Many of today’s leading rehab and mental health providers feature treatment programs that include both individual and group therapies. Both types of therapies can be advantageous and can be adapted to a wide range of treatment modalities. Even so, some individuals wonder whether group therapy is right for them.
Before delving into the five most frequently asked questions about group therapy, it may be helpful to understand why group therapy has become popular. One big reason is its track record with drug and alcohol addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the earliest examples of a group that formed to help recovering alcoholics maintain their sobriety. Today, AA has a worldwide membership of around two million—but there are other lesser-known support groups that help people with all sorts of mental health issues, too.
If you’re on the fence about group therapy, the following answers to commonly asked questions may be able to provide more clarity….
Is Group Therapy Less Effective Than Individual Therapy?
The truth is—it depends on the individual. Some people find that individual therapy is more conducive to their recovery, while others prefer the support they find in group therapy. It’s important to remember that there are various types of addictions and mental health issues, and group and individual therapies may target different aspects of these conditions.
During individual therapy, clients can work on issues that relate specifically to their unique circumstances. On the other hand, group therapy often features topics/therapies that are more broadly relevant to your healing process. This often helps clients feel less alone, that support is available to them from their peers, and that they can connect in a healing environment in healthy ways while improving their communication skills. Most people think about group therapy as a discussion-based modality, and it often is, but the group format is also featured in many other treatments such as restorative yoga, art therapy, music therapy, family therapy, physical fitness, and more.
In short, there are benefits associated with both group and individual therapy. Although clients may prefer one or the other, they will, nevertheless, find that both support their healing and recovery in essential ways.
Do I Have to Divulge Personal Secrets to the Group?
Group therapy is designed to be a space where individuals can meet together with other people working to manage similar issues. There is no rule that a person must reveal secrets that they are uncomfortable about sharing in a group setting. Some people are comfortable being very open; others are more reserved in what they are willing to share. Yes, clients in the group are asked to participate, but they are not required to divulge secrets unless they choose to.
In treatment contexts where 12-step groups like AA meet, there is typically a focus on accountability; however, it’s not a mandate that participants confess their deepest, darkest secrets or wrongdoings. Instead, group therapists encourage participants to share the experiences they’re comfortable sharing and to participate in group discussions.
Is Everything Revealed During Group Therapy Confidential?
All clients who participate in group therapy are requested to respect confidentiality and help maintain the group’s privacy. Yes, many clients reveal things to the group that they would not want revealed elsewhere. However, it’s also helpful to note that doctors and therapists have stricter requirements for maintaining patient-doctor confidentiality. Group therapy clients aren’t likely to face any consequence for failing to respect confidentiality rules.
Even so, the information that most people choose to share is something that all or most participants in the group have in common. Therapists will remind everyone about the importance of protecting individual privacy so as not to impede anyone’s recovery. In short, there is the expectation that all communication shared within the group will remain confidential. Still, if you have a sensitive topic that you want to ensure remains secret, save it for individual therapy.
Do You Have to Talk When You Go to Group Therapy?
Therapists will encourage everyone to participate at some level during group therapy. Most therapists understand that some people are more comfortable speaking in front of a group than others. Some clients are natural extroverts and thrive in the group setting. Others are more introverted and feel uncomfortable sharing publicly.
Therapists will strive to help everyone feel more comfortable participating in discussions over time. Group therapy will include topics that are generally widely applicable. Each person who participates enhances the discussion, making it more relevant for everyone involved.
It is important to listen and to talk during therapy sessions in order to offer and receive support, which is one of the great benefits of group therapy. You may not wish to share your whole personal story but you may find you’re able to contribute a useful perspective on a given topic. Participation can be extremely cathartic and meaningful for everyone in the group, the leader included.
What Do Group Therapy Leaders Do?
Group therapists facilitate the discussion and ensure that each session remains supportive and helpful for participants. They plan group meetings so that each session features at least one important topic that’s relevant to those present. Leaders also help to keep the discussion on track in order to fulfill the objectives of the session.
Therapists set the tone for the group and help to make sure that participants feel safe and respected as they contribute their thoughts and experiences to group conversations. They also ask questions to generate discussions and provide expert feedback.
At FHE Health, our treatment programs provide both group and individual therapies, so clients can make the most of their time with us and maximize their chances of successful, long-term recovery. Although clients often prefer one type of therapy to another, they typically find both to be valid supports in their recovery.
If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem or mental health issue, don’t wait to seek help. FHE Health specializes in substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment. Visit us to learn more about our various levels of care and the types of treatment we offer. With treatment, healing and recovery are very possible.