By Matthew Tull, PhD
When it comes to seeking out treatment for PTSD (or any other psychological difficulty), you may wonder if it would be helpful to attend group therapy. There are many benefits to attending a group, and in many cases, group therapy can be just as helpful as individual therapy.1
Benefits of Group Therapy in Treating PTSD
Some of the advantages of group therapy for people with PTSD are listed below.
A major benefit of group therapy is validation. By being in a group with a number of people struggling with the same problem, you can see that you are not alone in your struggles. In addition, you may learn that some people in the group are having a hard time coping with the same difficulties, such as relationship problems, substance use, sleep difficulties, or impulsive behaviors.2
In addition, sometimes it can be difficult for a person without PTSD to understand what someone with PTSD is going through. They may have a hard time understanding how difficult it is to cope with thoughts and feelings about a past traumatic event. However, in a group setting, other people with PTSD may be able to more easily recognize and validate what you are going through because they have had very similar experiences.3
Learning From Others
Another benefit of group therapy is being able to learn from the experiences of others. You can hear about what coping strategies other people found to be effective and what coping strategies were not effective.4 You may also learn new ways of addressing a problem in your relationships or at work. By being in a group, you can be exposed to other perspectives on your problems that you may have never considered.
In addition, you can benefit from the experience of others who have lived with PTSD for a longer period of time or who have recovered from the effects of PTSD. Further, just by being in a group, you can learn some better ways of interacting or relating to others. You can also try out and practice some new skills (for example, communication skills) before using them with people outside of the group.5
You Can Help Others
Just as you can learn from others, your experiences in coping with PTSD may also benefit other people in the group. Being able to help others can increase your self-esteem, as well as your belief in your own ability to cope with PTSD symptoms.
Plus, research has shown that helping others can help people manage their own anxiety.6
Finally, group therapy provides an excellent way of receiving social support from others. Finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD.7 A group setting can provide you with the opportunity to develop supportive, trusting, and healthy relationships with other people.
Why Individual Therapy May Be a Better Choice for Some People With PTSD
Just as group therapy has many advantages, it can also have some downsides. First, in group therapy, you don’t get the level of one-on-one attention that you would receive from an individual therapist. In addition, in a group setting, you likely will not be able to discuss certain problems as deeply as you would in individual therapy.
Group therapy also has rules determined by the group leader. This may mean that some topics are off-limits in order to protect the group members and make sure that the group is a safe place.4 For example, group members may not be allowed to discuss their traumatic event in detail in order to prevent other group members from being triggered.
Therefore, when it comes time to seek out therapy for your PTSD, it is important to think about what you would like to achieve in therapy. It is also important to think about what setting (individual versus group) is going to be best for you to get your needs met. In some cases, both group and individual therapy are used together.
As with seeking out a therapist for individual therapy, it is important to do as much research as possible. This way, you can ensure that you will find the best fit for your needs and goals.