What is group therapy?

Group therapy helps people work through problems by interacting with a therapist and a group of individuals with similar struggles. In a safe, confidential setting, each group member can share personal experiences, feelings and issues and receive feedback and support from the rest of the group.

The therapist leading the session may draw from a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic and humanistic. In addition to talk therapy, group therapy can involve:

  • Educational lectures or workshops
  • Support groups or skills training groups
  • Expressive therapies such as art, drama, poetry and dance
  • Integrative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture
  • Social, cultural and educational group outings/activities

In general, group therapy sessions last one to three hours and are limited to six to 12 members and one or two therapists. They may occur just once a week, or multiple times per week in residential treatment settings. Depending on the needs of the individual, group sessions may be co-ed or gender-specific.


Research clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of group therapy to treat a variety of conditions. Some of the benefits of group therapy include:

  • A safe, supportive setting to discuss difficult emotions and experiences
  • Less isolation and loneliness when surrounded by others with similar struggles
  • Interactions with others quickly brings issues to the surface, allowing them to be resolved under the guidance of a therapist
  • Improves self-awareness and motivation to change
  • Feedback from peers can be highly influential
  • Improves interpersonal and communication skills
  • Builds trust and self-esteem
  • Ideal setting to practice new skills and behaviors

To gain the maximum benefit of group therapy, individuals must be willing to participate. The more open and honest an individual can be, the more they can get out of the experience. Group therapy is often most effective in conjunction with individual therapy.


Group therapy is used to treat a wide range of disorders, including:

  • Relationship problems
  • Communication and social skill deficits
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief/loss
  • Emotional trauma
  • Low self-esteem

The group format is also extremely beneficial for struggling teens who are often more influenced by the opinions and experiences of their peers than a therapist, parent or other adult.