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Benefits of Group Therapy

Benefits of Group Therapy, Self-Help Groups Versus Group Therapy

For people who aren’t especially familiar with different types of therapy, it could seem redundant for one person to attend both individual counseling and group therapy sessions. However, at Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health in Leland, North Carolina, we intentionally offer multiple types of therapy because there are unique benefits to each variety, and, together, they offer more overall support for mental health than any one option could offer in isolation.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Unlike individual therapy, which involves only one patient and their therapist, group sessions typically include 5-15 participants, often with the same or similar diagnoses. Group discussion is facilitated by a trained therapist. Group therapy can offer several benefits, including:

  • The chance to practice new skills within a supportive group setting before using them in the outside world
  • Lived expertise in navigating similar problems to those the other patients are navigating
  • A sense of community and belonging, which can be especially important for people who lack support from their family, faith community, neighborhood, and other traditional sources of encouragement
  • The opportunity to recognize unhealthy thought and behavior patterns the patient exhibits but could not previously see in themselves
  • Accountability to the group
  • Structure and routine
  • An opportunity for the therapist to witness interpersonal interactions directly

Is Bigger Better?

There is not one uniform size for all group therapy sessions. Sometimes there are reasons why a therapist will choose for a group to be bigger or smaller, depending on the needs of the group. For example, a smaller group allows for more focus on each individual within the group. On the other hand, a larger group can allow for more diversity and a wider range of ideas.

Duration of Group Therapy

Duration is another factor that can vary from one group to the next. Some groups have a set curriculum, which prescribes a set number of sessions, often between 4 – 20 in total. Group participants generally must commit to attending every group in the series. Other groups don’t have a set duration and people attend until they feel they have reached the maximum level of benefit that they can expect to receive from the group. In this type of group, it is generally more acceptable to miss a session on occasion. Groups with a set duration are often considered to be closed, meaning that people must join in the first session or wait for another group to start. Groups without a set duration are more likely to allow people to join whenever they choose to do so. Most group therapy sessions last one to two hours.

People Who Can Benefit From Group Therapy

Group therapy can be used to treat people of different ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, races and diagnoses. Some of the conditions that are frequently treated with group therapy include:

Why Group and Individual May Be Used Together

As mentioned above, individual therapy and group therapy offer different benefits. Even though a person may be attending group therapy and find it very helpful, it may still be a good idea for them to participate in individual sessions, where they can:

  • Focus more on their specific concerns
  • Build strong rapport and trust with someone who must keep their information confidential
  • Discuss things they might not be ready to bring before the group
  • Spend more time working on things brought to their attention in group
  • Hear professional opinions and advice
  • Have greater flexibility in scheduling

If you are not sure if you need to participate in both group and individual therapy, talk with your therapist or treatment team. 

Self-Help Groups Versus Group Therapy

Self-help groups can be a beneficial tool for people who are working on their mental health. Some people presume that these are the same as group therapy, but self-help groups are led by a peer who is also in recovery from a mental health condition, not a trained therapist. This is not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes it’s easier to be receptive toward a peer who has experienced similar struggles than toward a therapist. 

Another difference between group therapy and self-help groups is that self-help groups often focus more on alleviating symptoms and coping with difficult situations, rather than identifying and addressing patterns of thought and behavior that could be undermining their relationships.

Additionally, group therapy is often composed of people whom a therapist has selected, whereas self-help groups are typically open to anyone who has identified some difficulty they have in common.


It is important to understand that in both, self-help groups and group therapy, there is nothing legally mandating that participants respect one another’s privacy. There is generally an expectation that what is said in the group will stay in the group, but unlike therapists, who can incur severe consequences for violating a patient’s confidentiality, no laws are in place to prevent group members from sharing information outside the group. This means that participants have to build trust with one another.

At Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health, we are happy to answer questions about how we structure our group and individual therapy or other services.

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About programs offered at Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health

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