Which Type of Therapeutic Group is Right for You?
If you've thought about participating in a therapeutic group, good for you! Group treatment is an effective modality for helping people heal from emotional difficulties as well as helping people learn new skills and enhance overall wellness.
But what kind of group should you join? Although the general public may view all group therapy as the same, there actually are several different kinds of groups from which to choose. It's true that all therapeutic groups have these three purposes in common:
- To increase group members' knowledge of themselves and others;
- To clarify the changes group members want to make in their lives, and
- To provide group members with the tools to make those changes.
But beyond that, it's important to explore a group's mission and structure. Here are the major types of therapeutic groups along with examples of topics they might cover.
These groups focus on developing group members' thinking, feeling, and behavioral skills through a structured learning format within and across group meetings. People that attend psychoeducational groups are often high-functioning but have an information deficit in a certain area, such as parenting skills or assertiveness. The group leader is a bit like a teacher in addition to a facilitator as he or she leader provides factual information, leads discussions about it, and helps group members incorporate the information into their lives through skill-building exercises. In addition to parenting skills groups and assertiveness training, other examples of psychoeducational groups are stress management groups and caregiver training.
These groups focus on interpersonal processes and problem-solving strategies to help people resolve the usual, yet often difficult, problems of living. Like psychoeducational groups, people in these groups are relatively well-functioning but are seeking some kind of personal growth. The primary "work" in the group is accomplished by the group members supporting and challenging each other in self-exploration. The group leader acts as a facilitator more than a teacher, leading the group through a series of developmental stages. Some examples of counseling groups are groups for those coping with divorce or groups for those navigating the transition to retirement.
These groups are designed to help group members remediate psychological problems. They deal with both conscious and unconscious problems and aim for major personality reconstruction. While counseling groups address short-term issues, psychotherapy groups are oriented toward the resolution of pervasive, long-term issues and treat more severe psychological disorders. The exchanges among members of psychotherapy groups are viewed as important in bringing about change. One of the main advantages of groups like this is that the interaction among members provides a level of support, caring, and confrontation not always found in individual therapy. Like counseling groups, the group leader acts as a facilitator more than a teacher, but will need to do deeper work than is required in counseling. Examples of psychotherapy groups are groups for people experiencing depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Remember, group treatment has been shown to be effective for many people, so don't hesitate to seek help. To find groups near you, contact your nearest community mental health center, hospital, or social services agency.
Corey, M. S., Corey, G., & Corey, C. (2014). Groups: Process and practice (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.