Individual Therapy & Group Therapy Both Have Pros & Cons
Psychotherapy, or therapy as it will be referred to in this article, is the use of techniques to assist in managing thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Therapists typically utilize therapy to relieve symptoms of emotional or behavioral dysfunction or distress. Therapists also use it to help clients achieve improved levels of self-awareness, realize their full potential, navigate through big life changes, and enhance current and future relationships.
Every individual has their own concerns and problems. No two people share the same experiences, so naturally, it makes sense that the form of therapy that people choose varies. Today, we are going to compare individual and group therapy, discussing their advantages and disadvantages.
Individual therapy occurs where one individual known as the client engages in a therapeutic process with at least one trained therapist. This therapist must be someone who is professionally trained in the use of therapy, which can include psychologists, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, marriage and family counselors, and more. If they have not received formal training, they are not a therapist, and the process is not therapy.
- Stronger Therapeutic Alliance. A therapeutic alliance refers to the relationship between the client and their therapist. Because of the one-on-one nature of the situation, the client can receive thorough care. The therapist can better understand the client’s specific problems and develop a personalized approach to aiding them. The client builds a sense of trust with their therapist, becoming more comfortable to disclose intimate information.
- Better Confidentiality. Because of the nature of the one-on-one situation, the conversations and information discussed are much easier to maintain and keep private. Therapists cannot break their ethical principle of confidentiality, except in extreme cases. Some individuals who go to therapy often feel ashamed, but individual therapy allows them to make sure no one knows they are going.
- Go at Patient’s Pace. In individual therapy, the therapist’s main focus is their one client. This allows the client and therapist to proceed with their therapy at a pace the client is more comfortable with, avoiding rushing or speeding through issues or topics.
- Client Receives More Attention. Since the client is in a situation with just their therapist, they get the advantage of the therapist focusing all their attention on them, helping them better understand what is going on.
- Individual therapy is typically more expensive.
- Clients have less opportunity to model the behavior of an individual with similar problems who has successfully seen improvement.
- Some individuals find focusing on themselves difficult and struggle to effectively communicate their emotions.
- There is less opportunity to see others going through similar problems to let them know they aren’t alone.
Group therapy occurs in any therapy session that includes one or more clients. Family and marriage counseling can both be deemed group therapy. Most cases involve just one therapist, but some do have two. Group sizes can vary, but it has been deemed that the ideal group size is between 8-12 people. Many of these individuals meet in a group because they share an issue that they would like to discuss or improve on.
- Creates a Sense of Universality. The members in these groups come together and share a sense of belonging. They are often shown that they are not alone. This helps in cases of substance abuse where individuals feel like their situation is unique.
- Members Can Engage in Modeling. Individuals in groups can view others who are successfully navigating their situation and begin modeling the same behavior to see their own success. Clients get to share experiences and, in turn, learn important information to help them in their situation.
- Members Feel Supported and Can Support Others. Both of these notions are extremely important in therapy. It is vital for members to feel cared for and supported when expressing themselves. However, giving support allows for growth and learning.
- Helps Develop Better Communication Skills. Members learn to express themselves appropriately, listening to what is being said then expressing themselves. Clients learn how to better communicate their thoughts and feelings without feeling judged.
- The client receives less focus and attention as they would in individual therapy. Some individuals in a group receive more attention than the whole group.
- Some issues brought up aren’t always relevant to everyone.
- The therapeutic alliance between therapist and client isn’t nearly as strong.
- Even though it is expected that what is expressed in the group remains private, the risk of confidentiality being breached is higher.
- Groups typically meet at specific times, so they aren’t always convenient.
- Sometimes the group’s pace is either too fast or too slow for a client.
- Social loafing tends to occur with some members not actively participating or making changes.
Many individuals wonder if there is a better therapy option out of individual therapy and group therapy. However, neither is better. They each have their pros and cons. Depending on your situations and problems, one may be better for you than the other. To learn more about these therapy sessions and more, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center.