The Optimal Group Therapy Setting


Group therapy is a primary component of addiction and mental health treatment. The American Psychological Association reports that group therapy works well in treating panic or bipolar disorders, OCD, social phobias and substance abuse disorders.1

The setting for group therapy plays a large part in individuals staying with—or dropping out of—the group. Several key components make an optimal setting for group therapy.

Small Groups and Participation

An optimal therapy group size is about six to fifteen participants, with one or two therapists. The smaller and more intimate the group, the easier it is to notice when someone is missing. If the group is larger, it is much easier for an absence to go unnoticed. Members of a smaller group miss each other when someone is absent. This recognition is motivation to attend.

Also, it’s important for attendees to go to every meeting, arrive on time and stay for the entire length of the meeting. The group process is disrupted when there is irregular attendance, or when participants are coming late or leaving early.

Confidentiality Guidelines

Guidelines are explained to group members.2 One of the primary expectations is how members treat each other’s information. Participants are advised not to reveal any personal or identifying information about other group members outside of meetings.

Following confidentiality rules helps encourage participation without fear of deep emotions and private stories leaking out. Complex issues can then be worked on within a trusted setting.

Spontaneity Encouraged

The Optimal Group Therapy Setting

Group members are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and truthful manner. The therapist guides participants to closely look at issues or concerns that are addressed. This process cultivates interaction between members and helps members to improve their own interpersonal relationships.3

Group Therapy Benefits

When an optimally sized group honors confidentiality and talks spontaneously and honestly in an emotionally safe atmosphere, the benefits for each member include:3

  • Many opportunities to learn with and from other people and their experiences
  • More understanding of your own patterns of thought and behavior and those of others
  • Greater perception of how people in a group react to one another
  • Learning you’re not as different as you may have thought
  • Learning that you’re not alone
  • The whole group learns to work on shared problems

More Group Therapy Benefits

We interact with groups for most of our daily lives through family, work, school and social events. It makes sense to work through addiction and mental health issues also within a group.

Therapy in a group can help someone gain a new “family.” Group members help each other learn and grow in ways that others might not have been capable of.

Also, many people struggle with intimacy, conflict or both. A group is a good way to better understand how to relate to others.

Keep in mind, maximizing benefits is up to you. The more involved you are with your group, the more you’ll get out of it.



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