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Individual or Group Therapy?

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 12 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Therapy Individual Group Sessions One To

Group therapy and individual therapy do not have to be mutually exclusive as people can participate in both types for the same issue. Many people find that certain types of issues or periods in their lives are better suited to group or individual therapy and some people are more comfortable with one or the other.

Most people that undertake some sort of therapy start with a referral from their GP to individual therapy and, after a number of sessions, they may be recommended to join a group therapy session, either as well as or instead of their individual therapy.

Individual Therapy

Starting one to one therapy can be very daunting. It is well known that accepting you have a problem is the most important step in dealing with it, so it makes sense that the first therapy session can be stressful and even traumatic. Psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists are trained to deal with the stress of the first session and patients can feel a mixture of emotions after attending their first session, ranging from elation to embarrassment and everything in between.

Individual therapy is well suited to dealing with mental health issues, personal development issues and all types of self-harming. It is perhaps best to be considered as the ideal starting place for the majority of emotional issues because the therapist will be able to signpost the patient to the most appropriate course of treatment.

There is no set period of time that patients can attend therapy, although some of the more ‘quantifiable’ types of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, have courses of a certain length for non-mental health related issues.

It is worth noting that a patient does not need to see their own GP for a referral for therapy if they are uncomfortable, for example if the doctor is a family friend, and another GP may be requested when making the initial appointment.

Group Therapy

Many people find that group therapy is a great way to gain a wider perspective on their issue. Although joining a group can be daunting at first, there are usually ground rules and confidentiality agreements that everyone must accept and adhere to, such as not sharing information about individuals to people outside the group, not speaking or acting aggressively and agreeing to complete the course.

Group therapy usually starts with each member of the group, which tends to be about six to 12 people, introducing themselves. They may each give a short speech about their experiences and why they are there, what they hope to gain from the session etc. The sessions will usually be held in community centres or rooms connected to hospitals or health centres.

The leader, usually a trained group psychotherapist, will be experienced in group dynamics and will be able to ensure that the groups learns more about themselves through other people’s reactions to their story, actions and behaviour. This is a key reason why group therapy is successful, because it is a ‘safe’ way for people to test others' reactions and gain comfort from other similar experiences. The types of issue that are best suited to group therapy include addictions, abuse, self-harming and eating disorders, as people find sharing experiences helpful.

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