Among the benefits of group therapy is the recognition of shared experiences, feelings and issues among the participants, and the realization that these may be universal concepts, which serves to lessen a member’s sense of isolation, validate their feelings, and raise confidence. Learning to take responsibility for, and accept the consequences of decisions made, are crucial steps towards attaining insight into the origin of the unconscious motivations to existing behavior patterns.
Group therapy is a setting in which participants help other participants; the experience of being able to give something to another person can elevate a member’s sense of self worth as well as promote the development of more competent coping and interpersonal skills. In a typical group session, there are patients in different phases of recovery. A member can be inspired by another who is currently dealing with, or has made significant progress towards, overcoming the problems with which they are currently struggling. The therapist’s interpretations and suggestions can also help participants gain an understanding of the impact of previous life experiences on their current behavior patterns, and they learn to avoid unconsciously repeating destructive behavior that put them in their current situation.
The group setting also provides a safe and supportive environment for members to take risks by demonstrating and practicing their interpersonal relationships and improving their social skills. One way in which some participants can improve social skills is through a process of observing and interacting with the therapist and other participants, such as sharing personal feelings, showing concern, and supporting others. Humans have an instinctive need to belong to groups, and personal development is more likely to take place in a group context.
A successful group is one in which all members feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, and validation. The experience of liberation from emotional distress through the free and uninhibited expression of emotion is a valuable experience and is not uncommon during group therapy sessions. When members tell their story to a supportive audience, they can obtain relief from chronic feelings of shame and guilt. Group members gain a greater level of knowledge through the process of interacting with others, who provide feedback on the member’s behavior and impact on the world around them.