Importance of Group Therapy

clock 11 Min Read

Brencia Daphne

June 3,2021

Toquote Irvin D. Yalom“Members of a cohesive group feel warmth and comfort in the group and a sense of belongingness; they value the group and feel in turn that they are valued, accepted, and supported by other members.”

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy involves one or more psychologists who lead a group of roughly five to 15 members. It can be explained as a form of psychotherapy. The psychologists/therapists work together to help the members work on their internal mental and emotional issues. This helps them move towards positive healthy change.

Why is Group Therapy important?

Joining a group of strangers may sound intimidating at first, but group therapy provides benefits that individual therapy may not. You will be surprised by how rewarding the group therapy can be.

The word ‘group’ in itself means ‘together’. Groups can act as a support network. Members get better together with the help of one another realising that they are not alone. It helps one put their own problems in perspective and through this you see how other people tackle problems and make positive changes. This helps you to discover a whole range of strategies for facing your own concerns and increases growth and self-awareness.

Where did Group Therapy originate from?

Dr Joseph Hersey known as the Father of Group Therapy organised in his clinic a tuberculosis class in 1905 where he worked with 8 patients.

During that time group Therapy used during WW2 to treat soldiers in emotional distress. Later, it was observed that people requested to be treated in groups as it helped them deal with the fear of “being in this alone”.

Listening is one of the most important and valuable skills needed to help each other cope and heal from their problems.

Achieving positive change and growth through group therapy is a two-way stream. While sharing personal stories, it helps others to reflect on their concerns in life and in exchange people show empathy. This gives the empathizer a positive insight about their capabilities of being a kind human, which indeed boosts their self-confidence and self-worth.

Therapeutic Factors in Group Therapy

In his book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin D. Yalom outlines few principles of group therapy, which he refers to as the primary therapeutic factors. These factors helped group Therapy gain momentum in society. These factors also help us to identify why group Therapy is important.

  • Instillation of hope creates a feeling of optimism about one's future and the ability to be strong for a change, helping develop acceptance. Therapists instill hope in group members by acknowledging when current and former members progress toward their goals.
  • Imparting information educates and empowers group members with knowledge about their specific situation from another's success stories for motivation.
  • Altruism Group members can support, reassure, and help each other improve throughout the treatment. This helps improve their self-esteem and confidence.
  • Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group allows the person to resolve past problems within his/her family members and in a way the group also acts as family members during the process. They can learn how these early experiences shaped their personality and identify which behaviors and beliefs are unhelpful or destructive in their live
  • Group Cohesiveness provides both a nurturing and empowering experience, making them feel secure about their relationships with themselves and others leading to a strengthened sense of belonging, acceptance, and value
  • Catharsis allows an individual to open up the emotions that are deeply buried within in order to feel a sense of relief and improve emotional strength and well-being. This process can lead to sudden insights that shift the ways in which people perceive and respond to life.

The other therapeutic factors are the existential factor, universality, development of socializing techniques, imitative behavior, interpersonal learning.

Group Therapy is commonly integrated into a complete treatment plan when either the therapist or the client feels that a few sessions of group therapy might prove to be beneficial for the client.

Objectives of Group Therapy :

  • Enhanced self-responsibility,
  • Awareness of the need for change and increased readiness of change
  • Build support for recovery and the possibility of relapse
  • Acknowledge destructive and unhealthy behaviours
  • Cope up with personal discomfort.

Group Therapy for Kids

As much as group therapy is beneficial to adults, it is also beneficial to children based on their needs.

Individual therapy is a wonderful resource for kids who need help learning to manage symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders, to process emotions, to work through a variety of stressors. However, some kids also benefit from group therapy. While individual therapy helps kids explore their emotions, responses to stress, and steps they can take to improve their emotional wellbeing, it doesn’t address the specific difficulties kids face in the classroom, on the playing field, or in small groups. Group therapy may address these specific difficulties

It enables therapists to see how kids relate to one another when they are part of a group. Working among other kids gives the therapist an opportunity to resolve concerns related to social anxiety, poor social skills, or inattentiveness in other kids and help them learn how to tackle the obstacles that occur.

When a child struggles with social interaction skills, group therapy aims to improve the child’s ability to communicate and connect with others. It helps them to express their wants and needs, and voice out their opinions. The therapist makes the group comfortable for every kid to talk through discomfort and at any emotional state of mind.

Children are also encouraged to work on issues that arise in the group therapy in their individual therapy. Those issues addressed and resolved in individual therapy can help them to be more understanding and socially comfortable in the group. Group Therapy is also open to those who require support and training. A specific concern is not necessarily needed for someone to be a part of a group.

Group therapy uses many approaches of psychotherapy like Psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Dialectic Group Therapy (DBT)and interpersonal group psychotherapy etc. sometimes paired with medication.

Types of Group Therapies

There are diverse types of Group therapies but they all are a part of an extension of these two types of group therapy.

  • Psychoeducational Group Therapy

    It focuses on developing coping strategies and skills. The group is led by a qualified therapist who sets up certain goals and plans for the members to achieve through the given instructions. There is less importance given to members bonding as the therapist directs the session.

  • Process-Oriented Group Therapy

    It is important that the members form a bond through sharing their stories and problems in a process-oriented group. It is led by a facilitator, enabling conversation in the group and making sure that the members develop communication skills and social skills. Being a part of these groups helps them feel a sense of belonging and increased self-confidence.

    According to an article published by GoodTherapy, “People who wish to gain skills like parenting, caregiving, or stress management benefit from psychoeducational group therapy. Individuals seeking personal growth and development to deal with a major life transition, such as divorce, retirement, or ageing benefit from process-oriented group therapy.”

Activities in Group Therapy:

  1. To promote communication, trust, and personal growth, activities that are dialogue-driven such as reading, story-telling and sharing stories are included in group therapy.
  2. Physically engaging activities, team-focused exercises like team projects, small events etc., help members in getting to know each other informally.
  3. Other activities like painting, acting, and playing music can be used to promote creative expression. These can also help group members develop confidence in themselves and people outside of therapy.

How does Group Therapy work?

In group therapy, the interactions and conversations become the focus of the group. It facilitates the participants to learn and perceive things from this focus, to encourage positive change and growth in themselves.

So, it may not always be a pre-planned and structured session by the therapists. The conversation during the session between the clients can be the client’s experiences in daily life that come up in therapeutic settings.

It generates responses and coping strategies that may be used in real life.

Although different approaches to group therapy have different goals and expected outcomes, the group as an entity is central to all of them, which then becomes active in the treatment process.

Group therapy facilitates giving and receiving support as members listen to each other and share their stories while offering support, guidance, encouragement and suggestions. It also helps them find their voice to share their opinions and say what they feel without having the fear of being judged, misunderstood or ignored, making them more self-confident.

Group therapy helps members to relate to others and themselves in healthier ways as the constant positive and negative feedback from the group makes it easier for them to self-introspect their behaviour. The reason why group therapy makes oneself feel comfortable and accepted is that participants feel a sense of ‘sailing in the same boat.' They can relate to each other better, enabling them to show their vulnerabilities without hesitating.

In addition to it helping members to build social skills and trust, it also helps them become braver and makes them take certain leaps in life that they might be dreading to. When they know they can report back to someone, a group of trusted individuals, who care about them and will listen to their experiences, they feel braver. This makes them take those opportunities and risks that they were previously unwilling to take due to lack of confidence because they know, if they fall, there is someone to catch them and get them up to their feet. Their group becomes their safety net.

Statistics for Group Therapy?

According to an Economics Article,

“A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that 7.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental health concerns. Mental illnesses constitute one-sixth of any health-related disorders and India estimated for nearly 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance abuse disorder burden. WHO also predicts that by 2020, roughly 20% of India will suffer from mental health concerns. And to cater to this demographic, less than 4,000 mental health professionals are available.”

In a study done by The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), which took place across eight cities in India over 5 five months and involved 3,556 respondents, it showed that 87% of the respondents showed some awareness of the mental illness, which is a significant increase in the awareness percentage of mental health in India. People have started to see mental health being equally as important as physical health.

Based on the above facts, it is seen that if people do start being acceptable and open about mental health concerns, there will still be a long way until everyone has access to therapy.

Here Group Therapy plays a very important role, as it can contain more than one client per therapist, making it easily accessible to the Indian population. However, due to the stigma attached to Mental Health disorders, it makes it difficult for a few people to open up to even a friend or a parent let alone an entire group of strangers. But, eradicating this stigma will help people to understand the importance of group therapy making it easier for them to choose it.

Why is group therapy effective in India?

Keeping aside the technical benefit of Group Therapy in India, the culture here makes conversations and communication between clients more fluid and easier. Indians believe in collectivist community culture, which has made them more open, free and empathetic towards fellow neighbours. This makes taking steps to connect the patients by forming a peer network easier so that they could listen and support each other.

Where is group therapy not so effective?

  • Group Therapy may not be effective for different populations, as everyone has different personalities and functions differently.
  • Sharing intimate stories in a group or having conversations with multiple people can be overwhelming and uncomfortable for many people.
  • Some people have a social phobia that they need to resolve before opting for group therapy. Trust issues can be triggered due to problems in a group like breaking confidentiality. They might try to put their best behaviour at display due to fear of rejection.

All of these factors may account for reasons that group therapy might not be for everyone.

Group therapy tries to achieve these four common therapeutic factors:

  1. Social interaction,
  2. The orientation of group participants to reality,
  3. The life review process, and
  4. Remotivation.

By participating in group therapy clients get an insight into how they are seen and perceived by other members of the society, making it easier to come up with beneficial ideas. These enhance the decision-making process and ability to solve problems on their own.

Members of the group therapy have an opportunity to get immediate feedback, letting the person share their story know that even if they have been through this, everything will be better eventually which is very reassuring.

Other than verbal feedback, non-verbal feedback systems like understanding nods motivates and encourages members to practise better communication skills, making them feel accepted.

According to Forsyth,

through group therapies, members gain encouragement through observation of the milestones achieved by members which show the success of past inadequacies which made them seek therapeutic services.

As Irvin D. Yalom said,

“People need people - for initial and continued survival, for socialization, for the pursuit of satisfaction. No one - not the dying, not the outcast, not the mighty - transcends the need for human contact.”


Seek Support Now