Individual vs. Group Therapy – Making Sense of the Pros and Cons

It can be tough to decide whether to go to individual vs. group therapy.

On one hand, they have a lot of similarities. Therefore, you are likely to gain benefits from either experience.

On the other hand, there are important differences between the two approaches to therapy. One might turn out to be what you need more than the other.

Understanding the pros and cons of each therapy type can help you make the best decision.

Individual vs. Group Therapy: Similarities

There are many important similarities between individual vs. group therapy. Most importantly, you’ll work with a trained and licensed therapist in either situation. Furthermore, research indicates that both types of therapy are successful in treating a diverse range of conditions.

Pros and Cons of Individual Therapy

Individual therapy, as the name suggests, is when you go to one-on-one therapy. There are many different types of individual therapy. Therefore, you can choose from a variety of different approaches. However, there are some general pros and cons of individual therapy vs. group therapy.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

If you choose to try individual therapy, some of the benefits include:

  • Consistent individual attention to your specific, unique problems and needs
  • Developing a strong relationship with your therapist
  • Generally, more in-depth and comprehensive than group therapy
  • Logistical convenience such as more options for scheduling
  • Sessions and pacing that are tailored to where you are in the therapeutic process

Drawbacks of Individual Therapy vs. Group Therapy

Some people find it stressful to sit in a one-on-one conversation with a therapist. The spotlight is always on them so to speak. In contrast, group therapy offers a bit of downtime to focus on other people, which can be a relief at times.

In individual therapy, it’s just you and the therapist. Therefore, you can develop a very strong connection with the therapist. However, you really only get one relationship and one viewpoint. If you don’t work well with the therapist, you may have to seek a new therapist and start over. In contrast, group therapy offers multiple relationships and perspectives.

Finally, individual therapy tends to be more expensive than group therapy.

Pros and Cons of Group Therapy

Group counseling is when you attend therapy with a trained counselor but also with a group of other people. This is the biggest pro, and the biggest con, of group therapy, compared with individual therapy.

Benefits of Group Therapy

On one hand, that group of people provides many of the benefits of group counseling. For example:

  • Deep-rooted understanding that you are not alone
  • Opportunity to share your story with others, which is in itself healing
  • Skills practice in a safe space, for example, learning to speak up despite social anxiety
  • Support from people who really understand what you’re going through
  • Variety of perspectives, suggestions, and ways of interpreting experiences

Furthermore, you get to experience a powerful opportunity to support others. Giving to others can help broaden your perspective, taking you out of your own ruminative mind. Moreover, you can grow and learn as you listen and support other people.

Drawbacks of Group Therapy

Of course, the group itself can also pose challenges. After all, you’re dealing with a wide variety of different personalities. They may trigger you.

Group dynamics can be very complicated. A skilled therapist will lead the group to enhance the benefits of group therapy while mitigating the drawbacks, but there are still likely to be challenges in dealing with a group.

Another drawback is that group therapy tends to focus on the limited issue that each group member shares. For example, you may all be coping with grief, working through substance misuse, or trying to overcome anxiety. The benefit is that you’re all working on that together.

However, the drawback is that when other deep individual issues arise, you may not get the opportunity to work through them. Of course, this varies depending on the issue and the group.

In other words, group therapy doesn’t offer as much individual attention. You can’t set the time. Instead, you have to show up when therapy is scheduled. You don’t get to spend the whole hour focused on your issues. This can be a pro or a con.

Of course, if you have the time and resources, you might be able to combine individual and group therapy. You can develop skills within the group and also benefit from supporting others while in individual sessions you can go deeper into your own issues.

We are happy to answer any questions you still have about individual vs. group therapy. You can learn more about our services here.