Group therapy is having more than one client treated at the same time by at least one therapist. Some groups will have more than one therapist; if this is the case, most often, there are two therapists addressing the group at the same time and very rarely more than that.
Group sizes can vary depending on the type of group therapy. For example, couples therapy, a type of group therapy that typically treats romantic partners, consists of two clients (most often), whereas certain types of groups, such as substance abuse groups, may feature 10-12 clients in a session.
Researchers who study the effectiveness of group therapy generally recommend that the ideal maximum number of clients in a group is somewhere between 6 and 12; however, some groups have even larger numbers of clients in them.
There are a number of advantages to being involved in group therapy. However, it is important to note that many of these advantages represent actual strengths of the group process as opposed to trying to make and evaluate a comparison that group therapy is better than individual therapy.
Some of the advantages that occur in group therapy include:
- Group therapy assures individuals that they are not alone and that other individuals share similar problems and struggles. The famous psychiatrist Dr. Irvin David Yalom, one of the acknowledged gurus of group therapy, terms this the principle of universality.
- Group therapy offers the opportunity to both receive support from others and to give support to others. Both of these notions are important in treatment. Receiving support from others is part of the bonding or therapeutic alliance that occurs in groups, whereas giving support to others allows for growth and learning.
- The therapeutic alliance that occurs in groups is broader than the alliance that occurs in individual therapy. This allows for the incorporation of many different points of view.
- Group therapy helps individuals develop communication skills and socialization skills, and allows clients to learn how to express their issues and accept criticism from others.
- Group therapy allows individuals to develop self-awareness by listening to others with similar issues.
- Sharing one’s experiences with others with similar problems is often itself therapeutic.
- Group therapy provides a broad safety net for individuals who may otherwise be hesitant to discuss their feelings, perceived weaknesses, etc.
- Individuals in group therapy can model the successful behaviours of other individuals who have gone through similar experiences. Modelling is a form of learning where individuals learn by copying or imitating the actions of others.
- Group therapy is typically less expensive than individual therapy.