Our mental health is an essential component of our life. Our psychological, emotional, and social well-being all contribute to our mental health. It influences how we think, feel, and behave. It also affects how we respond to stress, interact with people, and make important life decisions.
Mental health disorders are among the most common health problems in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives.
Mental health treatment can include many forms of therapy that help individuals work through their symptoms and learn to manage them properly. Popular therapy approaches for mental illnesses include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy, among others. For decades, group therapy activities have been an essential component of evidence-based mental health treatment. This approach can be a rewarding experience for many.
What Is Mental Health Group Therapy?
As the name implies, group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people manage mental health conditions or cope with negative experiences and behaviors in a group setting. It’s a technique used by mental health professionals to connect people who have had similar experiences and build a support system around them. As a result, people suffering from anxiety or depression can connect with others in the group, practice important social skills, and learn healthy coping methods from one another.
Discussing emotional responses is crucial in all contexts because they reveal how individuals process information and the environment around them. This approach permits not just one patient to grow but also the entire group to grow through observations. Some of the goals of group therapy include:
- Promote personal development
- Provide support to team members
- Form social skills
- Foster mutual understanding
- Develop self-awareness
- Strengthen accountability
- Gain an understanding of behavior and the factors that influence it
Although group therapy is often based on dialogue, it can also go beyond just sitting in a room and talking. Adults with mental illness can participate in group therapy activities such as hiking, cooking, dancing, and creating art. As an icebreaker in the early stages of group therapy, these kinds of fun activities can aid in the development of collective identity and social skills.
What Group Therapy Can Help With
Group therapy generally focuses on a specific mental health condition, such as social anxiety or depression. Other conditions that groups may focus on include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Depressive disorder
- Personality disorder
- Mood disorders
Some mental health conditions may necessitate pharmacological therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy for a holistic treatment approach.
Are You a Candidate for Group Therapy?
Every patient does not qualify for admission to every group. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that psychologists conduct a thorough screening and preparation interview with each potential member before the group begins. It is critical to use tools such as the 19-item Group Readiness Questionnaire (GRQ) to detect risk factors for potential dropout or poor outcomes. This assessment can inform therapists’ clinical judgment, determining whether they need to spend more time preparing members or redirect them to an alternative treatment with a better chance of success.
How Do Group Therapy Activities for Adults Work?
Adults with mental health concerns can benefit from various group therapies that center on peer support. As a result, they can open up about their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors without fear of being judged.
There are four key stages of group therapy:
- Forming – Getting to meet the other members of the group.
- Storming – Creating a secure and respectful environment where different viewpoints and potential conflicts are explored.
- Norming – Assisting group members to understand themselves and one another deeply.
- Performing – Achieving objectives and developing into a self-aware and successful group.
Group dynamics and other factors influence how long it takes to achieve these levels. Instead of rushing through these stages, the idea is to let them develop naturally in a constructive way.
Principles of Group Therapy Activities
People in group therapy often open up about personal parts of their lives. Hence, all group therapy is based on three fundamental principles:
- Confidentiality – Any information discussed between the therapist and group will be kept confidential. Members are not allowed to disclose what was said in therapy without permission from the others. However, patients are encouraged to talk to whoever they want about their own experiences and how they feel about therapy. Confidentiality is waived if a patient is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others.
- Safety – The therapist must foster an environment devoid of prejudice, harassment, and abuse. Patients must feel safe to discuss their experiences without fear of being misunderstood or judged.
- Participation – Everyone has a role to play in this form of treatment. To benefit from this group experience, patients must develop the skills of active participation and attentive listening.
Types of Group Therapy
Depending on the type of group, the general tone and direction of the group therapy session will differ. There are numerous groups with various areas of focus, but they generally fall into one of two categories:
1) Psychoeducational – These groups are designed to give members the information they need to cope with whatever brought them to the group; they are typically structured with specific topics or modules. The focus of psychoeducational groups is less on creating relationships between members and more on delivering education through information sharing and the development of healthy coping skills.
2) Process-Oriented – These groups are more concerned with sharing experiences and making connections; discussion among members takes priority over a set schedule. This form of therapy helps participants learn how their behavior patterns affect their life. In addition, the group will also discuss topics such as identifying triggers and establishing healthy boundaries, what the healing process entails and setting realistic goals for a healthy lifestyle.
Types of Therapy Groups Categorized by Structure
Groups can be further broken down by their structure and the discussion topics themselves. Some of the most common groups include:
- Self-help groups – A self-help group is led by a person who has firsthand knowledge of a specific life situation or health issue. This could be based on their own experiences as a parent, family member, friend, or caregiver. Many people find it beneficial to talk to someone who understands their situation because they have been there before.
- Skills development groups – This group helps generate a supportive network by sharing personal experiences. The group uses a solution-focused approach to promote positive change through mindfulness, art therapy, and meditation. It seeks to help people understand their triggers and develop healthy coping skills to navigate their world.
- Support groups – A group that meets regularly to discuss effective ways to manage mental health symptoms, promote effective social support, and create healthy relationships. Members of the group are also encouraged to reflect on their personal beliefs and behaviors.
- Interpersonal process groups – This group focuses more on interpersonal group dynamics than individual psychology. Members will engage in psycho-dramatic techniques, meditation, and movement exercises in a non-judgmental group setting.
The number of participants in each group therapy session varies depending on the type of group. However, it can range from three to twelve or more (although more than twelve participants may not be as effective).
Group Therapy Activities
A mental health professional can use a variety of group therapy activities to encourage growth and healing. The following are some of the most popular activities for adults:
- Affirmations – Affirmations are a popular group therapy activity with many variations. In one version, the therapist hands each person a piece of paper. Patients write their names on the paper, which is then passed around so each group member can write affirmations for that person. This activity can lead to a therapeutic conversation about how others see them and how they see themselves.
- Dealing with triggers – Dealing with triggers is a common activity for groups dealing with addiction. The facilitator will ask the group to identify and discuss common triggers for their specific addictive behavior in this activity. Group members and the therapist can then suggest various coping strategies for staying sober when triggered.
- Discussing negative and positive beliefs – is a common therapeutic activity for depression and anxiety. An example of such activity includes writing down three negative beliefs you have on a piece of paper. Then, in response to those comments, write three positive comments. You then discuss your negative beliefs and coping strategies with the group.
- Goal visualization – Goal visualization is essentially mental imagery of the participant’s desired positive future, whether related to the goal achievement itself or simply the process of working toward it.
Mental health group therapy activities are frequently designed to be engaging, challenging, and enjoyable so group members can take pleasure in their healing journey.
Is Group Therapy Alone Enough?
Group therapy is frequently recommended as a supplement to individual therapy. Many people find that participating in both group therapy and individual psychotherapy is beneficial to their wellness journey as it can increase their chances of making valuable, long-term improvements. Group therapy sessions are led by professionals with specialized training to teach effective strategies for dealing with specific problems. For example, if you’re involved in an anger-management group, your psychologist will describe scientifically proven methods for controlling anger. That expert guidance can help you make the most of your group therapy experience.
While psychological treatments such as group therapy can be beneficial for people struggling with mental health conditions, medications are sometimes required when symptoms significantly interfere with the person’s daily life. An example would be people battling substance abuse and mental illness (co-occurring disorder). A holistic treatment approach to behavioral health care is required for such individuals.
The Benefits of Group Therapy for Mental Illness
In addition to the specific treatment objectives of each group, there are other advantages to group therapy. Participants are taught a wide range of vital life skills, including stress management and coping skills. Because so many people lack an open, safe environment to communicate intimate details of their lives, group therapy can be a lifesaver for many. In group therapy, they are provided a secure place to examine their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without fear of judgment.
It also allows them to hear from various people who may be going through similar situations but have different perspectives. These experiences can help people find support and develop new ways of living and growing. Finally, group therapy allows people to understand their behaviors and eventually heal old wounds that have been holding them back from living a fulfilling life.
Futures Recovery Healthcare’s Mental Health Program offers a secure, comfortable, and clinically intensive setting that promotes learning, skill development, wellness, and community. Futures helps adults with co-occurring conditions, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions.
Our treatment, curriculum, and campus setting promote comfort, holistic health, and a supportive community. Through compassionate treatment and individualized therapies, Futures teaches patients how to negotiate life’s daily obstacles, including work stress, parental and family relationships, financial difficulties, and other issues that might cause or exacerbate the symptoms of mental health conditions.
To learn more about how we treat mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions, contact us online or call 866-804-2098.