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Group therapy

If you think about it, each of us has been raised in group environments: our families, schools, organized activities and work. These are the environments in which we grow and develop as human beings. Group psychotherapy is no different. It provides a place where you come together with others to share problems or concerns, to better understand your own situation, and to learn from and with each other.

Group therapy helps people learn about themselves and improve their interpersonal relationships. It helps people make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives.

Group therapy works. Studies comparing group psychotherapy to individual therapy have shown group therapy to be as effective and sometimes even more effective. It has been widely used and has been a standard treatment option for over 50 years.

Group psychotherapists are mental health professionalstrained in one of several areas: psychiatry, psychology, social work, psychiatric nursing, marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling, creative arts therapy or substance abuse counseling. In considering a therapist, make sure he or she is also qualified to lead group psychotherapy. The National Registry of Certified Group Psychotherapists certifies group therapists by the designation “CGP,” which means the therapist has received specialized training in group therapy. Clinical Members of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) also have received specialized training.

How does group therapy work?
The group therapy session is a collaborative effort in which a professionally trained therapist guides the discussion of the group. In a typical session, which lasts about 75-90 minutes, members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible.

Joining a group is useful because it provides opportunities to understand one’s own patterns of thought and behavior and those of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. 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.

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. 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. Your therapist can help determine the length of time that’s right for you.

What does group therapy cost?
The cost varies, but typically, group therapy is about half the price of individual therapy. Insurance coverage is similar for both group and individual therapy.

How do I find a good group therapist?
When talking with therapists, here are four simple questions you may want to ask.

  • What is your background?
  • Given my specific situation, how do you think a group would work for me?
  • What are your credentials as a group therapist?
  • Do you have special training that is relevant to my problem?

The American Group Psychotherapy Association has thousands of members and maintains the highest professional standards in the field. The AGPA can help you find a Certified Group Psychotherapist

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