Is Group Therapy as Effective as Individual Therapy?

Apr 8, 2022

Personality types can shape how you see different types of therapy. People who are generally social may feel more comfortable in a group setting. Someone who is reserved may prefer the intimacy of a private setting. It’s important to know how these therapy types differ and serve different purposes, even if you feel one or both of them is outside your comfort zone. Is Group Therapy as Effective as Individual Therapy? Let’s look at some benefits of both group and individual therapy and how they can be integrated during addiction recovery.

Group therapy and individual therapy use different approaches to treating someone with a substance use disorder. In a group setting, the focus is on sharing and learning from others. Individual therapy involves only one person meeting with a therapist. Both can be highly effective in different ways. For example, individual therapy allows time to address a problem comprehensively. Group therapy provides a space where ongoing support is available and recovery strategies that work for others can be discussed. An integrated approach of group and individual therapy can be used by someone in recovery to receive the benefits of both approaches in any given week.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Let’s start by defining group therapy as a session with two or more people in treatment at the same time. The group size can vary, of course. Depending on the setting, you might be in a room with a dozen other people. The conversations there are open for all to hear and learn from during a group therapy session.

Now that you understand a bit more about what group therapy is, you may be wondering, “Is group therapy as effective as individual therapy?”

One benefit of group therapy is showing you how you’re not alone in your recovery needs. You’ll meet people with similar challenges to stay sober. Connecting with others in this way helps lower tension and stress and can give you a sense of belonging in the group.

Learning to give and receive support is another advantage of group therapy. Support might come when facing setbacks in recovery work or reaching smaller goals on the way to sobriety. Sharing goals openly can create a tight-knit group of people in recovery actively supporting one another.

Group therapy allows for an increase in self-awareness for a person in recovery. The insight that comes from listening to others can help you better recognize your own needs. Self-awareness is a key ingredient to discovering potential barriers to your own recovery.

In a group setting, you’re given a regular opportunity to express yourself freely and get feedback from peers. They will be able to constructively respond to your word choice, tone, or body language. You may discover your communication skills need attention or your approach to dealing with family members could be improved.

Another benefit of group therapy is learning what behaviors worked to help others in recovery. These behaviors get modeled for you through words and actions. Hearing someone share their success stories can inspire you to make new choices in your recovery work and relationships. You will also get to see positive behaviors modeled for you within the group therapy session, too.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

In individual therapy, one person is seen by a therapist in a session. In some cases, that person could be seen by more than one therapist. The therapist may be a psychologist, social worker, counselor, or psychiatrist.

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of this kind of therapy. As the conversation is private, people may feel more comfortable sharing highly personal details about their experiences. The setting can produce a more candid exchange and allow the therapist to have a more authentic view of their client.

Setting an appointment time that’s most convenient for you in another benefit of individual therapy. You can integrate these sessions into your current work and family schedule. It allows for seamlessly adding an important recovery piece to your week without sacrificing other equally important responsibilities.

Individual therapy sessions focus on specific problems. They devote more time to an analysis by the therapist, discussion about potential causes, and suggestions about courses of action. This individualized approach allows sessions to be more intense and more comprehensive.

Direct feedback comes in an individual therapy session. Your therapist responds to the information you share in real-time and helps you see an objective view of what you’re telling them. Also, your therapist shares the progress you’ve made from session to session.

There’s no single pace to individual therapy. The pace can change to meet the specific needs of a session. Sometimes you may need to move at a slower pace if there’s a specific topic with multiple layers that takes extra time to discuss.

The strongest therapeutic relationship comes in individual therapy. It can be a significant factor in working towards a successful outcome. This outcome may be related to the depth of the discussions and the trust that builds in each session. Success stemming from goals set in a session and met can increase that trust and provide motivation to continue working on sobriety needs.

When You Need Individual Therapy Versus Group Therapy

Identifying which one you need can come from looking closely at what each type of therapy involves and seeing what’s right for you. Not every factor is equal. Answering the question, “Is group therapy as effective as individual therapy?” isn’t always straightforward and depends on your unique situation. Some factors may get weighed more heavily by you, depending on your needs and priorities.

Individual Therapy                                                    Group Therapy

I’m okay with paying more.                                         I want the more affordable option.

I want a confidential option.                                        I can share personal matters with others.

I have strong family support.                                      I need to create a support system.

I prefer the focus to be on me.                                   I don’t want to be the sole focus.

I need flexibility in scheduling.                                    I can commit to consistent group times.

I’m comfortable opening up in private.                       I feel less pressure when around others.

I only want a therapist’s feedback.                             I want to hear feedback from peers.

I have a social issue (shy, antisocial, etc.)                 I can be respectfully social around others.

In looking at the example personal statements in each column, which list appears to be more aligned with you personally? Not every statement has to represent you 100%, of course. You should be able to recognize which type of therapy might be a better fit.

Look again at the last group therapy statement. “Respectfully social” means you can participate in group settings and follow any rules, codes of conduct, and expectations. Maintaining personal boundaries and using a courteous tone are expected behaviors, even during times of conflict or tension among group members. People who routinely become verbally aggressive or physically aggressive are not suited for a group setting.

The Integrated Approach During Addiction Recovery

So, is group therapy as effective as individual therapy? The answer is, it depends on each person’s unique situation. While some benefit from group therapy or individual therapy sessions, others may benefit from experiencing both types of therapy.

This integrated approach to addiction recovery allows you to enjoy the benefits of each and use them for different purposes. In your individual sessions, you can go deeper into your specific recovery needs. In your group time, you can learn what others are doing to stay motivated, then practice those same strategies. Finding ways to connect the two experiences for yourself is a helpful way to see how different tools are needed to get the same job done.

Another advantage to the integrated approach is building your confidence in clearly stating what you need to stay in recovery. As you improve your self-advocacy, you may notice it carries into group sessions. You may start to feel more confident when invited to share your experiences with others.

Even if you feel your support system is strong, the integrated approach opens new opportunities. Specifically, you can add supportive people who are also in recovery, making a big difference in your sobriety work.

Consider what you need right now to get sober. Your list should contain names of people who can help, places you can go, and skills you might need to learn. Approach individual therapy and group therapy with the mindset that each can equip you to be a partner in your own care. Then, make your decision to seek out treatment and get started right away.


Origins Recovery & Counseling is a new program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment and evaluation, as well as renowned clinical care for addiction. We have the compassion and professional expertise needed to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-671-4124.

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