The power of group therapy

- July 16, 2021

An Introduction to Group Therapy

The power of group therapy. When seeking therapy rituals and practices to benefit your mental wellbeing, you might come across group therapy or group work. Put simply, group therapy is a form of psychotherapy where participants work in groups rather than speaking directly to the therapist one-on-one. It might sound daunting at first, but there are actually a whole multitude of benefits and advantages to group therapy and group work, like many of the sessions carried out here at New Life Portugal. Want to know more? Keep reading for your full introduction to group therapy.

What is group therapy?

Traditional group therapy is therapy sessions held with multiple people as opposed to individual therapy where participants speak with a therapist one-on-one. It’s not the same as a support group or circle, however, as there is more of a focus on traditional therapy processes and practices rather than just the simple sharing of experiences.

In more contemporary terms, group work is healing and therapeutic experiences and activities designed to be carried out in groups, much like those on offer here at New Life Portugal wellness retreat. The power of group therapy can be really effective.

And why it is so effective

Seeking any form of therapy is undoubtedly a uniquely intimate and personal experience and we often think of ‘therapy’ as sitting one-on-one in a therapist’s chair. However, group work is receiving more and more praise for its ability to accelerate or facilitate growth and healing.

“Most, if not all, therapy modalities acknowledge the power of groups to effect change,” says New Life Portugal Counsellor, Daral Boles. “Sitting together, you find a kinship with people whose experiences, while never exactly the same as yours, mirror or model things you know about yourself and things you are just discovering.”

In fact, participating in group therapy work can facilitate important mindset shifts. “Group work shapes and changes how you think about yourself, about others, and about the world.” Daral continues. Better still, they are often a secure environment in which you can feel safe to experiment with your modes of communication. “Accepted for who you are, as you are, you can practice taking risks and learn how to articulate feelings and needs in new ways that increase the chance those needs might be received and met.”

“The combination of group work with individual therapy can be particularly illuminating,” Daral explains. “In group interactions, our default settings are revealed; these are the habits of mind and being that show up in interpersonal relationships. When combined with the issues that surface in community living, these interactions provide fertile material for one-on-one therapy, where we can explore the feelings, both present and past, triggered in the moment.”

More information about group therapy.

The power of group therapy

Different types of thearpy in group

There are several different types of group therapy that are used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. The power of group therapy can apply to all these types. Some of the most common types of group therapy include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural group therapy (CBT)
    This type of therapy generally focuses on changing negative patterns of thoughts, beliefs and behaviour. It is often used to treat conditions such as depression and anxiety or substance abuse and suits people who are looking for a structured or goal-oriented type of group therapy.
  • Support Groups
    This type of therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and feelings. People who are trying to process grief and loss can greatly benefit from supportive group therapy. Support groups are also a very popular type of therapy for all sorts of addictions as members share a common goal, can help each other through the challenges they are facing and are happy to hold each other accountable. Participants experience positive reinforcement as well as acceptance for being perfectly imperfect.
  • Interpersonal group therapy
    This type of therapy focuses on the relationships between group members and how they interact with one another. It is often used with people who suffer from social anxiety, borderline personality disorder and other mental health conditions. It is particularly helpful for those who have difficulties relating to others as it helps them improve their communication and social skills.
  • Family therapy
    This type of group therapy allows multiple family members to participate in a session together to work on improving their relationships and communication. It is often used in the context of substance abuse and when trying to heal eating disorders.
  • Psychoeducation
    This type of therapy is often used to treat conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It focuses on educating individuals about their condition, provides helpful coping mechanisms and informs about treatment options.

Group therapy is not suitable for everyone. It is best to consult a therapist to determine if it is the right treatment option for you and which type suits your individual needs and preferences best.

How does Group Therapy start?

Before you start group therapy you will typically have an initial assessment or intake session with the therapist that leads the group or a therapist that knows the colleague who leads the group.

This will help to determine if group therapy is the right treatment option for you and which type of group therapy will be most beneficial. During this session, the therapist will discuss your potential concerns about group therapy, your goals and what you can expect from participating in group therapy.

It also gives you a chance to ask any questions you might have. The power of group therapy is clear here.

Once the initial assessment is completed, and the therapist determines that group therapy is appropriate, you will join the group that is best suited for you and start attending the sessions on a regular basis.

These are led by a trained therapist and typically involve 8-12 individuals. The group sessions are usually held in a comfortable and confidential setting, and the length of the sessions can vary from 60-90 minutes.

At the start, the members usually introduce themselves and tell the others why they are there. In the following sessions, it may be common practice – depending on the type of group therapy – to do a quick check-in at the beginning and briefly explain any progress that’s been made since the last time the group met.

What happens during the sessions?

During a group therapy session, the participants have the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Usually, the other members of the group are facing and trying to cope with similar struggles and challenges. The therapist will guide the group through discussions and activities that are designed to help the individuals of the group identify and work through their issues.

No matter if you are experiencing a physical or mental illness, if you went through a traumatic event or are struggling with grief, it can feel very isolating and is if you are the only one battling with these thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. The power of group therapy can be the correct answer for you.

Group therapy will make you realise that you are not alone and can provide a sense of validation as well as understanding from others who are going through something similar. Each individual contributes a different perspective and offers insights that the other members may not have considered before.

Depending on what type of group therapy you attend, members are encouraged to give and receive feedback and support each other.

How does a session end?

Group therapy typically ends after a certain number of sessions – these can happen over the course of a few weeks up to several months. Most commonly, the therapist will work with the group to determine when it is appropriate to end the therapy.

At the end of group therapy, group members can reflect on the progress they have made – with the help and feedback of the therapist and other participants – and the experiences they have had within the group and how they have been beneficial and/or challenging.

The therapist may also provide recommendations for continuing care or other resources so that the group members can continue their personal healing journey.

Benefits of group therapy

  • It can inspire
    Group work can instil hope. “In groups, you will see people further along the path you are travelling, and you yourself will meet people you can inspire,” Daral explains.
  • It helps you realise you’re not alone
    Hearing, speaking to and learning from people in similar situations or with similar experiences to you serves as a necessary reminder that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do.
  • It makes you feel safe
    Often open, honest environments in which everyone is able to be their most genuine selves, group work affords you the comfort to express and articulate needs, desires and fears that you might otherwise hold back.
  • It nurtures information sharing
    Group counselling not only grants you access to the wisdom and knowledge of the facilitators, but it also encourages the sharing of information and advice between the group members.
  • It can help change your mindset
    As previously mentioned, working in groups and hearing from other people on different (or similar) paths can open your eyes to different ways of thinking and feeling. Not only can that change the way you think about the world and those around you, but it can also help change the way you think about yourself.
  • It can help you rethink your natural social roles
    Daral believes that, “All groups are also mini-families; with mindfulness you get to see when you are stepping into a role you may have played in your family of origin and you get the opportunity to try something different. It’s risky, but worth it.”
  • It can grant you relief
    Just the process of sharing your experiences and emotions in a supportive group environment can feel like a deeply restorative release.

Tips for your therapy session

“The so-called C-words are a great tool kit for anyone undertaking group work,” Daral recommends.

These include:

  • Curiosity about and compassion for yourself and others
  • A desire for new clarity
  • Courage to try new things and risk self-exposure
  • Competence using the new skills learned in either group or individual sessions
  • Above all, connection.

How much does it cost?

There is no general answer to how much group therapy costs. It depends on various factors such as location, the type of group therapy and the qualifications of the therapist. In general, group therapy tends to be less expensive than individual therapy and in most European countries there will be free or subsidised group therapy options. It is worth checking with different providers and comparing the costs as well as the therapist’s qualifications and experience.

Depending on the country you live in and your specific needs examples of free group therapy include:

  • National healthcare systems
    Many European countries have national healthcare systems that provide some funding for group therapy. In some cases, group therapy may be available free of charge for those who meet certain criteria. However, the availability of group therapy through a national healthcare system may vary depending on the area and the waiting lists can be long.
  • Non-profit organizations
    There are many non-profit organizations that provide low-cost or free group therapy. These organizations may be focused on specific issues such as addiction, mental health, or domestic violence. They usually have a sliding scale structure available to pay for the group therapy, which means that the cost is based on your ability to pay.
  • Community mental health centres
    They are a good place to inquire about free or low-cost group therapy. These centres may be funded by the government or through private donations and are usually staffed by licensed therapists.
  • Universities and research centres
    Some universities and research centres in European countries may offer free group therapy as part of a research study or clinical trial. To give an example for the UK: If you are paying out of pocket for group therapy with a private therapist the cost can range from £30 to £80 per session. Again, this will depend on the location, type of group therapy and the qualifications of the therapist and can be higher.

Group work at New Life Portugal

While it doesn’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of traditional group therapy, the group work undertaken at New Life Portugal wellness retreat takes on two forms.

We believe in the power of group therapy.

Process groups: “Process groups focus on the here and now,” Daral explains. “What guests are learning, feeling, and experiencing as they move through the program.”

Psychoeducational groups or workshops: “These are topical, zeroing in on body awareness, breath work, journaling and narrative work, the physiology of emotional dysregulation, healthy compassion, and more.”

Moreover, there is the constant feeling of community whenever at a New Life therapy retreat here in Portugal. In fact, we consider ‘community’ our ‘secret sauce’. “Our community is the container and the catalyst for change. Every minute of every day you will have the chance to practice what you learn at New Life in a safe and healing environment,” Daral reveals.

In the mornings, you can choose to join in on group yoga or meditation practice, while in the evenings, we host everything from improv to story groups. We place particular focus on mindful-living here at New Life, and many of our mindfulness sessions are held in groups.

“Whatever your comfort level, whether you jump in or observe from the sidelines, connection to others is powerful and healing.”

Share this article