What is a Psychotherapy Group?
Groups are everywhere. Our daily lives are filled with various
groups of people, from families to work groups to church groups. What distinguishes these
groups from one another is their purpose. The purpose of a psychotherapy group is to
promote the personal growth and psychological health of its members. Although the
composition, theme and length may vary, all psychotherapy groups have in common:
- A group psychotherapist, specially trained in the theory and
technique of group psychotherapy. This distinguishes a psychotherapy group from groups
that function without a psychotherapist, called self-help groups.
- A regular meeting time and place. Psychotherapy groups
generally meet once weekly, but this can vary. Some groups are time limited (meet for a
fixed number of sessions), others are open ended with members joining and leaving from
time to time.
- A focus on self-examination and exploration of interpersonal
relationships. This is the ultimate focus of most types of psychotherapy, although the
particular methods and style varies depending on the therapists orientation. This
distinguishes a psychotherapy group from a support group. In a support group, members
generally share a common concern or issue and help one another adapt to difficult or
Who can benefit from Group Psychotherapy?
It is part of being human to experience some loneliness and sadness
from time to time, but persistent anxiety or depression, or ongoing difficulties with
relationships, may signal the need for consultation with a mental health professional.
The mental health field offers a confusing variety of practitioners,
and it is often difficult to know what kind of professional to see. The partial list below
may help you understand the training and qualifications of these mental health
professionals. You have the right to ask about the credentials of the person you seek help
Psychiatrist (M.D.); a physician specializing in the
treatment of emotional problems
Licensed Clinical Psychologist (Ph.D., Psy.D.); a doctoral
degree in treatment of emotional problems
Social Work (M.S.W., A.C.P); a masters degree with advanced
training and supervision
Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.); a masters or
doctoral degree, additional supervision, and a licensing examination
During the consultation, the consultant will determine the nature of
your problems and what treatment approach may be most beneficial. If group psychotherapy
is right for you and you are right for group psychotherapy, the consultant may arrange for
you to join a group. Your plan of treatment may also include individual, family or marital
psychotherapy as well as medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.
What happens during Group Psychotherapy?
It is not unusual to feel anxious and uneasy when first joining a
psychotherapy group, but with time the anxiety will diminish and you will feel more
comfortable about sharing your concerns. Group members are urged to be as honest as they
can about their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes there are silent periods during group
time, and other times everyone has something to share. It is the therapists responsibility
to monitor the group, give feedback about what he or she may think is happening in the
group, and help the group work through difficult periods. It is each group members
responsibility to be on time for group, attend all sessions, talk honestly about the
problems they are having, and to keep what happens during group time completely
How long does Group Psychotherapy take?
That depends on the nature and extent of your problems and on your
capacity and motivation for self-examination. Group members generally remain in group for
one to three years, and leave when the problems that brought them to group are resolved.
Copyright 1994 by Thomas A. Grugle, M.D.; Dallas, Texas.
More articles by Dr. Grugle can be found at http://www.cybercouch.com.