What Types of Group Therapy Are Offered?

Most people believe that individual therapy is the default therapy in today’s society. However, for many years and for many different people, group therapy may be a more appropriate and effective option.

Basic Background on Group Therapy

In the USA, different types of psychotherapy, counseling or treatment groups have evolved since the 1940’s. Groups are offered in institutions, hospitals, clinics and residential treatment centers. Therapy groups are conducted in out-patient and in-patient facilities, large and small. Some private mental health practitioners and clinics offer groups on an out-patient basis.

Most “therapy” groups are led by a mental health professional. The group therapy meetings vary in length of time. Some are more “social” and some are more “structured” than others. A number of groups may be “open” to new members while others are “closed” and do not allow new members to join after the group has commenced.

Therapy groups can be divided into categories by gender, age, specific problems and formats. Because of these different categories, the variety of group therapy can be quite diverse.

Three Common Types of Group Therapy

Basically, groups can be divided into three different types:

  1. Self-Help Groups

Perhaps the most common and well-known group option is a “self-help” group.

Characteristics of self-help groups:

  • Facilitated by volunteer non-professional leaders
  • Made-up of members addressing the same condition and common goals
  • Provide direction, hope and social support
  • Offer structure & guidance
  • Encourage participants to support one another outside the meetings
  • Meeting size, large and small
  • Attendees may vary from meeting to meeting
  • Attendance is voluntary on an “as desired” basis
  • Free to the public but accept donations to cover expenses

The classic example of a self-help group is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Due to its success in helping members overcome alcohol addiction, Alcohol Anonymous has modified it’s 12-step program and multiplied its specialization into other types of addiction groups, such as: Narcotics, Gambling, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Co-Dependents, Pornography, Food, and Sex addictions.

Some hospitals and non-profit associations also offer free self-help groups for patients with particular health problems such as cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, COPD, etc. Plus, they may also provide support groups for caretakers and family members of medical patients.

  1. Psycho-educational Groups

As the name implies, “psycho-educational” groups focus primarily on educating members for psychological self-healing. They encourage participants to apply new knowledge to combat their psychological issues. Through education and personal effort, these groups are therapeutic as the participants learn new skills, begin to recover.

Participants cultivate:

  • Healthier behaviors, habits and relationships
  • New ideas and perspectives
  • Better control of their thoughts and emotions
  • Helpful coping skills
  • Improved self-identity
  • Recognition of stressors and triggers

Examples of psycho-educational groups include addressing topics such as divorce recovery, grief, women and men’s issues, sexuality, illness, parenting, etc.

Characteristics of psycho-educational groups:

  • One or two leaders present educational information, recommend reading materials, facilitate group exercises and discussions, and encourage participants to apply what they learn
  • Participants seek help with a focused issue or concern
  • Participants discuss topics and apply suggested methods to their own lives
  • Number of participants can vary from small to large size, 6 to 50 attendees
  • Time-limited or short-term sequence of sessions, meeting for 6 to 12 sessions
  • Length of each meeting varies from 45 to 120 minutes
  • Closed admission to new participants once group starts
  • Participants and or health insurance pay a set fee to join the group
  1. Process Therapy Groups

In process groups, client or patient members identify and address their own difficulties. In other words, they “process” their issues among themselves. They work on emotional, behavioral, thinking and/or interpersonal issues. Members discuss their problems and concerns in a safe and confidential meeting with the leader and other members.

Process groups are usually ongoing and “open” as the leader will admit new members to replace participates who leave the group. Members provide support, feedback and perspective to one another. The professional mental health therapist leader maintains the group structure and safety and the direction of the discussion. At times, the group leader makes interpretations and asks questions to draw out members.

Characteristics of process groups:

  • One or two trained mental health professionals who lead the meetings
  • Leaders help members identify and work on personal goals
  • Leaders provide structure, safety, support, encouragement, interpretation and role-modeling
  • Longer-term commitment expected from members, months to years
  • Members set personal goals to address and achieve
  • Members interact among one another in open discuss about personal goals
  • Membership size varies from 4 to 10 clients/patients
  • No predetermined end date of the group meetings
  • Length of group meetings is 45 to 120 minutes
  • Open to replacement of departing members
  • Individual and/or health insurance pays for the sessions

My Therapy Groups

I often lead 1 or 2 ongoing process therapy groups and I sometimes offer a psycho-educational group.


You can read my other blog articles about “Group Therapy” by clicking this link:  http://www.drrevelmiller.com/category/group-therapy/

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



If you are interested in joining a therapy group or gathering more information about my groups, please give me a call today at 805-448-5053.

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