Group therapy is a type of therapy that treats multiple people at once. The people being treated within the group will all be experiencing similar problems or share similar diagnoses.
This form of therapy is evidence-based has been found to be highly effective in the treatment of a wide range of mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addictions and eating disorders.
How does group therapy work?
During group therapy, group members are encouraged to share their experiences and insights in a supportive and trusting environment. This offers individuals different perspectives on problems relating to mental health and addiction. It also provides opportunities to receive feedback and support from other members of the group, in a safe environment. This experience supports individuals to develop greater self-awareness and understanding of their own personal challenges.
Some people may find the thought of discussing their life experiences with a group of strangers to be quite daunting. However, the lead therapist will ensure that you are given enough time to get to know your peers and hear their experiences, allowing you to build a level of trust. Participation in our group sessions often helps individuals to realise that they are not alone and this experience develops a sense of strength, closeness and support between group members.
Benefits of group therapy
During a group session, a patient can be encouraged to share their experiences and work on understanding themselves in a compassionate and therapeutic environment.
Research shows that groups are just as effective as one-to-one therapy and other positive outcomes include:
- They allow people to express themselves in front of others without feeling judged
- Participants' selflessness and compassion may be developed
- Groups inspire hope as members see others progress
- Groups help in the sharing of knowledge
- They encourage understanding how experiences might affect current feelings through observation.
- Groups can enhance social interactions
- Patients can model healthy behaviours and attachments
- Being close-knit in the group makes members feel safe
- Participants can learn from each other and develop better understanding of how they interact with each other
Interestingly, patients often express an initial reluctance for group therapy but go on to enjoy it. For those who have received both group and individual therapy, they are often surprised by their preference for group treatments.
What does group therapy involve?
The way in which a group session is delivered depends on the type of therapy involved.
Types of group therapy include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- The patient will be helped to identify their problems
- The principle behind CBT is to identify negative thoughts and behaviours
- The therapist and other members of the group will help the patient to understand why they have come to think in an unhelpful way
- The therapist and other members of the group will help them challenge their beliefs and substitute more helpful ways of thinking and doing things
Schema focused therapy
- This consists of different modules, for example identifying 12 underlying ways in which people have learnt to see and react to the world around them
- The patient may be expected to attend all 12 sessions and if necessary, repeat the therapy cycle
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
Group DBT is proven to be effective for borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- It consists of 12 groups in which patients learn 4 main skills – mindfulness, how to manage distress, controlling emotions and relating to others
- The modules each consist of 3 training sessions and patients would only be allowed to enter at the start of each module. This group would typically have fixed entry points
Group therapies used at Priory are evidence-based and work in accordance with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. However we also use additional treatment modalities which we have found to be clinically helpful. They include:
- Equine assisted psychotherapy
These types of group therapies can help people to express their feelings through role play. This more imaginative form of therapy is often used to treat addictions.
What does typical group therapy look like?
Group therapy sessions usually consist of between 6 – 12 patients and are facilitated by a therapist and a co-therapist. Each session typically lasts for between one and a half, to two and a half hours, with a break in the middle.
The frequency, number of sessions and the type of therapy that is used within a group therapy programme, depends on the mental health problems that you are struggling with, as well as your unique needs and requirements.
Therapy groups may be 'open', in which patients enter at any time. They can also be 'closed', where a set number of people are entered for group therapy and no other members can be added to the group without the agreement of group members.
Private group therapy at Priory
Private group therapy forms a major part of the treatment process at Priory. This format of therapy is offered as part of Priory’s comprehensive mental health inpatient treatment programmes, and also forms the basis of our intensive, residential addiction treatment programmes.
Private group therapy can also take place during day care and outpatient treatment at Priory, depending on your unique needs and requirements.