Individual Therapy or Group Therapy-- Which is Better for Me?
Looking into therapy can feel daunting from the start. Knowing how to pick a therapist is important, but there is another question you may want to consider. Should I try group therapy?
Many people don't initially consider group therapy, but it has numerous benefits, both in therapeutic value and in affordability. And yes, it's still effective. Of course, it's not for everyone, and many people do prefer to do therapy in an individualized setting instead.
Here are some of the unique benefits of both individual counseling and group counseling to help you make your decision.
(Note: For more information on group therapy in the age of COVID, check out this post)
Benefits of Individual Therapy
- Tailored to your needs. In individual therapy, each session is crafted uniquely by you and your counselor. You have the counselor's undivided attention. The topics discussed in session and the methods employed by your counselor are tailored specifically to you. Conversely, because a group session is usually structured around a common struggle, such as grief, that topic remains the primary focus throughout.
- Increased sense of privacy. For some people, it feels easier to be open and vulnerable when the counselor is the only other person present. Although taking the risk to be honest in a group setting can be therapeutic, you may find that you prefer the privacy of an individualized setting.
- More flexible scheduling. With individual counseling, you are able to reschedule appointments when you need to, which is not an option in group therapy.
- Moves at your pace. Individual therapy allows you to set the pace of your experience, spending more time in the areas that you need to focus on. Group therapy tends to have a more established pace as well as (typically) a set duration.
Benefits of Group Therapy
- Multiple perspectives. In group therapy, each member brings their own wisdom and life experiences to the sessions. Although your counselor has training and experience, the counselor is still just one person, and the wealth of perspectives and ideas available in group therapy are not present in individual counseling.
- Reduce feelings of isolation. When you are struggling its common to begin to feel isolated. Sometimes the people around you, while well-meaning, are not truly able to understand what you are going though. In group counseling, you are able to get together with other people who really "get it" through their own lived experiences. This will help to normalize the things you are going through on your journey of healing.
- Opportunity to give and receive support. Having the support of others brings comfort, but that is only half of it. Giving support is also healing. When you are able to reach out to another, even in your own pain, and show them kindness and empathy, it actually makes you feel better too! Being able to not only receive support, but to give it to others as well is a unique feature of group counseling.
- Less expensive. Group therapy is less costly than individual therapy-- typically the cost of a group counseling session is around 50% less than that of an individual counseling session.
If you are still feeling unsure about which is the right option for you, it may be beneficial to find a counselor who offers both individual and group therapy. Talk with the counselor about your specific situation, and the counselor can walk you through the decision making process.
For those of you located in Oregon, I do offer group counseling in addition to individual counseling. You can learn more about the groups I offer here. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about either group or individual therapy.
Miranda Featherstone is a mental health counselor based in Salem, Oregon. She writes about navigating changes, the experience of grief, and the embracing the benefits of creativity and engagement with nature. Those living in Oregon who are interested in counseling are encouraged to reach out through her website.