Medically Reviewed By: Morgan Blair, MA, LPCC, NCC
Therapy isn’t a one size fits all treatment for mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. Just as you can participate in different therapeutic methods and have the option of in-person or online professionals, you can also select from group therapy or individual sessions.
If you’ve been curious about how group therapy works and how it stacks up against one-on-one appointments, then we’ll do our best to demystify it and point you in the right direction.
The Major Differences Between Group Therapy and Individual Therapy
- You’ll receive more individual time and attention with one-on-one therapy than you will with group therapy.
- Group therapy is generally much less expensive than individual therapy because the therapist can see more than one patient at a time.
- Support versus mutual support – You can get support from people in the same situation as you in the group setting.
- Individual therapy is available on your schedule, whereas group therapy is a more rigid schedule that won’t change if your schedule changes.
Some of the most significant differences between group and individual therapy are obvious, like sharing your time with others in a group setting. You’ll also find that group therapy is more cost-effective as the therapist charges based on combined contributions.
But there are some other considerations like the shared feedback and support derived from a group environment. Some people find that participation beneficial, while others aren’t as welcoming to unsolicited opinions.
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Group Therapy – Pros, Cons, and Takeaways
The concept of group therapy can also include support groups. It’s a therapeutic model that involves bringing people struggling with similar problems or diagnoses together in a safe and supportive environment guided by a trained professional.
When you compare group therapy to individual therapy, you could consider one-on-one sessions as a way to develop plans. Group therapy can then provide a way to practice or implement those plans.
For example, someone with social anxiety may not want to jump right into a group situation. But, after some individual sessions with a supportive therapist, he or she might use the safe and empathetic structure of group therapy as a bridge to real-life situations.
The concept isn’t solely focused on practicing social skills, though, nor is it merely a matter of deciding whether or not you want to share your session with others. Group therapy is based on an entirely different treatment model. So, if you’re deciding if group therapy is for you, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons, as well as your ultimate objective.
Pros of Group Therapy
- Available online as well as in-person
- More cost-effective than traditional therapy
- Mutual support
Cons of Group Therapy
- Less time for individual focus
- Personality conflicts are possible
- Participants could be hesitant to take time and attention away from others
Who is Best Suited for Group Therapy?
Group therapy isn’t going to be for everyone. But it’s an ideal format for people who need social interaction or prefer diverse feedback.
While it’s supportive by nature, the concept of bringing together a larger group of people participating in therapy promotes honesty.
More diverse feedback
Participants may face a harsher reality through the opinions of others in the group. But in some cases, getting real is warranted. Finding out how you’re perceived by other people, aside from a therapist, can be an essential step in the healing process.
It takes a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of group therapy, though. You’re not the center of attention as you are in an individual session, and you might be someone who dominates the conversation or shy away from taking any time away from others.
So, if you’re intent on giving group therapy a go, be sure to find an organized meeting led by a top-notch therapist. You need someone to guide the discussion, so everyone participates and reaps the benefits.
Where Can I Find Group Therapy?
One of the cons of group therapy that we haven’t yet addressed is that it’s more challenging to locate a suitable group.
A limited number of in-person therapy groups
If you’re looking for a therapist, whether in-person or online, you’ve got a seemingly endless list of options. But even a simple Google search of therapy groups doesn’t necessarily yield quality results. In-person meetings aren’t easy to start. You need the right balance of participants committed to the process, and that’s not always achievable.
To find an in-person group that’s a good fit, you’ll probably need to check out quite a few of those search results. You could also ask your physician for referrals, turn to a church, your insurance company, or family and friends for referrals.
Greater access to online therapy groups
Online group therapy is more readily accessible, as it doesn’t have geographic limitations. You’ll find that web-based group therapy doesn’t always include live group sessions, but you might benefit from support through chat rooms or direct messaging. In any case, you can narrow your search and still end up with long lists of therapy groups.
A quality online therapy provider can be an excellent source for groups. Take BetterHelp, for instance. Its membership includes one-on-one therapy and text messaging and access to more than 20 group sessions every week.
Individual Therapy – Pros, Cons, and Takeaways
Individual therapy is best defined as one-on-one sessions between you and a therapist. It involves a dedicated treatment plan focused on moving you from a problem to a solution, even if it’s a broad range behavioral issue.
Appointments for individual therapy are held in person or online, and teletherapy often includes additional client-patient communication as needed via text messaging.
Pros of Individual Therapy
- Sessions focused entirely on the client
- More scheduling options
- Plenty of online or in-person access
Cons of Individual Therapy
- Feedback comes from a single therapist
- No mutual support benefit
- More expensive than group therapy
Who is Individual Therapy Best For?
Anyone can benefit from individual therapy, from those with severe mental health concerns to people who could use a shoulder to lean on from time to time.
But when you compare group therapy to individual therapy, the most significant distinction is the time and attention. Whether you participate in treatment online or in-person, your session is yours. Every minute is devoted to your situation. That’s not the case in group therapy, as there could be meetings where you don’t even get to share what you’re struggling with at the moment.
So, if you’re looking to work some things out quickly or feel the need for undivided attention from a trained therapist, the group environment could contribute to your stress level.
Individual online therapy is also ideal for clients who desire frequent communication. Group sessions can be weekly or a few times a month. But one-to-one therapy could include text messaging or online chats several times a week, as well as confirmed appointments.
Where Can I Find Individual Therapy?
Individual therapy is readily available both online and in-person. It’s not a matter of locating the right professional. Instead, it’s securing the best one for your particular situation.
Like group therapy, though, you’ll find that it’s easier to find counselors and therapists online. Prominent therapy sites bring together teams of experts in various therapeutic genres. Because you’re not limited to professionals in your hometown, it’s easier to find someone who’s an ideal fit and get an appointment as quickly as possible.
While you sometimes have to wait weeks to see a new in-person therapist, you can typically start your sessions within a few days, if not the same day with online therapy.