or that youre not alone. Youll meet and interact with people, and
the whole group learns to work on shared problems -- one of the most beneficial
aspects. The more you involve yourself in the group, the more you get out of it.
kinds of people should participate in group therapy?
therapy can benefit many different people, from those having difficulties with
interpersonal relationships to those dealing with specific problems such as depression,
anxiety, serious medical illness, loss, addictive disorders or behavioral problems.
With adolescents, for example, group therapy teaches socialization skills needed
to help function in environments outside the home.
be people with similar problems in my group?
therapist's role is to evaluate each member's problems prior to forming the group.
Usually there is a mix of members who can learn from each other. While some members
will have similar circumstances, it's not necessary for all to be dealing with
exactly the same problem. In fact, people with different strengths and difficulties
are often in the best position to help one another.
kind of commitment do I need to make?
time commitment depends on the type of group and the nature and extent of your
problems. Short-term groups devoted to concrete issues can last anywhere from
6 to 20 weeks. Support therapy groups (for example, those dealing with a medical
illness such as cancer) may be more long-term. There are also more open-ended
groups in which members work at their own pace and leave when their particular
needs or goals have been met. Its best to talk with your therapist to determine
the length of time thats right for you.
if Im uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?
not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon
you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most clients find that group
therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk
with others who are experiencing similar problems -- in a private, confidential
setting. Many people who have experienced group therapy believe that working together
with others is helpful and they feel better by participating in this form of therapy.
does group cost?
cost varies depending on the type of therapist and perhaps even the geographic
area of the country. Typically, group therapy is about half the price of individual
it covered by insurance?
coverage is similar for both group and individual therapy. In addition, most managed
care companies cover group much the same as individual therapy.
do I find a good group therapist?
important to consider the qualifications of a potential therapist. A professional
group therapist has received special training in group therapy and meets certain
professional standards. That's where the AGPA can help. Its Clinical Members have
received special training in group therapy. In addition, the International Board
for Certification of Group Psychotherapists certifies professionals who have met specific
training and educational criteria for group therapy as well as ongoing continuing
Click here to
search for a Certified Group Psychotherapist now!
do I ask the
talking with therapists, here are four simple questions you may want to ask.
- What is your background?
my specific situation, how do you think group would work for me?
are your credentials as a group therapist?
you have special training that is relevant to my problem?
the American Group Psychotherapy Association
American Group Psychotherapy Association is the oldest and largest professional
association dedicated to the field of group psychotherapy. The association has
thousands of members and maintains the highest professional standards in the field.
AGPA is a multidisciplinary association, representing all of the group psychotherapy
works! For information on finding a group psychotherapist,
here for online information or call toll free at 877-668-AGPA (2472)
Group Psychotherapy Association
25 East 21st Street, 6th
New York, New York 10010
(2472) toll-free telephone
for support of this publication is gratefully acknowledged to the Group
Foundation for Advancing Mental Health-Mitchell Hochberg Memorial Public Education Fund and The New York Times
Company Foundation 9/11 Neediest Fund.
To make a contribution to the Group Foundation,
click here to complete a Group Foundation Contribution Form.