Individual and group therapy are effective and evidence-based methods of helping people overcome mental health disorders. However, the benefits of individual therapy and the benefits of group therapy are not necessarily the same. Each of these treatment options provides unique methods for breaking through mental health challenges.
To help you better understand what role each of these therapies plays in the treatment process, we’ve broken down the benefits of each and how they can support you in your journey to recovery.
3 Benefits of Individual Therapy
Talk therapy was perhaps the greatest breakthrough in mental health treatment in the past century. Before individual therapy became commonplace, mental health treatment was crude, barbaric, and frightening. As recently as the mid-1900s, standard treatment for depression included ice-pick lobotomies and involuntary electroshock treatments.
When physicians finally realized that simply talking to people could often produce even greater results, a new wave of mental health treatment began. The benefits of individual therapy are now well established, and a number of different types of talk therapy have sprung up to help people through all manner of mental health challenges.
1. Discovering Causes and Conditions
Individual therapy is perhaps the best resource to understand why you are living with a mental health disorder. Disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder often have an identifiable event or constellation of factors that cause them to come about.
By discovering the source of your troubles, you can start to create a path toward a lasting and meaningful recovery from your symptoms. However, it’s not always easy to discover the causes of your condition without the help of a trained mental health professional.
An individual therapist can help you understand how your mental health challenge colors the way you think and behave in everyday life. Many people don’t even recognize how a mental illness changes the way they think and behave, and bringing these influences to light can help you identify where to focus your efforts in recovery.
2. A Multitude of Different Therapeutic Styles
Not all individual therapy is the same. Different types of therapeutic modalities have been developed to treat specific mental illnesses, with a wide range of approaches that can appeal to a number of different people. Some of the most common forms of individual therapy include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Focuses on helping people challenge and change the way they think, which can, in turn, change their mood and behavior
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Can help people learn to regulate their emotions, accept emotions and thoughts that cannot be changed, and learn to be more effective in their relationships
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Focuses on helping people work through traumatic experiences using a technique called bilateral stimulation
Having multiple different therapeutic styles to choose from means you can focus on the treatments that you find helpful and use targeted interventions for the specific mental health challenge you are facing. A clinician can help you identify which modality may be most helpful for you.
3. A Professional Perspective
Individual therapists have a wealth of education and experience in helping people overcome their mental health challenges. To become a therapist, a person needs to undergo years of training in counseling theory and hundreds of hours of training under a licensed therapist.
Their experience, knowledge, and education provide them with a unique and powerful perspective on how they can help you with your mental illness. Your therapist may be able to pick up on symptoms and cues that you may not even be aware of and can have a variety of evidence-based tools to help you overcome your personal challenges.
3 Benefits of Group Therapy
When group therapy was first invented, it was meant to bring the benefits of individual therapy to more people. By bringing several people together to speak with a therapist at the same time, mental health professionals sought to make therapy more accessible and spread the life-changing effects of therapy to a greater audience.
But what they soon discovered was that the benefits of group therapy were unique and powerful, often above and beyond what individual therapy could do alone. For many mental health challenges, group therapy became the intervention of choice, as it produced quicker and more durable results than individual therapy in isolation.
1. True Peer Support
One of the greatest benefits of group therapy is bringing people with a shared mental health challenge together. Many people living with mental illness have a common set of misconceptions. They may believe:
- That they are alone
- That no one understands what they’re going through
- That recovery from their situation is impossible
Group therapy can shatter these misconceptions by showing people real evidence that there are people who have been where they are, who can truly understand and empathize with their position, and who have achieved recovery from the same mental illness.
Most therapy groups have people with a wide range of experience in dealing with the challenge at hand, including people who are attending therapy for the first time, those who are in early recovery, and those who have gained freedom from their mental health condition.
This social proof that recovery is possible is much more powerful than simply telling people that they can get better; group members can see it with their own eyes.
2. Real-Life Perspectives
For many people, the advice they receive from an individual therapist doesn’t carry the real-life perspective that can be incredibly valuable. There is an inherent power dynamic in individual therapy. Your therapist is a professional and uses techniques and methods developed by decades of scientific research.
Group therapy helps remove this barrier by placing people with a shared problem together in the same room. While a trained and licensed therapist is in the room to guide discussions and keep the group on track, true healing occurs between the group members.
Your peers can offer their perspectives on unique and practical experiences that can help you overcome your mental health challenge. As you gain more experiences and skills in overcoming your personal mental health challenge, group therapy affords you the opportunity to give what you’ve learned back to others.
Helping others can further solidify the changes you’ve made and make it more likely for you to keep up with the practices improving your mental health.
3. Building Communication Skills
Many people, when seeking treatment for the first time, have difficulty expressing how their mental health disorder makes them feel. You may not have the vocabulary to help other people understand what you’re going through. But in group therapy, you can learn how to express your feelings and thoughts in a way that is easily understandable to others.
By sharing a space with people with common experiences, you can hear how other people communicate their troubles. You may find yourself saying:
- I feel like that, too
- I’ve had a similar challenge
- I know exactly what you mean
By hearing your inner experience shared by others, you can learn the vocabulary of talking about your mental health in a way that can propel you on the path to recovery.
The communication skills learned in group therapy extend beyond just speaking about mental illness; the structure of group therapy encourages discussion, sharing with others, and hearing what other people have to say. These skills can be put into practice in every relationship in your life, providing a substantial boost to your overall mental health and well-being.
Individual vs. Group Therapy — Which Is Right for Me?
With both styles of therapy providing a number of benefits, it can be difficult to decide whether to choose individual or group therapy. For most people, the answer is simple: choose both.
Individual and group therapy aren’t meant to be distinct forms of treatment. Instead, they can complement each other, ensuring that you get the most out of each type of therapy and have the best chance of creating a meaningful and lasting recovery from your mental health challenge.
If the symptoms of your mental health disorder have started to disrupt your everyday life, enrolling in a mental health treatment program is the fastest way to start feeling better. Most of these programs combine both individual and group therapy as well as a number of other mental health interventions that can improve your symptoms.
Therapy is just one of the many treatment options to help you achieve greater mental health. A number of different treatments can be used in conjunction with these therapies, including:
- Psychiatric medications
- Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Stellate ganglion blocks
- Lifestyle psychiatry
- Equine-assisted therapy
By taking a multi-pronged approach to mental health treatment, you can combine the benefits of each different treatment intervention, see results faster, and reclaim your mental health.
Plus by APN uses a variety of treatment methods to help people overcome mental health challenges. To learn more, reach out to our team by filling out our confidential online contact form or calling 424.644.6486.
- Khan, Arif et al. “A systematic review of comparative efficacy of treatments and controls for depression.” PloS one vol. 7,7 (2012): e41778. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041778