group holding hands together

Group Therapy 101

Are you considering attending a group therapy session or has your therapist started to encourage you to “try one out”? While many people are familiar with the traditional psychotherapy model of one therapist to one individual, they are often not as familiar with group psychotherapy. To help familiarize yourself with what group therapy actually entails, NJ Family Psychiatry and Therapy has put together this handy guide. After reading, you will:

  • Know what group therapy is
  • Understand how is it structured
  • Learn about the different benefits of group therapy
  • Learn about some specific types of groups
  • Get tips on how to get the most out of your group session
  • Group therapy session

What Group Therapy Is and How It’s Structured:

Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that features multiple people working with a single therapist at one time. It is often part of a comprehensive treatment plant that also consists of one-on-one therapy and possible medication. Most group therapy sessions meet one to two times a week for about an hour or two, and can range from small groups of 3-4, to larger groups of 7-12. The average number of individuals in a group therapy session is 6.

In addition, group therapy sessions can be either open or closed. Open sessions refer to those that allow new participants at any time, while closed sessions refer to those that have a specific group of individuals who participate. No matter the type of group therapy, most sessions generally have individuals sitting in a circle. When a session begins, individuals introduce themselves and explains to the group why they are in group therapy. Depending on the focus and structure of the group, individuals may also describe their experiences or talk about any progress made from the last session. ‘

The Benefits of Group Therapy:

Although group therapy may be different from anything you’ve experienced, it offers a variety of benefits and many individuals are amazed at how much they gain from group therapy. Listed below are a few of the many benefits provided by group therapy sessions:

  • You have your very own support network: since group therapy sessions generally have a focus, the members of the group are often all dealing with similar things and can provide a certain type of support that people outside the group may not be able to.
  • You will be held accountable: your other group members will not only understand what you’re going through, but they will be able to hold you accountable for your actions and keep you focused on whatever goals you have made for yourself.
  • It offers new perspectives: by listening to the experiences of others, you may get ideas for difficult situations that you never would have thought of yourself. Conversely, you can also share your ideas to help inspire others.
  • There is a specialized focus: the therapist in charge of the group will also be a specialist on the focus that the group is revolving around, meaning that they will provide specific strategies for very specific problems and/or situations.

Some Examples of Specific Types of Groups:

Since group therapy is primarily centered around a specific focus, we’ve listed some examples of group therapy sessions that NJ Family Psychiatry and Therapy holds. Although these groups represent what is currently available, the specific groups may change. Also, the information provided about the groups is to simply give you an idea of what to expect. Your group therapy experience may vary from what is written below.

Adolescent Group:

Our adolescent group is designed to help teenagers to step outside their comfort zones and better face the academic, social, and emotional challenges associated with the adolescent years. Some possible topics that may be discussed within the group are social confidence, relational aggression, assertiveness, improved family and peer relationships, identity conflicts, emotional regulation, and stress reduction.

During our adolescent group, a synthesis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will be used to teach healthy coping skills while also increasing and strengthening self-confidence, focus, self-esteem, and social skills.

Jewish LGBTQ Youth Group:

For many young people in both the LGBTQ and Jewish community, establishing individual identity can be a challenge. Traditional Judaism, focuses on a conservative, nuclear family model whose main goal is to raise the next generation. Because of this, LGBTQ youth from Jewish communities often live with a deep sense of shame, confusion, fear, anger, and isolation. Additionally, they may feel like they have to choose between hiding their true identity in silence, or leaving the community and disconnecting with their faith. This emotional conflict can lead to struggles with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self harm, isolation, and loneliness.

Our Jewish LGBTQ youth group aims to create a safe environment where LGBTQ youth can gather and discuss issues such as coming out, identity formation, relationship issues, communication challenges with peers and family, and the role of their religious beliefs in their lives.

Women’s Group:

Many modern women find themselves playing multiple daily roles that can leave them feeling physically tired, emotionally and physically drained, disconnected, alone, and, at times, depressed, irritable, and resentful.

Our women’s group provides women with a warm and safe environment to realize the importance of nurturing oneself and having mutual support from other women. Additionally, our women’s group helps to foster meaningful connections through sharing experiences, strength, and hope through addressing commonly shared feelings and emotions.

During our women’s group, a synthesis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will be used to increase and improve self-esteem, confidence, assertiveness, intimacy, relationship conflicts, parenting concerns, and physical health and body image.

Young Adult Group:

Because the transition from youth to adulthood presents various biological, psychological, emotional, and social changes, young adults can struggle to maintain internal and external expectations in regards to academics, career, friendships, intimate relationships, and family. While striving for their Independence, young adults can also feel overwhelmed, isolated, anxious, resentful, scared, or depressed.

Our young adult group uses a synthesis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will be used to discuss healthy coping skills, improve self-esteem, and foster improved relationships and communication.

Getting the Most Out of Your Group Therapy Session:

First things first, one important thing to note is the difference between social rules and group rules. Social rules are the rules we follow everyday that deal with being polite and careful about one says to others. Social rules are the reason we say “we’re good” when someone asks us how we are. Group rules, on the other hand, values honesty over politeness and encourages people to be “messy” and voice their feelings even if it sounds impolite or imperfect.

With that being said, because many people are not familiar with or have never experienced group therapy sessions, we have put together a few tips to help you get the most of your group therapy session. Keep in mind that it may take a few group therapy sessions to really get comfortable. We advise picking two tips to work on during a session and to be patient with yourself while you are learning how to get the most out of your group therapy sessions.

  • Be present: focus on what is happening in the group and how it makes you feel. Specifically, what makes you feel closer to the group and what makes you feel more distant towards others? Mindful awareness of these feelings can provide you with insight about how you interact with others. Additionally, many people respond to present moments by using predetermined patterns of thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations. These predetermined patterns, also known as scripts or schemas, are learned rules for how to act based on past experiences. To change these scripts, we must learn how to approach the present moment as an entirely new moment.
  • Be open: openness deals with learning how to exercise acceptance and compassion towards your own feelings. Rejection, judgement, or avoidance are all the opposite of openness and will make it harder to overcome negative feelings. Openness will help you change scripts, while avoidance will simply promote your existing scripts. The first step to openness is to simply become aware of what you are feeling in the moment.
  • Be involved: become part of the group conversation, even if you don’t know what to say. Simply voicing your confusion or uncertainty is a way of participating and will help you and others to communicate better with one another.
  • Give feedback: giving good feedback can help improve relationships among people. Good feedback is specific, direct, honest, and shares both positive and negative feedback. Keep in mind that giving good feedback is a skill that may take time to acquire. Be patient with yourself.
  • Accept feedback: as well as giving good feedback, you should learn to accept feedback yourself. Some tips for learning to accept feedback include acknowledgement, seeking clarification if you are confused, recognizing when you feel defensive and communicating this to the group, and asking the group to give you feedback on your “blind spots”.
  • Express yourself: try to say what is inside you, even if it isn’t pretty or what you think they want to hear. Try to focus on expressing your emotions when talking about a situation. Be real with yourself and the group.
  • Watch how others express themselves: non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. When others are talking, pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other non-verbal patterns. It may be helpful to point out what you’ve noticed. Conversely, when you are talking, people in the group may notice things about your non-verbal language.

Interested in seeing what group therapy can offer you? Schedule a consultation with NJ Family Psychiatry and Therapy today!

Share this post

headshot of dr.miller

Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.