The group format is an intervention option for many individuals struggling with a particular condition. All groups, though, are not alike. Two main categories for groups are treatment groups and support groups. Treatment groups are typically led by trained professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, while support groups are not always led by professionals, but rather by peers that volunteer for a leadership role. Support groups generally provide a scheduled time and place in which to share information with peers with a similar issue or condition and talk about recent struggles or successes. Treatment groups are generally more structured and involve a variety of therapeutic techniques. These techniques may include psycho-education (learning information about a particular condition from a trained professional), skills development (learning and practicing new skills to address an issue or condition), and cognitive-behavioral techniques (altering faulty thinking patterns and behaviors).
There are a number of advantages of the group therapy format. Peer support is a main benefit of the group therapy format as fellow group members may encourage each other to attend and to actively participate in groups. Support from peers may be a welcome relief and a unique benefit above and beyond support from family members or loved ones. Group participants may identify with others who are diagnosed with a similar condition. In turn, people in group therapy also may feel less alone in their battle with an issue or condition. Group members also learn from each other and from the professionals who lead groups by way of honest feedback and specialized information. There is also the opportunity in group therapy to learn from peers at different stages in treatment for a particular condition, which can instill hope. Group therapy also provides a more economical option for treatment. The group therapy format also serves as an opportunity to mingle with peers and to practice new social skills in a safe environment.
A key component to group therapy is confidentiality, or maintaining information shared by fellow group members private. Without this commitment, many group members may not feel comfortable sharing their personal experiences. Although there are no guarantees fellow group members will maintain information private, typically group leaders remind members at the beginning of a group of this important trust-building backbone of this format.