Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy: Pros & Cons of Both

FEATURED
October 14, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
9 MIN READ

Seeking treatment for mental health disorders will likely involve some form of therapy on the road to better mental health. Group therapy and individual therapy are the likely forms.

While the end goal is the same — mental well-being — the journey to get there can look different for each form of therapy. Each follows its own treatment modalities. Here, we explore the advantages and drawbacks of each type of therapy, letting you know what you can expect in each of these therapeutic environments.

What Is Group Therapy?

Simply put, group therapy involves multiple patients working as a group with one or more psychotherapists or mental healthcare providers. Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving members with similar issues (e.g., substance use disorders).

In general, group-based treatment and group psychotherapy can help address various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, emotional traumas, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also a common therapeutic method for drug addiction and substance misuse treatment.

Group counseling and therapy can involve as little as two participants (e.g., couples therapy) or up to 15 participants, though most researchers believe the ideal group size is around 6 to 12.

This form of therapy is widely available and can be found in a variety of places, from hospitals, mental health clinics, private therapeutic practices, schools, and community centers.

Group therapy also varies by type, purpose, and approach. The most common types of group therapy include:

  • Support groups: These group therapy sessions seek to provide support and care through sharing experiences and gaining insight from group members with similar problems.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This model focuses on identifying and changing problematic thinking patterns and emotions. Common in substance abuse programs.
  • Psychoeducational groups: The focus here is on education, whether it be substance misuse related, general mental health, or consequences of behaviors.
  • Skill development groups: As the name implies, this group therapy focuses heavily on teaching skills based on the needs of group members, including communication skills, coping skills, and more.
  • Interpersonal groups: Emotional development, self-awareness in social settings, and the building of healthy social interactions is the focus of these group settings.

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

By nature, humans are social creatures — and this principle is at the heart of group therapy. Working and interacting with others who have similar experiences helps you understand you’re not alone.

The effectiveness of group therapy is well-cited, especially when it comes to mental health disorders like depression. In fact, one study found that 44% of patients reported significant improvements in depression symptoms when participating in cognitive-behavioral group therapy.

Receive Community Support

One of the advantages of group therapy is the community it creates. It allows individuals to receive encouragement and support from other members. Also, group therapy fosters a sense of belonging, which is a key element of the therapeutic process — especially for those who feel alone in their mental health struggles.

Furthermore, the sense of togetherness builds even further as group members share their struggles openly. This vulnerability that comes with opening up can be a path to freedom in many ways. Optimism, hope, and self-awareness are built within a community support system.

Increase Social Skills

Another big advantage of group therapy is its impact when it comes to building healthy social skills. For example, during group sessions, a therapist is able to observe how members interact in social settings. From here, they can provide valuable feedback to help develop and improve social skills and relationships.

For those who struggle with feelings of fear and failure in social settings, group therapy provides a judgment-free space to interact in a controlled setting with people who have similar struggles. This builds confidence that each patient can take with them into the world.

Find Your Voice

For many, group therapy also helps them find their voice. A healthy sense of one’s own identity can be built as members learn to identify with each other. This process of identification can help individuals understand themselves better.

Many with mental health issues struggle to find their voice, mainly from the unbearable weight that comes with feelings of isolation. Group therapy can help lift this burden and set them on a path to discover the voice that’s been hidden.

What Are the Cons of Group Therapy?

With all the benefits of group therapy, there are some drawbacks. For example, group therapy means there is less opportunity for personalized attention.

Also, group therapy can be overwhelming for those with introverted type personalities or social anxiety. The atmosphere may even be downright stifling for some.

From a logistics standpoint, a group therapy schedule can be hard to fit in. More than that, these sessions are typically long, so fitting them in can be challenging for some.

What Is Individual Therapy?

Individual therapy is a form of one-on-one therapy that occurs between a mental health provider and a single patient. This could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed therapist, or counselor.

Like group therapy, individual therapy can help address numerous mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and more. Also, individual therapy is common in addiction treatment.

The two most popular forms of individual therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. Sessions are done in a private setting and typically last an hour. Individual therapy sessions focus heavily on exploring issues and developing solutions.

In addition to personalized cognitive-behavioral therapy, other forms of individual therapy can include:

  • Psychoanalysis: Though not as popular as it once was, individual psychotherapy focuses on exploring the personality to address deep issues and defenses (e.g., phobias).
  • Integrative or holistic therapy: This focuses on the whole person and utilizes both lifestyle and therapeutic approaches to healing — such as mindfulness and diet changes alongside treatment.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): Common in addiction recovery, this method helps individuals gain motivation when it comes to behavior during the recovery process.

What Are the Benefits of Individual Therapy?

While human beings are certainly social animals, there is also much to be said about being in an intimate setting. This is what individual counseling and therapy can provide for those struggling with mental health disorders or addiction.

Personalized Approach

The biggest advantage of individual therapy is the personalized approach. This one-on-one attention and focus allows a mental health provider to get a fuller and more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s mental health struggle.

The concentration and sole focus is on one patient. In turn, the more intimate nature of the personalized sessions allows the therapist to uncover the underlying issues while relationship and rapport are created.

Individual therapy also builds a strong therapeutic alliance between the client and therapist. This working relationship is essential for successful therapy intervention.

Greater Confidentiality

Another huge advantage is confidentiality. Individual therapy is completely confidential, meaning all information is shared or disclosed between a patient and the therapist only.

Only the mental health provider will know the extent of the situation, and they’re legally obligated to keep information private. This is known as the HIPAA privacy rule. A breach of privacy can only take place in cases of childhood abuse or self-harm.

Slower Pace

Individual therapy can also be paced according to the client’s personal needs. There are no deadlines or end of terms. The process continues at a comfortable pace.

In group therapy sessions, the pace is typically set by the needs of the slowest member. This can disrupt or delay progress for some people.

Also, individual therapy allows for flexible scheduling. Since sessions are personalized, the therapist and client can work together to find the most conducive times.

What Are the Cons of Individual Therapy?

When it comes to therapy, it’s hard to beat an individualized and personalized focus. However, there are some notable drawbacks when it comes to individual therapy.

For one, individual therapy is generally more expensive on average. However, cost varies largely on your area, the professional you choose, and the level of insurance coverage.

Also, individual therapy doesn’t allow for much in the way of modeling behavior. In group sessions, there is the advantage of modeling the success of other members. Furthermore, there is no opportunity to learn from others who share the same specific problems.

How Can Ketamine Help?

Ketamine treatment is an emerging and therapeutic alternative that can help reduce symptoms of mental health conditions like depression. In fact, the antidepressant efficacy of ketamine when it comes to treatment-resistant depression is well-cited.

So, what does ketamine treatment have to do with therapy? Well, ketamine is classified as an N-methyl-D-aspartate type glutamate (NMDA) receptor antagonist. Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the body — it’s essential for neuronal communication.

However, it is believed that the overactivation of glutamate receptors is a culprit behind depression. The good news is that ketamine helps activate AMPA receptors, inducing brain-derived neurotrophic factors.

Simply put, these neurotrophic factors are essential for neuronal healing and growth. Furthermore, ketamine can positively impact neuroplasticity, meaning the brain’s ability to change, modify, and adapt in response to experience.

This has big implications when it comes to therapy. Essentially, ketamine treatment in conjunction with therapy can help patients be more open and receptive to therapy demands — like lifestyle and behavioral changes.

It is important to note that while Nue Life does offer integration groups led by Integration Specialists, it is not a replacement for therapy led and directed by licensed mental health clinicians.

The Bottom Line

Seeking therapy for mental health disorders can get you on the right path to better mental health. Group therapy and individual therapy are the two common forms.

Although they follow their own therapeutic modalities, improving mental well-being is the end goal for both of these forms of therapy. Each form of therapy comes with its own advantages and drawbacks.

But, if you’re looking for an alternative treatment method to help you get to the bottom of your depression, our ketamine therapy program may help you achieve healing and access a deeper revelation.

You can get started by scheduling your free evaluation today. From there, we can discuss how our programs might work best for you and help answer any of your questions about ketamine treatment plans.

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.

Sources:

Group Therapy In Substance Use Treatment | SAMSHA

Psychotherapy Guide: Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy | American Addiction Centers

Effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy for depression in routine practice | BMC Psychiatry

The HIPAA Privacy Rule: FAQs | APA

Antidepressant Efficacy of Ketamine in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Two-Site Randomized Controlled Trial | NIH

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain | PMC

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