Different Types of Group Therapy

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After reviewing what group therapy (a.k.a. a counseling group) is and how it may be helpful to connect with others as we navigate our own journey, I want to take a few minutes to help familiarize us with different types of counseling groups and the purpose and benefits of them. Depending on where you live, some or all of the types of groups may be offered at varying times and a simple Google search may connect you with them and the counselors who lead them. 

Skills-Based Groups. A skills group commonly has a title that reads something like “8 Weeks of Group Guided Meditation.”  These groups encourage people who share a common interest to come together to learn and practice skills such as meditation, deep breathing, healthy communication or conflict management. Often, these groups are time-limited and structured in their content and homework. Skills groups are very common as many people find value in learning alongside their peers well after their “school days.”  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Groups. Similar to a skills group, a CBT group is comprised of people wishing to learn the science behind how our thoughts affect our actions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is backed by thousands of research studies that show it’s effectiveness in treating many mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction. Since many of us struggle to untangle our thoughts from the rest of our brain, even without a mental illness diagnosis, learning how to identify negative thought patterns and reframe them is very popular — and very effective — today. 

Process-Oriented Groups. The main purpose of a process group, also referred to as an interpersonal group, is to work in the “here and now.” Process groups are often unstructured and long-lasting, rather than time-limited. The counselor works with each of the members to help them identify their reactions to what is happening in the group session, provide validation and empathy for their present experience, and guidance for applying what was learned to relationships outside of the counseling group. Interpersonal groups tend to ask participants to be more emotionally vulnerable than other types of groups and are also incredibly powerful in evoking change within a safe environment. The Women’s Relational Growth Group at our practice is a process group. 

Relapse Prevention Groups.  Relapse prevention groups are often part of an addiction recovery aftercare plan and are many times held in outpatient treatment centers.  Addicts seeking recovery and sobriety find great comfort in meeting regularly with others walking the same path. Addiction, by nature, is isolating and shaming, so gathering together in a group directly combats those two characteristics.  These types of recovery groups are a mix of both skills-based and process-oriented groups and are typically time-limited and structured.

Self-Help Groups. A few examples of self-help groups with which you may be familiar are AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), Al-Anon (support for friends and families affected by alcoholism), weight-loss groups, and spiritual growth groups. These groups may be led by a facilitator familiar with the material and structure and/or led by your peers. Some self-help groups have literature and scripts to follow within the group meeting and some are content-based that operate from a book or workbook. You will find self-help groups in your area that are both time-limited and those that run continuously for an undefined period of time. A specific benefit of self-help groups that may not be available in other group types is the flexibility: members may be encouraged to bring friends, come and go as their schedule allows, and utilize the group at different seasons in life with no explanation needed.

At any given time, another group being offered may pop up in your Facebook feed or even on the news. We’re all starting to realize we appreciate being a part of something; we long to be known and understood by those around us. We want to branch out and meet new people and reach self-set goals.  Counseling groups help with all of these things! Even if there is a cost associated with a group, it is typically more cost-effective to receive group therapy rather than individual therapy. If someone is in individual or couples therapy and wants a group experience, he or she may supplement their current treatment plan with a group. 

If you are interested in being connected with a group and are not sure where to start, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you.  Happy group hunting!

Written by Lauren Eisleben