What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a type of performing psychotherapy using group setting and group structure to replicate real-life interactions and social setting.

Its purpose is to base group dynamics as the base for attaining change in therapy and personal growth of group members. The psychotherapist will act as the leader and will facilitate the group in the way that interactions between members are ground for their change.

The relationships between group therapy members will usually mirror relationships members have with people outside therapy and will, therefore, be able to serve as basis for change in therapy setting.

Groups will usually consist of up to eight or ten members but rarely more than that. When using transactional analysis in group therapy, it is important that the number of patients does not exceed the maximum number of people whose transactions the leader is still able to track.

Common misconceptions about group therapy

Most common misconceptions about group psychotherapy are that it is less efficient than individual therapy. This is argued by the fact that the time therapist will devote to a single group member is diluted among all members, hence, less progress per individual member.

This is not true and is actually quite contrary to what group therapy can accomplish. Psychotherapy will often occur using interaction and relationship between the client and others. In individual therapy such relationship will predominantly be between client and the therapist. However, the client will rarely project exactly the same relationship patterns with the therapist as they are having outside therapy. In group therapy this can be quite different. Client will usually interact with other group members in the same or similar way as they are interacting with other people in their lives, hence making group therapy more potent and faster.

What is the frequency and length of sessions?

Similar to individual therapy, if we are talking about transactional analysis (TA), group therapy sessions will be held once per week, usually at the same time.

Group sessions will, however, tend to last longer than individual sessions, usually up to 90 minutes or sometimes 100 minutes.

Groups can run for a limited time frame (e.g. one year) or can be indefinite.

Types of group therapy

Some groups may be set out with a theme or purpose and hence dedicated to certain type of clients. These can range from terminally ill clients to bereavement issues to anxiety or depression clients.

It is, however, also common for groups to be varied in terms of problems patients bring in. These types of groups can have a benefit of faster challenges to ones perception of themselves, others and the world (frame of reference) due to diversity in perceptions of its members.

Selection and introduction of clients

It is common that a psychotherapist will “prepare” a client for the group therapy before the client comes in. This will entail informing them about basics of therapy and the group. Some therapists will conduct an interview to do this.

New clients are often introduced to already established therapy groups. This will often happen when one or some of the members leave the group and the number of members needs to be re-established.