With our discussion of the benefits of group work last week, I thought it might make sense to discuss the different types of groups that are out there so that you may better decide if group therapy is for you, and if so, what type of group appeals most to your needs. Here is a brief outline of most of the types of groups that are run by mental health professionals (and some run by non-professionals) to hopefully help you navigate!
Psychoeducational groups tend to have a more structured learning format. It may look like a small workshop, and the goal of the facilitator is to teach new skills or information through lectures and/or experiential learning. According to mentalhelp.net contributor Carrie Steckl, Ph.D., people who do well in psychoeducational groups are usually highly functional, but “have an information deficit in a certain area” (https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/which-type-of-therapeutic-group-is-right-for-you/). The group leader specializes in this area and therefore functions in a more directive role. These tend to include anger management groups, coping/social skills groups, and my colleague Juliana Woods’ group for parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. There may be some discussion about how this particular information deficit is impacting individuals within the group, but the point of the group is not to create a healing process. Rather, it’s to provide information so that individuals can choose to pursue their own healing outside of the group. These groups tend to have a time limit (i.e., “8-week coping skills group for teens”), but not always.
These are also sometimes called “psychotherapy” groups or “counseling” groups. Typically, the facilitator focuses more on interpersonal issues or concerns that each member of the group may be facing to some degree. The group itself is treated as an organism, and each member of the group works together towards common group goals. The rules are usually mutually agreed-upon with each member and the facilitator, and the goals are usually geared towards something each individual has identified wanting to work in their own lives as well. Therefore, the individual interpretation of the goals usually differs from member-to-member. The group will teach members new skills in relating to other people in their personal lives by experiences within the group. A great example of a process group is Erica Wilcox’s Women’s Trauma and Healing Group in Southington, CT (www.wilcoxwellness.com for more info- she’s amazing!). The group members have various forms of trauma but a common goal for each member is to take back their power and take charge of their life stories again.
These groups tend to require some ground work on the part of the therapist to ensure that the group will work well together, so if you go into a process group expect the therapist to want to meet with you for an individual intake beforehand. They also tend to be “closed” groups, meaning that members are expected to commit to the full time period of the group (example, all six weeks of my Goddess group) and there won’t be people just “dropping in” for a session
These groups tend to be more open and running indefinitely- examples include twelve-step groups such as NA or AA. They tend to differ depending on the type of group being offered, and can be run by trained therapists but not always. For instance, AA and NA both value anonymity, however encourage sharing of details so that members can feel as though they are part of a group/community of other individuals struggling similarly or who have struggled similarly in the past. Support groups can exist for virtually any issue, such as substance abuse, parenting, breastfeeding, general trauma, traumatic loss, etc. and the possibilities are endless.
Hybrid groups may include a combination of any of the above listed types of groups. My Goddess group is an example of a Hybrid group- we will have some psychoeducation regarding the Goddess archetypes and how to identify the goddesses active within each of us, and the goddesses we would like to invoke to realign with our values and goals. However, we will also be doing plenty of processing and supporting each other, so it’s a combination between a psychoeducational group and a process group.
Finding these groups, if you’re interested in one, may prove to be a challenge. While the Internet is a highly useful tool in getting us connected, and you might find some of these groups advertised on Facebook ads or in email marketing newsletters. I encourage you to reach out to your therapist if you have one, to get connected with the right groups for you. Most therapists, especially those in private practice, have a network of other local therapists and might be able to connect you to the right group for you. And if the ideal group for you doesn’t exist, maybe someone will be inspired to create one! Other non-Internet places to find groups can include churches, community boards, your physician, yoga studios, schools, community agencies, local libraries, or your friends!
If you’re interested in learning more about my Goddess Group, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC
Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.