Group therapy refers to the application of psychotherapy in small groups. The social interaction within these groups is used to help individuals attain personal goals and confront issues. Emphasis is placed on creating an environment in which members feel comfortable about discussing personal problems. It can be used as complimentary or alternative therapy.
Group Therapy was pioneered by Joseph H Pratt, who used group meetings to treat tuberculosis patients in the US during the 1930s. The approach became more widely used in post-war America due to a shortage of mental health workers – so the T Group movement was set up to treat psychiatric casualties from WWII. In the 60s and 70s, the emergence of encounter groups focused more on the treatment of less-disturbed people in non-clinical settings. This approach most resembles the kind of group counselling we see today.
Group psychotherapy incorporates the use of Psychodynamic, Humanistic and Cognitive-Behavioural approaches in varying forms. The use of feedback in group-work is seen as essential in helping individuals to achieve a deeper understanding about themselves. Relationships between members and a healthy group environment is also an integral feature.
How can group therapy help?
This technique is very effective at helping individuals improve social and interpersonal skills, through sustained interaction within a group environment. This interaction is also useful at making members aware of maladaptive behaviour and addressing issues such as anxiety and depression. Addiction is also addressed, with a wide range of groups offering support for alcohol and substance abuse.