FAQs Answers provided by the American Group Psychotherapy association with some modification for Australia

1) How does group work?

A group therapist appropriately selects people (usually 5 to 10) who would be helped by the group experience and who can be learning partners for one another. In meetings, people are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion. A professionally trained therapist, who provides productive examination of the issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group, guides the discussion.

Not every group is alike. There is a variety of styles that different groups use. For instance, some focus more on interpersonal development, much of the learning actually comes from the interaction between members. Others address thoughts and behaviours, where the emphasis is on learning how to control negative thoughts, address phobias or relive anxiety—inducing situations.


2) If someone is in a group, do they also need individual therapy?

It depends on the individual. Sometimes group therapy is used as the main or only treatment approach. Sometimes it’s used along with individual therapy. Often people find that working simultaneously in both group and individual therapy stimulates growth in mutually complementary ways. And clients may see two different therapists for individual and group therapies. In such cases, its generally considered important for the two therapists to communicate with each other periodically for the client’s benefit. Ask your therapist about the type of therapy that will best meet your needs.


3) How is group therapy different from support groups and self-help groups?

Group therapy focuses on interpersonal relations and help individuals learn how to get along better with other people under the guidance of aprofessional. Group psychotherapy provides a support network for specific problems or challenges. The psychotherapy group is different from support and self helpgroups in that it not only helps people cope with their problems, but also provides for change and growth.

Support groups, which are generally led by professionals, help people cope with difficult situation at various times but are usually geared toward alleviating symptoms. Self-help groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom or situation and are usually not led by a trained therapist.


4) Why is group therapy useful?

 When someone is thinking about joining a group, it is normal to have questions or concerns. What am I

going to get out of this? Will there be enough time to deal with my ownproblems in a group setting? What if I don’t like the people in my group?

Joining a group is useful because it provides opportunities to learn with and from other people, to understand one’s own patterns of thought and behaviour and those of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. We live and interact with people every day and often there are things that other people are experiencing, or grappling with that can be beneficial to share with others. In group therapy, you learn that perhaps you’re not as different as you think or that you’re not alone. You’ll meet and interact with people, and the whole group learns to work on shared problems—one of the most beneficial aspects. The more you involve yourself in the group. The more you get out of it.


5) What kinds of people should participate in group?

Group therapy can benefit many different people, from those having difficulties with interpersonal relationships to those dealing with specific problems such as depression, anxiety, serious medical illness, loss, addictive disorders or behavioural problems. With adolescents, for example, group therapy improves socialisation skills needed to help function in environments outside the home.


6) Will there be people with similar problems in my group?

The therapist's role is to evaluate each member's problems prior to forming the group. Usually there is a mix of members who can learn from each other. While some members will have similar circumstances, it’s not necessary for all to be dealing with exactly the same problem. In fact, people with different strengths and difficulties are often in the best position to help one another.


7) What kind of commitment do I need to make?

The time commitment depends on the type of group and the nature and extent of your problems. Short-term groups devoted to concrete issues can last anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks. Support therapy group (for example, those dealing with a medical illness such as cancer) may be more long-term. There are also more open-ended groups in which members work at their own pace and leave when their particular needs or goals have been met. It’s best to talk with your therapist to determine the length of time that’s right for you


8) What if I'm uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?

It’s not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most clients find that group therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk with others who are experiencing similar problems—in a private, confidential setting. Many people who have experienced group therapy believe that working together with other is helpful and they feel better by participating in this form of therapy.


9) What does group cost?

The cost varies depending on the type of therapist and perhaps even the geographic area of the country.  Typically, group therapy is about half the price of individual therapy.


10) Is it covered by insurance?

Group Therapy may be covered by Medicare under some circumstances. You should discuss this with prospective therapists.


11) What do I ask the group therapist?

When talking with therapists, here are four simple questions you make want to ask:

1—What is your background?

2—Given my specific situation, how do you think group would work for me?

3—What are your credentials as a group therapist?

4—Do you have special training that is relevant to my problem?


12) How is Privacy maintained?

Group Analysis usually involves people that are not known to each other and works best when this is the case. As such the Group Analyst will insist on privacy of group members being protected by all group members. Interaction between members outside of the session is not consistent with effective therapy and so the efficacy of the group is maintained by the analyst requesting all members respect the boundary of the group.


13) What if I need advice regarding treatment options?

If you are considering therapy , together you and your therapist can explore the nature of your problem. You will work to develop a better understanding of the problem and discuss what changes might makes the situation better. In addition to group therapy, there are several other options available, including:

· Talking with an individual therapist

· Participating in therapy as a couple or family

· Receiving medication

· A combination of the above treatments


Your therapist can help you understand the benefits of each of these treatment options and determine what’s right for you.


14) What is a Group Analyst / Group Analytic Psychotherapist?

Group psychotherapists are mental health professionals trained in one of several areas: psychiatry, psychology, socialwork, psychiatric nursing, marriage and family therapy, pastoral counselling, creative arts therapy or substance abuse counselling. In considering a therapist for group, make sure he or she is also qualified to lead group psychotherapy.

Group Analysts and Group Analytic Therapists work with the group at many levels but particularly are skilled in working with deeper unconscious processes that are not usually understandable with techniques that do not look at unconscious process.  Unconscious process involves thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are seemingly automatic, inexplicable and not consistent with how we would consciously want to be.

15) Who can benefit?

Like individual therapy, group can benefit almost anyone. Some of the issues typically addressed include:

· Difficulties with interpersonal relationships

· Problems facing children and adolescents ( such as impact from a divorce, peer issues, learning or behavioural problems)

· Ageing

· Medical illness

· Depression and anxiety

· Loss

· Trauma

· Lifestyle issues within a traditional culture

· Personality disorders

· Addictive disorders


16) The Group Therapy Session

The group therapy session is a collaborative effort in which the therapist assumes clinical responsibility for the group and its members. In a typical session, which lasts about 60-90  minutes, members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible. Such exploration gives the group the important information needed to understand and help one another. Members learn not only to understand themselves and their own issues but also become “therapeutic helpers” for other members.


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