Support Groups Versus Group Therapy—Which is Right for You?
When you begin considering options to improve your mental and emotional well-being, there are many options available, meaning there is something for everyone. Although it can feel overwhelming as you embark on your journey, we're here to help. This blog will give you insight into the differences and similarities between support groups versus group therapy so you can decide which is right for you. Both support groups and group therapy offer help to those seeking support. However, the goal of group therapy is to help members heal, while the purpose of support groups is to help members cope with their situations.
What is a Support Group?
Support groups are a space that allows people to come together to work through similar experiences such as grieving a loved one, substance abuse, depression, and so on. The goal of a support group is to provide a safe space for people going through similar experiences to learn to cope. A support group can be a comforting environment where everyone shares similar struggles, making them feel less isolated. These groups meet regularly, typically once weekly, and have an ongoing schedule. Still, there's no requirement to attend, meaning attendees can vary from meeting to meeting. They are usually facilitated by a mental health professional. Support groups will generally focus on a particular theme in each session, and the group leader will often ask questions about that week's theme. There can also be time to share individual experiences and engage with other group members safely and respectfully. Support groups can be ongoing and flexible with the times members may join. They can also be a very affordable option, either low cost or even free to attend.
What is Group Therapy?
Group therapy is a form of mental health treatment where a group of people meets to work through and heal from mental health issues with the help and supervision of a licensed therapist. Sessions often have a fixed timeframe, for example, meeting once a week for 6-8 weeks. The therapist leading the sessions will offer guided programs as the group works through the issues together. Group discussions can be structured and focused on learning and practicing new skills or be more free-flowing and process-oriented. Groups may be time-limited, with a certain number of pre-planned sessions, or they can be ongoing. Interactions between group members are part of the treatment, with multiple sources of feedback providing the chance to learn to connect with others in new ways and change how one deals with challenges. Membership can be open, where someone might join at any time, or it might be closed, where members can only join at particular times. The cost is often more affordable than individual therapy.
What Are The Benefits?
Both Support groups and Group therapy can have various benefits for individuals who choose to participate. There are similarities between the two, but each has its specific advantages.
- Support groups are highly effective at giving people going through similar situations a support network. Support groups can help people feel less alone in their experiences while providing practical advice that might help them manage their situations. Participants don't have to talk, and often listening may be enough to benefit participants.
- Group therapy, on the other hand, can be a very effective treatment for a wide variety of issues that need a clinician's expertise. By providing a safe space to improve social skills, increase self-awareness, promote learning and self-esteem, and improve social connections. In therapy, whether group or individual, you have to talk to your therapist and likely will have homework involved as well.
Often it can be beneficial for individuals to attend a support group and group therapy together, depending on their situation. If you're still unsure which is right for you, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 1:1 consultation to get connected and learn more.