Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD

Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Offers Many Advantages

Man listening in group therapy session
Tom Merton

Individual cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is very effective, but it's also very expensive. If you're getting OCD treatment through a hospital or other health care setting, you are now very likely to receive group CBT treatment for your OCD symptoms instead of individual therapy in order to cut costs. Although a group setting can initially be intimidating, there are actually many benefits to participating in OCD group therapy.

Group Therapy Works as Well as Individual Therapy

The effectiveness of group versus individual CBT for OCD has been the subject of much scientific investigation. Overall, clinical research suggests that group CBT for OCD is just as effective as individual CBT for the treatment of OCD symptoms in both adults and adolescents. Group CBT has also been shown to be effective for major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, many of which occur with OCD.

Advantages of Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Although the content of group CBT is essentially the same as individual CBT, there are a number of advantages to participating in group therapy, which include:

Increased Cost Effectiveness. It has been shown that group CBT for OCD is usually much more cost effective both for the individual and the healthcare provider. If you are not able to afford individual CBT, many psychologists in private practice may be able to offer treatment in a group setting.

Access to Social Support. Much of the suffering associated with OCD stems from the feelings of isolation caused by OCD symptoms. Group therapy allows you the opportunity to see that you are not alone and that others are struggling with similar challenges. Other group members often have great hints and tips for coping with OCD.

Increased Motivation. Just as it can be difficult to go to the gym by yourself, it can be difficult to undertake cognitive and/or behavioral therapy for OCD on your own. By receiving therapy in a group setting, you can receive encouragement from others. You may even help inspire others to change. The shared experience of tackling OCD symptoms can be very powerful.

Getting the Most Out of Group Therapy

While group therapy has its advantages, it is only as beneficial as the amount of work you put in. Group therapy is not only about sitting back and listening to others (though listening has its benefits as well). Here are four tips for getting the most out of your group therapy:

Speak Up. The vast majority of group facilitators work very hard to create a “safe” environment for clients to share experiences with OCD symptoms, some of which can be very embarrassing or touch on potentially sensitive areas, such as relationships or sexuality. However, if you are anxious in social situations or speaking in public, it can be tempting to sit back and let others do the talking in a group setting.

The single best way to get the most out of group CBT is to become an active group member. Sharing your experiences allows you to get the feedback of others and to have a group of people with life-long experience with OCD helping you to work through challenging situations rather than a single therapist.

Attend Sessions Religiously. It is also very important to attend sessions as consistently as you can. It is very disruptive for a group to have members that pop in and out of the group from week to week. This erodes the trust factor that is built up in the group over time. Likewise, keeping up with weekly homework assignments helps you get benefits more quickly and demonstrates to others in the group your commitment to treatment. Such commitment is often contagious.

Accept Differences. It can also be helpful to realize that not everyone likes or even gets along with everyone else. Although group facilitators do their best to create good group chemistry, you might encounter someone with a difficult personality or who does not see things the same way you do. If someone is making it uncomfortable for you attend the group, speak to the group facilitator privately to see if a solution can be found.

Be Committed to Change.  Finally, research shows that the people who have good results with psychotherapy, including group therapy, are those who are highly motivated to change and willing to try and put in the commitment required. Cognitive-behavior therapy requires that you start to take some chances in hopes of getting a better handle on your OCD symptoms. If you have questions about your readiness to participate in group psychotherapy, talk to your doctor or psychologist.


Cordioli, A.V., Heldt, E., Bochi, D., Margis, R., Basso de Sousa, M., Tonello, J.F., Gus Manfro, G., & Kapczinski, F. “Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 2003 72: 211-216.

Fals-Stewart, W., Marks, A., & Schafer, J. “A Comparison of Behavioral Group Therapy and Individual Behavior Therapy in Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 1993 181: 189-193.

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