What is Group Therapy?

You’ve heard about it in television shows and in movies. But what really is group therapy? Is it the same as a support group? Should you provide group therapy for your clients? Learn about what exactly group therapy is, the difference between group therapy and support groups, and why you may want to consider providing group therapy for your clients.

What is Group Therapy? 

Group therapy is a style of therapy in which a therapist works with a small to medium size group of clients at once. These groups are usually about 6 to 8 people. Each client in the group has a common underlying goal or condition that they are addressing with the therapist. Commonly, these groups are conceptualized as being used to work through emotional and psychological problems. The goal of these is to help normalize and decrease the feelings of isolation people may be feeling with certain conditions. However, group therapy can be used for cognitive rehabilitation. In group therapy, clients can share what struggles and frustrations they are experiencing. This type of dialog allows for other group members to share strategies they use to resolve their own struggles.  While this discussion is going on the therapist can help guide a discussion and activity focused around the common struggle of the group. Group therapy sessions typically last about an hour, but some may run shorter or longer depending on the focus of the group.

What About Support Groups? Are Group Therapy and Support Groups the Same?

No. They share many overlapping qualities such as members sharing a common problem and members sharing strategies to overcome a shared obstacle, but they are very different. 


Group therapy focuses on not only helping each member gain a support network, but learn from the group to facilitate change individually. Group therapy is much more structured, with a goal looking to be achieved at the end of the session and long-term. Licensed therapists are the only ones able to lead group therapy sessions, meaning that formal training is needed to be able to provide group therapy. 


Support groups on the other hand, are designed to help members have a support network and learn that they are not alone in their communities. Attendance is not as mandatory as it would be for group therapy, so members can come and go as they please. Clinical training is not necessary to lead a support group, meaning that anyone can lead a support group of some kind. However, depending on a person’s situation, they may want to ensure that they are working with a licensed therapist as some support groups are focused on serious clinical issues (i.e. addiction, severe mental illness, eating disorders, etc). 

Why Should I Provide Group Therapy?

Cognitive health impacts how we interact with the world around us. People with cognitive impairments often work individually with a therapist to receive cognitive rehabilitation. While cognitive rehabilitation therapy can be provided individually, group therapy sessions bring in the social cognition aspect. Not only can group therapy sessions help people with cognitive impairments learn that they are not alone, but also practice applying cognitive skills to social situations. Building better social cognitive skills are often the goals of many clients struggling with cognition impairments. Your client can continue to see you individually, but you may want to mix in some group therapy sessions so they can reap other benefits, such as social skills, that are not available during one-on-one sessions. 


Group therapy is a therapy approach where a clinical provider works with a small to medium size group of clients working through a common problem. Group therapy provides members with support, but focuses on helping members create change and derive solutions to their own problems that they can apply to their everyday lives. Unlike support groups, group therapy is highly structured and must be run by a licensed clinical professional. Some people may seek a support group if they are looking for social support, but many people who are looking to solve problems and create change alongside others will seek group therapy to do so. Group therapy offers members a chance to learn that they are not alone in their communities having the difficulties they experience, allows members to apply practiced cognitive skills in a social setting, and can help members model problems from other perspectives. Clinical providers may want to provide group therapy services so that clients can reap the benefits of group work which is not available during one-on-one sessions.

Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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