Group therapy is one of the most effective counseling approaches, which utilizes a small number of individuals experiencing the same problem in working out amicable solutions to the issues facing them. In so doing, the group therapy enables individuals to learn from others, help others, and develop supportive/healthy relationships with one another. Accordingly, group therapy has been a subject of research, and many studies document its efficacy and sustainability in addressing a variety of psychological and social issues including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), relationship issues, youth behavioral problems, personality disorders, substance abuse, and other impulsive behaviors. Among the studies reviewed in this paper, at least all of them indicate that different types of group therapy including group-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), and functional family therapy (FFT) are effective in managing various psychological and social issues. More specifically, most of the participants in the studies reviewed demonstrate marked symptom improvements after undertaking the group therapy. As a result, the effectiveness of group therapy cannot be overstated and further studies should seek to investigate even more applications of this type of psychotherapy.
Effectiveness of Group Therapy
Group therapy refers to different forms of counseling in which a limited number of people having similar problems come together to share their experiences under the leadership of a professional therapist, and therefore, enabling them to work out solutions to help themselves and one another. In the last half century, group therapy has been applied widely in counseling and other clinical interventions hence, its benefits cannot be overstated. In fact, a number of empirical studies indicate that group therapy is beneficial to groups of people because it provides some form of validation. Here, some people will find it useful to belong to a group of people who have problems similar to their own. In so doing, these people will not have to believe that their problem is unique and exclusive. In addition, some people may find it difficult to understand problems by themselves, but when in a group consisting of people with the same issue; it becomes much easier for some people to understand certain problems (Alvarez et al., 2011; Yanos et al., 2012).
On the other hand, some studies show that group therapy provides opportunities for group members to learn from others. In fact, the most overwhelming feeling that someone could ever experience involves instances where one does not know what to do with his/her problems. However, when an individual encounters a group of people who have been able to develop effective coping skills for certain problems, it becomes relatively easy for an individual to learn new ways of solving problems. Along the same perspective, people who belong to therapeutic groups have the opportunity of helping others to overcome their problems. Here, it is important to note that people who help others may experience increased self-esteem besides improving their potential to cope with the same problems in future. Most importantly, group therapy is a form of social support in which experienced people offer their skills in helping others while developing supportive and healthy relationships with other community members (Khoo, Dent, & Oei, 2011; Alvarez et al., 2011; Yanos et al., 2012).
Therefore, it is no doubt that group therapy is important and effective to the extent that it provides opportunities and avenues through which people can receive understanding, support, and encouragement from others. Moreover, group therapy provides an opportunity for individuals facing certain problems to gain different ideas, skills, perspectives and viewpoints on how to handle their issues. Additionally, group therapy just like other forms of counseling acts as a powerful medium through which people achieve growth and change in their lives. Moreover, group therapy helps people to obtain support, increase self-awareness, and learn different ways of coping with a variety of challenges. This paper will critically review different empirical studies with the aim of highlighting the effectiveness of group therapy in addressing various personal and interpersonal issues in the contemporary society.
A perusal of current literature indicates that a number of empirical studies have been carried out to examine and measure the effectiveness of group therapy. One such study was aimed at assessing the effectiveness of a group-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in addressing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Australian combat veterans at the Toowong Private Hospital (Khoo et al., 2011). Accordingly, the study assessed different measures of PTSD including depression, anxiety, quality of life, anger, relationship satisfaction, and alcohol use among 496 veterans over a period of nine years. The study findings indicate that implementation of the group-based therapy was effective in promoting significant and sustainable improvements in some measures of PTSD including depression, anger, alcohol use, anxiety, and the quality of life among the participants. Furthermore, the study found out that PTSD symptom reduction was consistent every year for the period of the study with an effect size of 0.68. Therefore, this study demonstrates that group-based CBT is effective in promoting positive change among people suffering from PTSD, particularly when it is administered in clinical settings (Khoo et al., 2011). However, the small sample size and the fact that all participants were non-civilian men imply that the study findings cannot be generalized to civilian and female populations.
Another study examined the effectiveness of a group-based cognitive processing therapy (CPT) in managing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a rehabilitation program involving combat veterans. In this study, the researchers examined 104 PTSD patients enrolled in the group-based CPT program and made comparisons with another group of 93 patients undergoing treatment as usual (TAU). Accordingly, the study assessed different PTSD symptoms and some aspects of patient functioning (Alvarez et al., 2011). The study findings indicate that PTSD patients enrolled in the group-based CPT program showed significant symptom improvements at discharge compared to their counterparts in the TAU group. Moreover, a significant number of patients under the group-based CPT program were found to have recovered or improved at discharge. Generally, this study confirms that the group-based CPT program produces more positive improvements compared to other forms of treatment such as TAU (Alvarez et al., 2011). However, despite its strengths in terms of measuring the effectiveness of group therapy in a clinical setting, this study is limited to the extent that it involves a small number of participants who are male combat veterans. As a result, the study findings cannot be generalized to female and civilian populations. Nevertheless, the study confirms the effectiveness of group therapy in addressing various psychological challenges at least in a clinical setting.
On the other hand, the effectiveness of group therapy has been measured in yet another study examining the efficacy of a group-based Functional Family Therapy (FFT) in addressing behavioral problems in a diverse group of adolescents. Further, this study was aimed at comparing the effectiveness of FFT with that of probation services in a community-based juvenile justice program besides looking into risk and protective factors influencing behavioral outcomes among the youth (Sexton & Turner, 2011). Therefore, the study involved 38 professional therapists and 917 families from diverse backgrounds. The study findings demonstrate that the group-based FFT program was effective in improving different adolescent behavioral problems including felonies, violent crimes, and misdemeanors. Furthermore, one year post-treatment, the study found out that the group therapy was effective in reducing commission of serious crimes among the participants, particularly if their therapists adhered to specific therapeutic models (Sexton & Turner, 2011). As a result, this study indicates that group therapy is an effective approach toward reducing youth behavioral problems in the society. More specifically, this study has a high ecological validity considering that it involves participants from diverse backgrounds that represent both urban and rural areas. However, the study involves a small sample size, and hence, the study findings may not be generalized to entire populations.
Further, another empirical study has examined the effectiveness of an adjunctive emotion regulation group therapy (ERGT) in managing deliberate self-harm (DSH) in women suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). This study sought to replicate the results of a previous study, which found out that ERGT was effective in improving various symptoms of DSH including psychiatric symptoms, self-destructive behaviors, emotion dysregulation, and experiential avoidance (Gratz & Tull, 2011). Accordingly, the study found out that the ERGT program was effective in improving almost all measures of DSH excluding self-destructive behaviors and the quality of life among the 21 women participants. Furthermore, more than 55% of the participants indicated that they had completely abstained from DSH after the group therapy. This implies that group therapy is effective in addressing various symptoms associated with DSH, particularly the psychiatric symptoms (Gratz & Tull, 2011). However, this study has a narrow ecological validity considering that it has a small sample size involving women only.
Finally, Yanos et al. (2012) measured the effectiveness of a group-based therapy referred to as Narrative Enhancement/Cognitive Therapy (NECT) in treating elevated internalized stigma in patients suffering from severe mental illnesses. In this study, 144 patients with elevated internalized stigma were recruited and 39 participants were randomized into the NECT program or treatment as usual (TAU). In the long run, the study found out that the participants who were classified as being exposed to NECT treatment demonstrated improved outcome measures for internalized stigma including self-stigma and insight. As a result, the researchers concluded that NECT is an effective approach toward treating internalized stigma even though the findings did not show any significant differences between the group-based therapy and treatment as usual (TAU) (Yanos et al., 2012). Nonetheless, the small sample size may have limited the ability of the researchers to find out any significant differences between the two forms of treatment. On the other hand, this study forms a framework upon which future studies should be based on in order to find out more about the effectiveness of this type of group therapy in addressing cases of elevated internalized stigma.
Group therapy is a beneficial and effective form of counseling, which has been in place for the last half a century. This type of treatment entails a small number of people sharing the same problem who join forces in working out solutions to help themselves and one another. As stated earlier, there are many benefits of group therapy. First, the foregoing discussions indicate that group therapy is beneficial in terms of acting as a form of validation in which people suffering from a certain problem get the opportunity to see that their problems are not unique or exclusive. Secondly, the discussions have shown that group therapy gives persons suffering from a given problem a chance to learn from other people having similar issues. Thirdly, people get the opportunity to help others in the process of learning within the therapeutic group. Finally, it is a great opportunity to help others because it helps one to grow while developing supportive and healthy relationships with other people. Furthermore, the studies reviewed in the foregoing discussions have confirmed that indeed group therapy is an effective approach in addressing a variety of psychological issues including PTSD, internalized stigma, self-destructive behaviors, and other social issues such as youth behavioral problems.