The Therapeutic Journey: Individual vs Group Therapy in Mental Health Recovery
When seeking therapy for yourself it is best to know all the options available to you. Many individuals opt for one on one therapy. However group therapy is another option offered for many disorders. Some individuals utilize both group and individual therapy as a part of their treatment plan. Others may have a preference to group or individual therapy alone.
What are the benefits of Individual Therapy?
Individual therapy is conducted between a single therapist and one client. In individual therapy there may be more time to address more sensitive and personal topics. Clients are encouraged to lead therapy sessions and have more freedom on the topics they would like to discuss. In individual therapy clients are encouraged to collaborate with their therapist. The therapist and client create a treatment plan including problems they would like to address and skills they would like to develop throughout therapy. Typically individual therapy allows for more flexibility for scheduling. Individual therapy moves at a pace that is comfortable to the client and is adjusted to the client’s needs. Anything shared in individual therapy stays between the client and therapist, unless the client is at risk of hurting themselves or others.
What gaps does Group Therapy fill in a mental health treatment plan?
Group therapy is typically conducted by one or more therapists and a group of five to fifteen clients. Most therapy groups are created to address a specific problem. Some of the most common therapy groups address depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and grief. The 2019 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services reports that 93 percent of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities, across different settings, provide group counseling.1
Group therapy can provide skills and experiences that individual therapy may not. Groups can act as a support network and allow group members to connect with individuals who may be experiencing similar hardships and problems. One asset of therapy groups, in which people are offered the opportunity to be honest with one another in a safe setting, is that participants typically come to find that people are ultimately more alike than different, regardless of color, religion, or political stance.2
Typically group members agree to guidelines addressing group rules and group norms. Group members are all bound to a confidentiality agreement stating that what is said in group will stay within the group. In a group settings members may be given opportunities to practice or role play evidence based skills together. Clients are typically welcome to share experiences and offer feedback to other group members. In group therapy the therapist acts as a facilitator, they will assist in guiding the group and ensuring that all members feels respected and heard.
Both individual and group therapy have been found to be effective as treatment for mental health disorders. Clients are often encouraged to try both. When engaging in group and individual therapy simultaneously, there are more opportunities for growth. Using a dual treatment approach can be helpful in growing self awareness in an individual setting and practice connecting with other individuals within a controlled group setting.
- Group therapy in substance use treatment – substance abuse and mental … (n.d.). https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/pep20-02-01-020.pdf
- Rutan, J. S. (2021). Reasons for suggesting group psychotherapy to patients. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 74(2), 67–70. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.20200032
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