Group Therapy for Troubled Teens

Advantages and Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy can be an effective treatment strategy for teens.
Steve Debenport

Sometimes, teens feel different when they have to attend individual therapy. Talking to a therapist by herself may cause your teen to think she's an outcast or that there's something wrong with her.

Depending on the struggles your teen is facing, group therapy may be an alternative option. Meeting with teens who are going through similar challenges can help a teen see that many other people her age are struggling with the same issues.

Sometimes, teens find strengths in numbers. And hearing supportive words from a peer can sometimes go a long way to helping a teen heal. 

What is Group Therapy?

Group therapy provides a unique setting in which troubled teens can learn from and support each other to get help with a specific problem. Group therapy consists of a small group of teens with similar issues and a therapist who facilitates the therapy process. The practice of group therapy has been around for more than 50 years and studies have shown that it is just as effective, and sometimes even more effective, than individual therapy.

Since most teens enjoy interacting with their peers, this can be a very effective way for your teen to learn about her problem and possible solutions. Teens who would rather talk about feelings and experiences with peers than with adults may benefit more from group therapy than individual or family therapy.

What Teen Problems Can Group Therapy Help?

Group therapy offers the most help to teens who have good verbal skills and a specific problem they want to get help with.

Specific teen topics addressed in group therapy include:

  • alcohol/drug use
  • cutting
  • excessive anger
  • medical issues, like cancer or diabetes
  • eating disorders

Group therapy is also a good choice for a teen dealing with a recent trauma such as the death of a friend or family member, sexual or physical abuse or parental divorce.

Benefits of Group Therapy for Teens

Participating in a therapy group with other teens struggling with the same problem can teach new skills and have unique benefits such as:

  • improving social skills
  • learning new ways to cope
  • finding out they aren't alone
  • meeting people to talk to when feeling the urge to cut, drink, etc.
  • gaining a broader perspective of their problem
  • understanding what makes their problem worse
  • giving motivation to make changes

Potential Advantages of Group Therapy

Group therapy could offer unique benefits such as:

  • The cost of group therapy is usually less than for individual or family therapy.
  • Teens with good verbal and social skills usually do well in group therapy.
  • Therapy with other teens who have the same problem provides a great deal of information about this specific issue.

Potential Disadvantages of Group Therapy

There are also some potential downsides to group therapy such as:

  • Effective therapy groups require a skilled therapist to provide effective leadership.
  • Some teens will find it difficult to talk openly about their problems in this setting.
  • The overall effectiveness of the group depends to some extent on the other participants.

If you think your teen may benefit from group therapy, talk to your teen's physician or a mental health professional. Some groups may require a referral from a health care provider.

You can also contact your teen's guidance counselor. Many schools offer social skills groups or groups for kids who have been bullied. 

Source:

"What is Group Psychotherapy?" American Group Psychotherapy Association (2016).

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