Group therapy can be a perfect choice for those seeking support to overcome substance abuse, mood disorders and a wide variety of other challenges. However, despite its proven effectiveness, many people still have much to learn about it. If you’ve never tried therapy in a group setting, take a moment to learn more about what group therapy is, how it works and the unique benefits it has to offer.

What Is Group Therapy?

Group psychotherapy can take various forms, and they all have a few things in common. Generally, the group process works the same way as regular one-on-one therapy, except a group of patients meet together for focused discussion. These meetings happen under the supervision of a trained therapist.

Group therapy can be used for general mental health treatment, and there are also programs available for addiction treatment. Specialized addiction therapy groups have the advantage of ensuring all members share similar experiences so they can relate to one another more easily.

Types of Group Therapy

The exact method used during group therapy sessions will vary from group to group. There are several types that can be used depending on the kind of treatment you need.

  • Cognitive-behavioral groups are geared toward changing unhealthy thought patterns to spur personal growth.
  • Interpersonal therapy groups focus on social interactions and how they impact your mental health.
  • Support groups can offer a wide variety of benefits in a social setting.
  • Skill development groups are specialized for people with mental disorders or developmental disabilities, helping them improve social skills.
  • Psychoeducational groups are designed to provide information to clients to help them better manage psychological conditions.

What to Expect in a Group Setting

Therapy groups generally meet for one to two hours a week, with a group size of between five and 15 patients. Generally, smaller groups are preferred, as this allows each participant more time to speak and receive the attention they need.

The exact structure of the sessions varies widely from group to group. Some may be more free-form, while others follow a more set agenda. Many sessions start with each of the participants introducing themselves and sharing the progress they’ve made since they last spoke.

Led by the therapist, participants will each take a turn sharing their experiences and viewpoints on an agreed-upon topic. Session topics can vary widely and are specific to the group. There are therapy groups for substance abuse, depression, anxiety, weight loss, shyness, anger, chronic pain and many other issues.

Understanding the Power of Interpersonal Learning

There are several advantages to group therapy compared to traditional one-on-one sessions. Take a look at these benefits and see which could be most helpful to you.

Learn to Connect

Engaging in a group process offers an opportunity to develop socialization techniques, especially for those who suffer from social anxiety. Group therapy can provide a safe environment for participants to connect to one another and practice skills they can use in daily life.

Feel a Sense of Belonging

Members of therapy groups often share similar issues, which can make it easier to develop a true sense of belonging. Other members of the group can provide encouragement, insight or other forms of support that may be beneficial. Often, being part of a group makes it easier to hold yourself accountable to long-term goals that would otherwise be difficult to realize.

Access Information

Therapy groups can be a good way to expand your network, making it easier to access helpful information. This could come in the form of an outside perspective on a difficult situation or more concrete resources that are relevant to your shared struggles.


Because the services of a single therapist are split between multiple participants, group therapy tends to be more affordable than one-on-one sessions. This makes it a great option for those who can’t afford individual therapy services or don’t have access to sliding scale services nearby.

Social Anxiety in Group Learning

Sharing personal thoughts and feelings in a group setting isn’t always easy, and that’s especially true for those who experience social anxiety. In fact, social anxiety is often cited as a barrier to seeking therapy.

However, group therapy sessions are offered in a supportive environment and are made to accommodate those with all kinds of social skills. Research has shown that group therapy is an effective method of treatment for those who experience social anxiety.

Of course, taking the first step toward getting help can still be difficult. If you’re interested in starting group therapy sessions but having difficulty overcoming social obstacles, starting a dialogue with a therapist can be a good way to begin. An experienced mental health professional can help answer questions and provide reassurance about the process.

Settings for Group Therapy

Group therapy can take place in a variety of settings, each of which provides certain benefits. Review these three common options and decide which is ideal for your needs.


Residential or inpatient therapy services are integrated into a broader treatment program in which the patient lives on-site and receives accommodations and meals. This can be an effective option for those who may benefit from a more comprehensive program that eliminates the distractions of daily life that may otherwise disrupt the therapeutic process.

Residential therapy programs are usually expensive, costing several thousand dollars per month. However, sliding scale options are sometimes available, which can make this type of therapy more affordable.


Outpatient group therapy is often part of a broader treatment program just like inpatient therapy, although the participants don’t live on-site. This can help provide flexibility for those who still need to attend work or care for children. Outpatient therapy is also much more affordable.

For outpatient therapy to be effective, family support is often needed. This helps provide a stable environment in the absence of 24-hour on-site care.


Aftercare therapy groups are transitional programs, often attended after residential or outpatient programs are completed. The goal is to support patients during their early recovery as they work toward life goals. Preventing relapse is often a high priority.

To learn how you could benefit from the supportive environment provided by group therapy, contact us at Sunlight Recovery.