Therapy can come in a variety of different structures and can be applied with a number of different tools. One of the main structures is group therapy. Group therapy can be used in different ways in order to tackle issues and achieve different objectives.
Groups with a time limit will have a set amount of sessions and new members are not normally accepted into groups after a few sessions have already passed. These groups normally have a defined middle and end to the program set by the psychologist running the group. Groups without a time limit will normally run consistently open-ended for up to years at a time. In these groups members will come and leave as they progress in their own individual treatment.
Some group will have a general ‘broad-spectrum’ focus with goals set being on general satisfaction in life or general functioning in life ability. Members of general therapy groups may often have varied background and medical issues that bring them to the group. Other groups will be focused or ‘topical’ based on issues such as depression, trauma or groups helping those with specific disorders such as ADHD. Topical groups will often have members with a more similar background medically and relating to the focus of the group.
Group therapy itself can use a variety of tools within it which can be used to manage the different objectives of the group. The three main tools are:
- Interpersonal therapy: Interpersonal therapy consists of group members sharing amongst each other in the presence of a psychologist who may either set a topic or let the group members control the flow. Interpersonal therapy is useful for its ability for the members to help one another and relate to each other. This in turn has the benefit of removing any member’s feelings of being alone in the issues they are facing. It is often reassuring to know that one is not alone in the disease.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT consists of a group and a psychologist coordinating and running the group to a much larger extent. CBT involves the principle of identifying negative thought patterns that lead to negative feelings and actions. In identifying these members will aim to re-direct and change these negative thoughts to more positive, healthy ones.
- Psycho-education: Psycho-education varies entirely upon the focus of the group. In a general way psycho-education consists of a group being taught about the nature of the issue that brought them to the group, be it addiction or a mental disorder. The group also learns skills that are accepted to be useful to those suffering from the group topic.
Group therapy was first introduced as a cheap alternative to individual therapy for institutions with too many patients and too few psychologists or trained therapists. In time however it was found that many patients benefited from group therapy in addition to individual therapy.
Group therapy certainly has some advantages over individual therapy when it comes to family therapy with issues such as addiction. Family therapy done in groups with other families at treatment centers in common. Being in a group is an advantage to the families themselves as they can hear and relate to how other families are affected by similar diseases in a family member. The biggest advantage that comes from group therapy, rather than individual, is the realization of each member that they are not alone in their disease or disorder. Feelings of loneliness in a disease can lead to further unnecessary issues with depression and anxiety around it.