Group Therapy

How Does Group Therapy Work?

Are Groups Important?

“It takes a village to raise a child”. There’s a good reason why that aphorism has endured: it’s true.

Our culture lionizes individual heroes but such a perspective almost always ignores the many people who play a role in the hero’s success. Group collective action is how humans really attain new goals and, for that matter, new heights.

Just remember, in your own life, how important different types of groups have been. All of us have been members of and shaped by groups. You may have participated in: your nuclear family, extended family, classrooms, schools, athletic teams, work groups, social cliques, scouts, bands, orchestras, dormitories, fraternities, sororities, military, etc.

You may have spent many of your best and most important and memorable hours in groups and learned and grew from these various experiences. Groups influence us all and without them we cannot develop and mature. Groups are like food to humans.

Now consider the potential impact of group therapy. Group therapy actually has a long, successful track record. Why? Simply put, because it works. In some cases, it is the best possible choice for anyone seeking support, guidance, recovery and healing. Group therapy is designed to impact you in a positive way.

The Dynamics of Group Therapy

Now imagine being in a room of relative strangers with a therapist – all of whom are sharing intimate personal details about their lives. Although this may be the most common reason why some people refuse to participate in group therapy, ironically it just may be the best reason to give it a try. Without trying new things and taking risks we do not grow psychologically.

In group therapy, all the members witness interpersonal dynamics as they happen in real time, live. These spontaneous and real-time discussions, disclosures and revelations speak volumes about the current issues in each group member’s life. Group therapy is an effective way to display the kind of interactions that each member lives out in their daily life with family, friends, co-workers, etc.

Each group session also presents an opportunity for each member to practice new behaviors on for size instead of behaving in automatic ways. Shifting creates changes.

Unlike individual therapy, the dynamics are not all about a one-on-one personal relationship or a particular therapeutic style. In a group setting, the members may become more self-aware by observe their own behaviors, thoughts and feelings. They also learn about others and how they compare.

Often, group members are more honest and open in their interactions. As you interact within the group, so much subtle information is being shared through body language, emotional triggers, tone of voice, choice of words, silence, withdrawal and other interactions. These are often quite different than what is displayed in an individual therapy session.

9 Reasons Why Process Groups Are Effective

In process groups, you interact with the other members and reveal things about yourself and listen to others talk about their life experiences.

Here are 9 ways in which process therapy groups can be helpful to you:

  1. You will realize that you are similar to other people and not so unique, wretched or inadequate.
  2. You will increase your hope in your future and in humanity.
  3. You will profit from giving to others and witnessing their healing.
  4. You will become less fearful of and sensitive to criticism from others.
  5. The greater number of perspectives and personalities in the room dramatically increases the likelihood you will receive helpful information and encounter insightful thoughts, ideas, suggestions or observations that have meaning for you.
  6. Your self-identity will change and improve as you receive feedback from others.
  7. In a group session, you may listen and hear differently and receive important feedback about your behavior and how you come across to others.
  8. The group becomes like a laboratory of sorts where you can learn and practice enhanced social and communication skills.
  9. The more courageous you are and the more risks you take in front of others, the more you will grow.

The Comfort of a Group

You may feel shame about the struggles that cause you to start counseling. Left to your own inner critical voice, you may perceive yourself as uniquely flawed and inadequate. You may believe that if anyone really knew what went on in your head you would be immediately rejected. Most of us don’t feel comfortable talking about our unspeakable thoughts and “weird” imaginations to our spouse, siblings or best friend. In a trusted group, you will talk about the unspeakable and free yourself from old fears.

Oddly, there are two types of comfort gained from within a therapy group. First comes the essential realization that others feel as isolated and defective as you do. They have problems but still seem like decent, likable, sane and functional human beings. It can be freeing and comforting to be part of a group seeking to help all of its members.

The second comfort encompasses the warmth of social support. Rather than retreat or isolate yourself due to your fear of stigma and rejection, you and the others in your group will risk coming forward by revealing shameful behaviors, emotions and thoughts – and being accepted.

But Still, Why Should I Join a Group?

You become a group member with an unrelenting dual purpose: 1) To be healed and 2) To help others be healed.

Therefore, members take their group experience seriously and they aren’t superficial and they don’t “mess around” during the sessions. They try to listen, be honest, reveal themselves and give helpful feedback to one another. There is nothing else in the world like this type of safe collective support and action.


You can read my other articles about “Group Therapy” here on this blog.

To learn more about my “Group Therapy” services, click on this link:

If you are interested in joining a therapy group, call me soon to schedule an initial consultation session – 805-448-5053.

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By Revel Miller, Ph.D.

Revel Miller, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who has been practicing psychology for over 25 years and living in Santa Barbara for more than 15 years. He specializes in treating adults who experience depression, marital conflict, divorce transition and parenting challenges. Dr. Miller is also a behavioral health psychologist who collaborates with medical professionals and treats chronically ill patients who suffer from stress due to their illness. In addition, he actively collaborates with divorce attorneys and mediators to help support their clients who struggle with the stresses associated with marital transition. Moreover, Revel Miller is an experienced business coach who assists professionals, executives and small business owners to develop and grow their businesses.