What is a Group Therapy Session?

The group therapy session is a collaborative effort in which the therapist assumes clinical responsibility for the group and its members. The groups I run last 90 minutes. Members work to express their own problems, feelings, ideas and reactions as freely and honestly as possible. Such exploration gives the group the important information needed to understand and help one another. Members learn not only to understand themselves and their own issues but also become "therapeutic helpers" for other members.

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How does group work?

My groups are limited to 10 members. I work to appropriately select members who would be helped by the group experience and who can be learning partners for one another. In my groups, members are encouraged to talk with each other in a spontaneous and honest fashion. As a professionally trained therapist, I provide an opportunity to explore issues or concerns affecting the individuals and the group.

Not every group is alike. There are a variety of styles that different groups use. My groups tend to focus more on interpersonal development, where much of the learning comes from the interaction between members. There are groups that address a single topic such as phobias or relieve anxiety-inducing situations. My groups can also help to work to address phobias and anxiety but would not be the sole focus of the group.

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If someone is in a group, do they also need individual therapy?

I find that most often group members benefit more fully from working simultaneously in both group and individual therapy as it stimulates growth in mutually complementary ways. In my groups I prefer to work with the individual at least monthly unless they are working with another therapist and working with me in the group. Occasionally group therapy is used as the main or only treatment approach. More often it is used as an adjunct to individual therapy.

I work with clients in group that may see a different therapist for individual work. In such cases, it's generally considered important for the two therapists to communicate with each other periodically for the client's benefit. Ask your therapist about the type of therapy that will best meet your needs. I also offer, if needed, a reduced fee office consultation.

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How is group therapy different from support groups and self-help groups?

Group therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships and helps individuals learn how to get along better with other people under the guidance of a professional. Group psychotherapy can also, at times, provide a support network for specific problems or challenges. The psychotherapy group is different from support and self-help groups in that it not only helps people cope with their problems, but also provides for change and growth. Support groups, which are generally led by professionals, help people cope with difficult situations at various times but are usually geared toward alleviating symptoms. Self-help groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom or situation and are usually not led by a trained therapist.

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Why is group therapy useful?

When someone is thinking about joining a group, it is normal to have questions or concerns. What am I going to get out of this? Will there be enough time to deal with my own problems in a group setting? What if I don't like the people in my group?

Joining a group is useful because it provides opportunities to learn with and from other people, to understand one's own patterns of thought and behavior and those of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. We live and interact with people every day and often there are things that other people are experiencing or grappling with that can be beneficial to share with others. In group therapy, you learn that perhaps you're not as different as you think or that you're not alone. You'll meet and interact with people, and the whole group learns to work on shared problems -- one of the most beneficial aspects. The more you involve yourself in the group, the more you get out of it.

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What kinds of people should participate in group therapy?

Group therapy can benefit many different people, from those having difficulties with interpersonal relationships to those dealing with specific problems such as depression, anxiety, serious medical illness, loss, addictive disorders or behavioral problems.

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Will there be people with similar problems in my group?

My role of the therapist is to collaboratively explore with each prospective member how group works and what challenges they may be seeking to work on in a group. This happens prior to the forming of the group and when new group members are added. Usually there is a mix of members who can learn from each other. While some members will have similar circumstances, it's not necessary for all to be dealing with exactly the same problem. In fact, people with different strengths and difficulties are often in the best position to help one another.

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What kind of commitment do I need to make?

I begin my groups with a 16 week commitment. Then, as a group, we explore if the group wants to continue. All members agree to attend and pay for all of the groups. If a group is missed the member is to let the group know ahead of time and call me. Payment for all group sessions is required as my groups do require a commitment and are not 'drop-in' groups.

Each member of the group agrees to take their share of the talking time and to assist other members of the group to take their equal time as well.

An agreement to abide by a contract to honor the confidentiality of all members is important. I screen for this element of the prospective group member. Group members need to feel secure that in sharing whatever they may say in the group that there is a group understanding and agreement that the information will be honored and remain confidential.

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What if I'm uncomfortable discussing my problems in front of others?

It's not unusual to feel uneasy or embarrassed when first joining a group, but soon you begin to develop feelings of interest and trust. Most clients find that group therapy provides a great deal of relief because it allows them a chance to talk with others who are experiencing similar problems -- in a private, confidential setting. Many people who have experienced group therapy believe that working together with others is helpful and they feel better by participating in this form of therapy.

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What does group cost?

My group rate is $60 per 90-minute group.

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Is the cost covered by insurance?

My licensure is approved for 'out of network' benefits. As individual is more costly than group and often insurance has a limited number of sessions allowed per calendar year, most members pay out of pocket for group and use their insurance benefits for individual or couples therapy.

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