Starting therapy is a step towards personal growth, and there are two tools available to you: individual and group therapy. Individual therapy involves a one-on-one and customized approach to learning to live with grief, addiction, eating disorders, and other lived experiences. Group therapy offers community and interpersonal relationship skills and is a valuable asset to your personal growth.
In short, yes, you can benefit from each type of therapy. However, you may benefit from one more than the other. Here’s what you need to know about individual and group therapy.
Group Therapy Has a Different Focus Than Individual Therapy
Both individual and group therapies have benefits. Individual therapy provides complete confidentiality and a specialized approach to your needs, history, and goals. It’s also more approachable if you haven’t experienced therapy before, because you can focus on your treatment alone with your therapist.
While individual sessions provide specialization, group therapy provides community. Group therapy sessions are structured around common experiences, like eating disorders, grief, family difficulties, addiction, LGTBQIA matters, and more.
What Does the Therapist Do During Group Therapy?
The therapist leading your group therapy session will focus on guiding the group so everyone feels seen and understood. They also act as conduits for strong emotions. Because we all have blind spots when it comes to our behaviors, especially towards others, the therapist will also help you see what you can’t.
Your therapist will also hold painful emotions and experiences for you and the other members of the group so you can be among others with similar experiences.
How Long Do I Have to Go to Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a commitment just like individual therapy. You won’t gain the benefits without committing time to the process. Unlike individual therapy, though, there are others who are also processing difficult events and experiences. In order to provide a compassionate, stable place for each member to grow, it’s important to have a minimum of a three-month commitment to a group.
Some practices may vary, but we find that three months is where members truly begin to settle in, grow, and develop interpersonal relationships with others in the group. You can continue going to the group as long as you’re finding it beneficial and are following the rules of each session as established by the therapist facilitating the group.
How Do I Start Going to Group Therapy?
The best way to start going to group therapy is to ask your therapist if they host groups or have a referral for you. They know your experiences, challenges, and growth, so they can make the right recommendation for you.
If you aren’t currently going to individual therapy, we recommend establishing a relationship with a therapist for that before moving into group therapy. This gives you that one-on-one attention and customized treatment before you join a community of people in similar situations.
Individual and group therapy provide different benefits, and both can help you grow. While we believe that most individuals can benefit from group therapy, it’s not a one size fits all approach. We are an anti-racist, queer-friendly, fat-positive group practice and will work with you to determine your goals and how we can work together to reach them.
Jill Lewis, MA, LCSW, CEDS-S, CGP is a Health At Every Size (HAES)-focused psychotherapist who believes that everyone can have a healthy relationship with their body. She prioritizes an anti-diet approach and practices weight inclusivity in every individual and group therapy session, challenging the status quo that many women and men grow up believing.
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