Deciding to begin therapy can be an intimidating process. Which therapist do I choose? How do I go to a stranger and open up about my problems? Some people think it is embarrassing, even shameful, to go to individual therapy. Common problems, including anxiety, adjustment to transition or life stress, parenting issues, or relationship struggles are shared by many people. While going to a therapist on your own can feel painful or embarrassing, group therapy is often a good alternative. It can be a safe introduction to therapeutic process, while providing some much-needed social support.
Groups provide emotional support and the sense that others struggle similarly, decreasing feelings that you are going through something alone and no one else struggles in the same ways. People frequently reported that group therapy, conducted by a licensed professional, allows them the opportunity to gain knowledge from an expert while receiving peer support and compassion. Group members encourage each other, and often get to practice some of the skills taught by the professional while in session together.
So, if you are feeling alone in your need for counseling, a group may be worth exploring. Some other benefits of groups include:
1. They are generally lower in cost per week than individual therapy. While an individual therapy session can range from $150-$185 an hour with a clinical psychologist, weekly group therapy rates are around $100 an hour.
2. Psychoeducational groups, which teach skill sets to deal with specific problems, such as anxiety, are often time-limited. For example, groups may be 12 weeks, 24 weeks, etc. offering a specific start and end date which can put people at ease that it will not be an ongoing, indefinite process.
3. While there is usually some sharing of participants during group discussion, the psychologist leading the group often provides didactic skill training, which takes pressure off of participants to share deeply about their personal experiences with strangers. Skills groups focus on coping strategies and support, rather than processing deep emotions.
The tangible benefits gained from these types of groups may result in greater confidence and trust that therapy, and mental health services in general, actually do provide relief from symptoms, hope, and belief that change is possible.