Living with a chronic mental health condition can be challenging. Whether it’s anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, or substance use disorders, these conditions can often negatively impact daily life. Mental health issues impact how we think, feel, and behave. As a result, it also affects our social interactions, decision-making, and relationships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
Many feel alone in their battle with mental illness. Fortunately, with the right treatment plan, many can find their silver lining. Treatment usually includes pharmacological intervention and differing forms of therapy, such as individual psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and group therapy. These forms of therapy help individuals process their mental health symptoms and learn healthy coping skills, and it is often a rewarding and uphill process for many.
Group Therapy for Adults
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving a small group of people who meet regularly to share their experiences, discuss their struggles, and provide mutual support under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional.
In group therapy, individuals with similar mental health disorders are brought together to work on common goals, such as developing coping skills, improving social skills, and increasing self-awareness. Group therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders.
Group therapy sessions strive to create a safe environment for individuals to share their experiences without the fear of judgment. These sessions are typically led by a licensed therapist who guides the group discussions and facilitates communication between group members. Interacting with others during the therapy process also allows the therapist to observe how individuals interact and behave with others, allowing them to provide personalized feedback to each client.
The Goal of Group Therapy
The goal of adult group therapy is to provide a supportive and validating environment where individuals can work together towards common goals under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional. The specific goals of group therapy may vary depending on the needs and experiences of the group members, as well as the focus of the therapy group.
Some common goals of adult group therapy include the following:
- Group therapy sessions can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to practice social skills, such as communication skills, active listening, and conflict resolution.
- Group therapy can help individuals develop new coping skills and strategies to manage symptoms of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.
- Group therapy can provide a supportive environment where individuals can receive positive feedback and validation from others, which can improve self-esteem and self-worth.
- Group therapy can help individuals develop stronger interpersonal relationships by improving communication, building trust, and resolving conflicts.
- Group therapy can help individuals gain a better understanding of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth.
- Group therapy can provide a sense of social support and belonging, which can be particularly important for individuals who may feel isolated or alone due to their mental health condition.
Group therapy frequently involves more than just conversing, despite what many people may think. Members of the group can participate in fun group therapy activities such as hiking, art therapy, cooking, and many more. These fun group therapy activities are good ice-breakers and help develop social skills.
Who Can Benefit From Group Therapy?
Group therapy can benefit a wide range of individuals, including those experiencing mental health conditions, emotional difficulties, and interpersonal challenges. Some specific groups of individuals who may benefit from group therapy include:
- Individuals with mental health conditions – Group therapy can be particularly effective for individuals with mental health conditions such as social anxiety, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and substance use disorders. The group therapy process can provide a supportive and validating environment where individuals can share their experiences and learn coping strategies from others who have had similar experiences.
- Individuals experiencing life transitions – Group therapy can be helpful for individuals experiencing significant life changes, such as divorce, loss of a loved one, job loss, or relocation. It can provide a supportive and validating environment where individuals can share their experiences and learn from others who have gone through such difficult times.
- Individuals struggling with interpersonal relationships – Group therapy can be effective for individuals struggling with interpersonal challenges, such as difficulties with communication, boundaries, or assertiveness. It can provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can practice interpersonal skills and receive feedback from others.
- Veterans and first responders – Group therapy can be particularly beneficial for veterans and first responders who have experienced trauma. It can provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences and learn coping strategies from others who have had similar experiences.
- Individuals seeking personal growth – Group therapy can be a valuable tool for individuals seeking personal growth and self-improvement. It can provide a supportive and validating environment where individuals can receive feedback, learn from others, and work towards personal goals.
While group therapy can be an effective treatment option for many mental health concerns, it’s important to note that it may not be sufficient as a standalone treatment for some individuals. In some cases, a combination of medication, individual therapy, and group therapy may be necessary for a more comprehensive and integrated treatment plan.
Is Group Therapy Right for Me?
Group therapy is not the best fit for everyone. While it can be a highly effective treatment option for many individuals, it may not be suitable for those who have difficulty engaging in a group setting, such as those with severe social anxiety or those who prefer one-on-one therapy.
To assess an individual’s readiness to participate in group therapy, mental health professionals may use a tool called the Group Readiness Questionnaire (GRQ), which was developed by the American Psychological Association (APA). The GRQ is a brief questionnaire that assesses an individual’s motivation, expectations, and comfort level with group therapy. It can help mental health professionals determine if an individual is a good fit for a particular group and identify potential challenges or concerns that may need to be addressed prior to starting group therapy.
It’s important to note that while the GRQ can be a helpful tool for assessing readiness for group therapy, there are no rigid screening guidelines for determining who is a good fit for group therapy. Ultimately, the decision to participate in group therapy should be made in collaboration between the individual and their mental health provider, taking into account the individual’s unique needs, preferences, and treatment goals.
How Does Group Therapy for Adults Work?
Group therapy for adults generally involves 6-12 individuals that meet regularly with a trained mental health professional to work on their mental health concerns. Here, they can disclose their emotions, experiences, and behaviors without fear of judgment.
There are four key phases to any group therapy.
- Forming – Meeting group members.
- Storming – Building a safe environment where people are comfortable sharing and where potential conflicts can be discussed respectfully.
- Norming – Help members understand themselves and each other more profoundly through therapy exercises or activities.
- Performing – Achieving wellness goals and developing into a self-aware and successful group.
Group dynamics and other variables may affect the period of time it takes a group to reach these stages. It is also essential to remember that all group therapy is founded on the principles of confidentiality, safety, and participation.
Types of Group Therapy for Adults
There are several types of group therapy, each with its own approach and focus. However, they typically fit into one of two categories:
This form of group therapy focuses on exploring patterns and dynamics within the group to increase self-awareness and growth. These groups emphasize sharing experiences and forming connections, where discussion among members becomes the priority. The group explores topics such as processing emotions, identifying triggers, establishing boundaries, developing healthy relationships, and setting realistic goals for healing through the therapy process.
Here are a few examples of process-oriented groups:
- Interpersonal process groups
- Support groups
- Cognitive-behavioral groups
- Mindfulness-based groups
- Art therapy groups
This group therapy focuses on learning practical skills and providing information on specific mental health concerns and symptoms. It’s structured with selected topics. The goal here is to encourage information sharing and the development of healthy coping skills instead of building relationships between the members.
Some of these group types could fall into both categories, depending on how they are structured and what their goals are. For example, a cognitive-behavioral group may focus on specific thought patterns and behaviors, but it may also incorporate elements of process-oriented therapy by exploring how these patterns and behaviors play out in the group setting. Similarly, a support group may provide both process-oriented support and psychoeducation about a particular mental health condition. The specific focus of a group will depend on the group’s goals and the needs of its participants.
Group Therapy Activities for Adults
Here are some examples of group therapy activities for adults with mental health conditions:
- Mindfulness exercises – Group members can practice mindfulness meditation or other mindfulness exercises together to help manage stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Mind-body exercises – Group members can practice yoga, tai chi, or other mind-body exercises together to help manage stress and improve overall well-being.
- Relaxation and visualization – Group members can be guided through a relaxation and visualization exercise where they visualize a peaceful scene or a positive outcome to a situation.
- Creative expression – Art therapy groups can involve creative expression through art-making or other creative activities. This can help members process emotions and improve self-awareness.
- Journaling – Group members can journal together or share journal entries to help explore their thoughts and feelings.
- Group discussion – Interpersonal process groups can involve group discussion of interpersonal issues and conflicts, with the goal of improving communication and relationships.
- Problem-solving activities – In a cognitive-behavioral group, members can work together to brainstorm solutions to common problems and practice implementing them.
- Role-playing and social skills training – Social skills groups can involve role-playing and other activities to help members practice social skills and improve their ability to connect with others.
- Gratitude exercises – Group members can share what they’re grateful for each session or keep a gratitude journal to help shift their focus to positive things in their life.
- Positive affirmations – Group members can create and share positive affirmations with each other to help improve self-esteem and self-worth.
- Music therapy – Group members can engage in music-making or music-listening activities to help process emotions and improve mood.
- Exposure therapy – In a cognitive-behavioral group, members can practice exposure therapy together to help manage anxiety or phobias.
- Anger management activities – In a group focused on anger management, members can practice techniques such as deep breathing, counting to 10, or visualization to help manage anger and aggression.
It’s important to note that the specific activities used in group therapy will depend on the group’s goals and the needs of its members. Additionally, some group therapy activities may be more appropriate for certain mental health conditions than others. A mental health professional can help determine which activities are best suited for a particular group.
Benefits of Group Therapy for Adults
Group therapy offers a wide range of benefits when paired with other forms of intervention, such as individual therapy and/or pharmacological interventions. Group therapy can provide a number of benefits, including:
- Support and validation – Group therapy can provide a supportive and validating environment where individuals can share their experiences and feelings with others who understand and can relate to their struggles.
- Skill-building – Group therapy can help individuals develop new coping skills, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving strategies that can be applied in their daily lives.
- Increased self-awareness – Group therapy can help individuals gain a better understanding of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth.
- Reduced isolation – Group therapy can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness that can often accompany mental health conditions.
- Increased motivation – Group therapy can provide a sense of accountability and motivation to make positive changes as individuals see their peers making progress toward their goals and emotional wellness.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders, Turning Point Centers is here to help. We provide multiple levels of care incorporated with various evidence-based treatment modalities to help you achieve long-term emotional wellness and recovery.