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Individual vs group therapy: definitions and differences

Reading time: 18 mins
Individual vs group therapy: definitions and differences

Individual therapy and group therapy are two forms of psychotherapy. Their primary difference is in the number of people who take part in the therapy sessions. One is not necessarily better than the other, but there are cases where individual therapy is more beneficial than group therapy, and vice versa.

Individual therapy is a one-on-one session where one therapist conducts a session with a single individual. In group therapy, more than one individual is treated by one or more therapists in a single session.

Individual therapy is most suited for people who feel uncomfortable, stressed, and anxious in group settings and/or desire absolute confidentiality. Although individual therapy is expensive, it makes for convenient scheduling. The patient also gets the benefit of having the therapist’s full attention.

Group therapy is most suited for people who score high on the extroversion scale and thrive in group settings. It is used for improving symptoms linked to disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, emotional trauma, eating disorders, and phobias, and to help people overcome interpersonal difficulties and improve dysfunctional relationships.

Whether a person chooses individual or group therapy depends on their personal preferences and how comfortable they feel sharing their stories and mental health struggles in a group setting. In certain circumstances, a treatment approach combining individual and group therapy delivers better outcomes than individual or group therapy alone.

What is individual therapy?

A girl in a individual therapy session.

Individual therapy is a form of psychotherapy to treat psychological problems where one therapist meets one person at a time, thereby facilitating the personalization of the treatment, according to the definition provided in the APA Dictionary of Psychology published by the American Psychological Association and updated on 15 November 2023.

Being one-on-one sessions, the therapist is able to tailor therapy to suit the unique needs and circumstances of the patient while seeking to understand the causes and improve the symptoms of the disorder.

The therapy sessions are intense and intimate where the therapist encourages the patient to explore their feelings, emotions, and behaviors to help them interpret underlying motives. This understanding is crucial to changing negative thought patterns and behavioral responses, learning healthy coping skills, and improving dysfunctional relationships and interpersonal skills.

Both short-term mental health challenges and complex long-term psychiatric disorders are addressed in individual therapy. This mode of therapy allows for flexible scheduling and absolute confidentiality.

What are the benefits of individual therapy?

Two woman hugging each other after individual therapy session.

The benefits of individual therapy are listed below.

  • Confidentiality: Confidentiality in therapy encompasses not just the contents of the therapy but also the information that a patient is in therapy. Therapists are bound by legal and professional codes of ethics to keep the dialogues between them and their patients private. There are strict laws to protect patient privacy. Most patients are aware of the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the discrimination that they are likely to face if they share their problems and challenges with their loved ones and acquaintances. Many people seek individual therapy because they are uncomfortable sharing their struggles with other people. Confidentiality is essential for building a working relationship based on trust and regard. Knowing that what they share with their therapists will remain private allows patients to be open and candid.
  • Safe space to explore emotions: Individual therapy creates a safe space for patients to explore and process their emotions without feeling judged or being bullied. They are able to express themselves fully and honestly and explore different parts of their personalities without being ridiculed or scorned. Knowing that the dialogues between them and their therapists will remain private and secure lets patients talk about deep-seated traumas, fears, and resentments against loved ones that they would not have shared with others. Creating a safe space where patients are able to express themselves helps them feel supported and respected, which in turn, helps in the healing process.
  • Focused attention: Individual therapy lets the therapist focus their energies and attention solely on one patient. They are able to thoroughly and meticulously enquire into their patients’ condition. Lengthy interviews create opportunities for deep dialogues that allow therapists to unearth unresolved traumas, explore motivations, discover self-limiting beliefs, analyze personality traits, and reach a consensus on treatment goals and modalities. Focused attention from the therapist helps foster a bond between them and their patients. The stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues have created a world where people with psychiatric disorders do not feel seen or heard. Focused attention from a therapist gives them the confidence to open up and feel confident about following the treatment plan.
  • Personalization: Individual therapy allows therapists to customize the treatment program to their patient’s needs and responsiveness. Personalizing therapy to individual patient character traits, past experiences, and current circumstances generally produces better outcomes than a one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. Although research in personalized psychotherapy is still in the nascent stages, this 2019 paper by Jacques P. Barber and Nili Solomonov in the journal World Psychiatry, titled “Toward a personalized approach to psychotherapy outcome and the study of therapeutic change” explains how personalized therapy benefits patients. For example, individuals who are naturally aware of their thoughts are guided during therapy sessions to focus on their negative thought processes. Here the therapist creates a personalized approach that works with individual strengths instead of compelling the patient to follow the protocols of cognitive behavioral therapy. Personalization also lets the therapist pace the treatment sessions.
  • Intensive analysis: One-on-one attention and personalized therapy create the time and space for intensive analysis of motivations, experiences, struggles, emotions, and responses. The therapist is thus able to have a deeper and comprehensive understanding of the patient’s condition and with this knowledge, they are able to create customized and more effective treatment routines.
  • Strong therapeutic alliance: Therapeutic alliance refers to the working relationship between a healthcare practitioner and their patients. According to Dorothy E. Stubbe in her 2018 article titled “The Therapeutic Alliance: The Fundamental Element of Psychotherapy” published in Focus, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, the quality of therapeutic alliance is strongly associated with the efficacy and success of psychotherapy, irrespective of the modality of treatment. The higher the quality of therapeutic alliance, the more a patient engages with their treatment program. Greater engagement leads to increased therapy attendance. A satisfactory working relationship also makes a patient more likely to open up during therapies and confide in their therapist, which in turn, offers the therapist more insights into the patient’s psyche and circumstances. Having a positive working relationship makes the patient less likely to be skeptical about diagnoses, medications, and treatment and more likely to follow instructions.
  • Convenient scheduling: In group therapy, it is often challenging for several people with diverse daily routines and obligations to coordinate and agree to meet at a time that suits all. At other times, it is difficult for everyone to convene at a specific venue whenever a therapy session is scheduled. For example, a person cannot reach a venue on time if it is far from where they are traveling. This leads to people missing sessions or having to go through the hassles of rescheduling. Individual therapy allows for flexible scheduling, and the person undergoing the therapy schedules a session according to their convenience. There is increased therapy attendance, which is critical for therapy efficacy, according to this 2012 paper by Garland et al., published in the journal Psychological Services, titled “Exploring the Effect of Therapists’ Treatment Practices on Client Attendance in Community-Based Care for Children.” This paper mentions several studies that have shown that poor therapy attendance, characterized by brief or inconsistent attendance, leads to poor treatment outcomes.
  • Development of positive skills and emotions: Being in individual therapy helps improve communication skills and promotes feelings of empowerment. Communicating their needs to the therapist during an individual therapy session helps shy individuals learn to speak up and advocate for themselves. Deciding to consult a therapist and going through the treatment program on their own bring on feelings of empowerment in individuals who had been accustomed to others making their decisions for them or felt that they had been controlled and/or manipulated by others.

What are the risks of individual therapy?

A woman having an individual therapy session.

The risks of individual therapy are listed below.

  • Becoming attached to or dependent on the psychotherapist: If a person has chosen individual therapy, it is likely that they consider their therapist to be the only person they are able to trust and comfortably share their feelings and emotions with. They confide their deepest fears and darkest thoughts in them. They feel seen and heard by them. They receive support, empathy, and help from their therapist. There are instances when they become emotionally attached to their therapist. This emotional attachment becomes unhealthy when the patient is unable to break the bond and form other meaningful and viable relationships or when they become dependent on their therapist to make their decisions for them.
  • Being uncomfortable with negative emotions and traumatic memories: The human brain tends to suppress the memory of an overwhelming trauma to protect itself. Intimate dialogues with therapists during individual therapy sessions bring up deep-seated traumas that the patient had hidden away and buried deep within their psyche. Being compelled to confront traumatic memories causes extreme discomfort and leads to feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or anxiety in people. A flood of negative emotions aggravates already existing mental problems or triggers new disorders.
  • Unable to cope healthily with negative thought processes: All patients are unable to cope healthily with the deep-rooted traumatic memories and the negative emotions that they had dredged up during the therapy session. Many of these patients choose to go through individual therapy because they don’t feel safe and comfortable confiding in anyone other than their therapist. So, they are alone with their thoughts and memories outside the therapy setting. A common unhealthy coping mechanism is resorting to substance abuse to numb negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Unable to receive peer support: A 2020 literature review by Reham A Hameed Shalaby and Vincent I O Agyapong in the journal JMIR Mental Health, titled “Peer Support in Mental Health: Literature Review,” concludes that a large number of studies acknowledge the benefits of incorporating peer support services within mental health services. The people going through individual therapy are devoid of peer support. They do not have the opportunity to interact with people who have experienced or are going through similar challenging and traumatic life circumstances. Individuals with lived experience are proof that it is possible to overcome mental health struggles and lead a meaningful and productive life. They are thus able to inspire and instill hope in people struggling with their mental health issues. The stigma and shame associated with mental health struggles make many people feel alienated and lonely. Interacting with peers fosters a sense of belonging.
  • Discontinuing therapy due to expenses: Individual therapy is generally more expensive than group therapy. Individuals who discontinue therapy due to expenses struggle to resolve their mental health issues, especially if they do not seek an alternative form of therapy. Living with mental health issues harms their personal and professional relationships and prevents them from living a fulfilling life.

What is individual therapy commonly used for?

Individual therapy is commonly used for people who do not possess the personality traits and/or behavioral skills to participate in group settings and derive personal gains from or make meaningful contributions to the group process.

Individual therapy is commonly used for counseling people who score high on neuroticism. These people react poorly to environmental stress, feel emotions intensely, perceive ordinary situations as threatening and are impulsive. They generally feel uncomfortable around people. Being in a group setting is upsetting, especially if there is a possibility that they will be subjected to blame, criticism, and hostility from others in the group.

Individual therapy is used for people who harbor negative feelings like guilt and shame and those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) who feel anxious when they are around people because they fear being judged, ridiculed, or humiliated.

People with trust issues do not confide readily in other people and tend not to express themselves fully and freely in group therapy. These people benefit from individual therapy where they are able to be fully present and be honest about their personal struggles.

Individual therapy is used when patients want to explore their thought patterns, motives underlying their behavioral responses, and the basis of their unhealthy coping mechanisms to improve their functionality and well-being.

What are the limitations of individual therapy?

A girl going through individual therapy session.

The limitations of individual therapy are listed below.

  • Less effective when disorders have social causes: Mental health disorders with roots in the social environment of the patient cannot be addressed or resolved by counseling only the individual, according to a 2010 article by McHugh et al., published in the journal Psychiatric Clinics of North America, titled “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders.” Toxic relationships negatively impact mental health. For example, according to a 2023 article by Susan C. South published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, titled “A Romantic-Partner Model of Mental Health,” dissatisfaction, conflict, and distress in a relationship have a strong link to mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. For example, a strained relationship with their partner causes substance use disorder or aggravates an existing addiction problem in a patient. In such a case, behavioral couples therapy, a form of group therapy, where both individuals are counseled, is more effective than individual therapy (McHugh, 2010).
  • Over-dependence on self-reported data: In individual therapy, the sole source of information for the therapist is what the patient reveals to them. Patients choose to suppress information to protect loved ones or out of shame or guilt. They forget extremely traumatizing events even though the trauma is unconsciously affecting their thought processes and directing how they relate to others. It is possible that patients are unable to be candid about their struggles in the first few sessions. Lack of data or incorrect or partially correct information prevents a therapist from planning the most effective treatment strategy.
  • Less effective when the individual is an extrovert: People who score high on the extroversion scale tend to feel energized when they are amongst people. They are generally comfortable sharing personal stories and processing thoughts and emotions during social interactions. Individual therapy is less effective for these people.
  • Unaffordable for certain groups of people: Because individual therapy is generally more expensive than group therapy, everybody cannot afford it. This is especially true for uninsured people. Individuals with Medicaid and private insurance coverage face challenges. All mental healthcare providers do not accept Medicaid. Medicaid offerings vary across states. For instance, it restricts the number of therapy sessions that a plan holder will receive. Most private insurance plans cover mental health costs including individual therapy provided the individual has a mental health diagnosis. The amount of coverage that the person has varies across providers.

What is group therapy?

Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy where one or more therapists conduct a session with two or more people. According to an article by the American Psychological Association created on 31 October 2019, titled “Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy,” the therapy group usually consists of 5-15 people who meet for 1-2 hours every week for the duration of the treatment. Group therapy usually addresses one specific topic or topic cluster that all participants have agreed to discuss.

Besides improving the symptoms of the psychiatric disorder that the group members have, the goals of group therapy include helping them become comfortable with social settings and function within groups while communicating effectively, managing their emotions, and displaying compassion and empathy toward others.

According to a 2022 StatPearls release by Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker, titled “Group Therapy,” group therapy helps an individual develop interpersonal skills, improve dysfunctional relationships, correct negative thought processes and behavioral patterns, and learn healthy coping skills, all with the eventual aim to return to society and lead a functional and fulfilling life.

What are the benefits of group therapy?

Men and woman sitting in a group therapy.

The benefits of group therapy are listed below.

  • Cost-effective: Group therapy allows clinicians to provide their services to many people in a single setting. This makes group therapy less expensive than individual therapy and helps uninsured individuals and those with inadequate insurance coverage seek and receive support and treatment for their mental health conditions. When people are able to afford therapy, they are more likely to attend all the sessions, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the treatment program. People with severe and chronic mental disorders usually have multiple diagnoses and need a large number of services just to preserve their current levels of functioning and independence. Being cost-effective, group therapy is especially beneficial to these people, according to a 2011 article by Jennifer Urbano Blackford and Rene Love published in the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, titled “Dialectical Behavior Therapy Group Skills Training in a Community Mental Health Setting: A Pilot Study.”
  • Peer support: Group therapy allows patients to connect with peer support groups. They interact with people with similar lived experiences, learn coping strategies, give and receive emotional support, gain new perspectives on their condition, and move toward common goals. Engaging with peer support groups and activities are considered two critical predictors of recovery in substance abuse cases, according to a 2020 article by Reham A Hameed Shalaby and Vincent I O Agyapong, published in the journal JMIR Mental Health, titled “Peer Support in Mental Health: Literature Review.”
  • Inspiration from people with lived experiences: Patients in group therapy get to interact with other people with similar struggles and witness for themselves how the latter manage their conditions and thrive. This is not only a valuable learning experience but also provides inspiration and hope. Patients realize that they too have the internal resources to overcome their issues by “modeling” successful behaviors and go on to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
  • Development of a sense of belonging: In a world where mental health disorders carry stigma, patients with psychiatric conditions often feel alienated, judged, and lonely. These feelings trigger new psychiatric disorders or aggravate the symptoms of existing disorders like depression and anxiety. Participating in group therapy allows them to feel a sense of connectedness.
  • Development of communication and social skills: Repeated interactions with people within a group setting help develop communication and social skills. People learn to interpret social signals and non-verbal cues like body language and tone of voice and empathize with another person. People who are shy and/or afraid of social situations learn to overcome their inhibitions and express themselves confidently.
  • Improved self-esteem: Individuals with mental health issues often face discrimination and are made to feel ashamed and guilty for their struggles. Mental health issues make it challenging for them to form or sustain deep and meaningful relationships and/or function productively in the professional sphere. They often suffer from low self-esteem. Interacting with peers in a group setting boosts their confidence as their communication skills improve and they learn to stand up and speak for themselves, without fear and guilt.
  • Development of self-awareness: People who are not self-aware to a high degree often cannot introspect and engage in self-reflection. So, they fail to understand the motives behind their actions and behaviors. They are unable to or find it difficult to interpret their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions objectively. By interacting with other people in group therapy, they are able to gain insights into their negative thought patterns and self-destructive tendencies. These insights help them make inspired and lasting changes.
  • Improvements in interpersonal problems: According to a 2021 article by Rosendahl et al., published in The American Journal of Psychotherapy, titled “Recent Developments in Group Psychotherapy Research,” repeated interactions with supportive peers and responsive group leaders trigger positive changes in attachment patterns, which in turn, improve interpersonal problems like being excessively needy and dependent in relationships; being unable to form and/or sustain deep, meaningful, and committed relationships; feeling a lack of intimacy in relationships; constantly seeking validation from others; and experiencing trust issues.
  • Improvements in relationship dynamics: When mental health disorders are rooted in or exacerbated by dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, group therapy often seeks to open channels of communication between family members and loved ones. When the patient and their loved ones open up and reveal their fears, traumas, resentments, and vulnerabilities in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, relationship dynamics improve.

What are the risks of group therapy?

The risks of group therapy are listed below.

  • Participants missing sessions: It is challenging to convene a group of individuals with diverse work, personal commitments, and lifestyles. Scheduling is cumbersome and often, people with busy and active lives miss sessions. This not only frustrates other group members but also deteriorates interpersonal relationships, in the context of family therapy, because a person feels betrayed by a loved one’s absence, which they perceive to be apathy.
  • Participants not exhibiting solidarity: People with different personalities and styles of expression come together in a group. Although they agree on a common goal, which is supporting one another through therapy, it is common for them to disagree on how to go about the treatment or the goals of the treatment. Lack of cohesion prevents group members from sympathizing and empathizing with one another and acknowledging the emotions of others when expressing themselves. Lack of cohesion among group members is a prime cause of conflicts, according to a 2000 article by Howard B. Roback, published in The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, titled “Adverse Outcomes in Group Psychotherapy.”
  • Creating conflicts: Conflicts arise when one or more group members are verbally abusive or insulting, resort to heated arguments, or hurl accusations at one another. These behaviors— common in group settings where family members with unprocessed traumas of their own reveal their resentments and stories of grief and abuse—create conflicts. On the other hand, overly intrusive behavior is perceived as overstepping boundaries and thus, creates a hostile environment.
  • Patients experiencing lowering of self-esteem: Everyone present in a group is not able to express negative feedback in language that does not sound accusatory or derogatory. Negative feedback delivered without compassion lowers the self-esteem of sensitive participants.
  • Patients experiencing distress: Hostile environments, heated arguments, and highly critical interpersonal feedback distress emotionally fragile group members. Acute distress is likely to trigger new psychiatric symptoms or aggravate the symptoms of existing disorders. Patients terminate therapy if they are traumatized.

What is group therapy commonly used for?

Group therapy is commonly used for people with limited access to healthcare services, such as people living in rural or low-income communities where mental health clinics are scarce and/or there is a dearth of trained professional therapists. Group sessions are cost-effective because therapists meet a large number of people in a single session.

Group therapy is also commonly used when patients have interpersonal difficulties and pathologies; harbor negative thought patterns or are suffering from feelings of isolation; need to learn skills like assertiveness and anger management, which have to be practiced only in group settings; and require psychoeducation sessions to learn more about themselves, their conditions, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Group therapy is most commonly used to address the mental health challenges of people who score high on the extroversion scale. These people are energized by the presence of others and feel motivated to alter their behaviors and thought processes through peer interactions. According to a 2022 StatPearls release by Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker, titled “Group Therapy,” group therapy is used for individuals who do not possess a high degree of self-awareness and are unable to reflect on and analyze their emotions and responses objectively.

According to a 2023 article by Stephanie Pappas published in Monitor on Psychology, a publication by the American Psychological Association, titled “Group therapy is as effective as individual therapy and more efficient. Here’s how to do it successfully,” group therapy is particularly helpful for people of marginalized identities. These people reduce their feelings of alienation and learn to cope with their personal struggles and mental health challenges by sharing their stories with and receiving solidarity and support from people with similar experiences.

Group therapy is used for improving or lessening specific symptoms linked to disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, emotional trauma, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to this 2021 article by Rosendahl et al., published in The American Journal of Psychotherapy, titled “Recent Developments in Group Psychotherapy Research.”

What are the limitations of group therapy?

The limitations of group therapy are listed below.

  • Unsuitable for people in severe distress or those who are actively suicidal: The issues confronting these people must be addressed immediately, which is not possible in a group setting where there are collective goals to be met and the therapist’s time and attention are divided among several people. It is strongly recommended that people who are displaying severe psychosis and/or suicidal tendencies are counseled in a one-to-one session, according to a 2022 StatPearls release by Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker, titled “Group Therapy.”
  • Less suitable for people who score high on neuroticism: According to the above-mentioned paper, group therapy is not recommended for people who score high on neuroticism. These people are apprehensive, emotionally reactive, get hurt easily, and are uncomfortable being around people. These people cannot express themselves fully in group situations and experience distress and anxiety.
  • Less effective when individuals in the group have busy or active lives: Group therapy is successful if all participants attend the sessions regularly. People who are always on the move, such as airline crew, often miss sessions, which is annoying for everyone else.
  • Less effective for individuals with insecure attachments: People with insecure attachments have trust issues, so they are uncomfortable opening up in group settings. They also tend to be anxious and disorganized and show avoidant and unpredictable behavior. As a result, they are not accepted easily by other group members. It is recommended that these people go through individual therapy before taking part in group therapy, 2021 article by J. Scott Rutan in The American Journal of Psychotherapy, titled “Reasons for Suggesting Group Psychotherapy to Patients.

What are the differences between individual therapy and group therapy?

Men and women sitting in a circle for group therapy.

The differences between individual therapy and group therapy include differences in the number of people taking the therapy, patient characteristics, how the therapy is delivered, the conditions addressed, and their unique benefits and limitations. These differences are described in the table below.

Differences Between Individual Therapy and Group Therapy 
Individual TherapyGroup Therapy
There is a single individual in therapy with one therapist in a single session.Two or more people are in therapy with one or more therapists in a single session.
There is scope for exploring diverse feelings and thoughts.The focus is usually on a single topic or topic cluster, such as depression.
There is scope for personalization of treatment.There is less scope for personalizing treatment.
The patient receives the undivided attention of the therapist.The therapist’s attention is divided among multiple people.
There is no peer support.There is peer support.
It is expensive.It is less expensive than individual therapy.
It is easy to schedule.It is difficult to schedule because many people are involved.
It is recommended for people who score high on the neuroticism scale.It is recommended for people who score high on the extroversion scale.
It is recommended for people in severe psychiatric distress or who are actively suicidal.It is highly unsuitable for people in acute mental distress or who are actively suicidal.
A healthy therapeutic alliance forms between the therapist and the patient, and the stronger the bond, the better the outcome.Strong bonds usually do not form between individual group members and the therapist.

Is group therapy more effective than individual therapy?

Yes, group therapy is more effective than individual therapy in cases where the patient scores high on the extroversion scale, has psychological issues stemming from dysfunctional interpersonal patterns, harbors negative thought patterns, lacks a high degree of self-awareness, or wants to learn skills like assertiveness.

According to a 2022 StatPearls publication by Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker, titled “Group Therapy,” individuals who exhibit strong extroversion, action-oriented tendencies, and conscientiousness benefit more from group therapy than individual therapy. They prefer to be around people and are comfortable sharing their stories and processing emotions in group settings. The opportunity for peer interaction makes group therapy more beneficial than individual therapy for individuals who are socially isolated and feel lonely.

According to a release titled “Health Risks of Social Isolation and Loneliness” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last reviewed on March 30, 2023, socially isolated people feel that they lack meaningful or close connections and do not have a sense of belonging.

The supportive milieu created within a group allows the patient to be challenged by their peers. Authors F.M. Saleh and H.M. Malin state in the chapter titled “Sexual Offenders” published in the Encyclopedia of Stress (Second Edition), 2007 that the strong affinity the patient shares with other members of the group makes them more responsive and willing to bring about change if they are challenged by their peers than by the therapist.

According to the chapter titled “Group Psychotherapy” by K. Roy MacKenzie published in the 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy, group therapy is most intensively used to improve symptoms in individuals with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and eating disorders.

Rosendahl et al., in their 2021 article published in The American Journal of Psychotherapy, titled “Recent Developments in Group Psychotherapy Research,” mention that group therapy has led to a significant reduction in disorder-related symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. According to the authors, group therapy in these instances was found to be as effective as individual therapy.

Can individual and group therapy be combined?

Four men and women in a therapy session.

Yes, individual and group therapy can be combined as part of an integrated treatment approach that merges the benefits of both types of therapies. Individual sessions pre-orient patients to group therapy by helping them explore and/or reinforce their motivation for treatment, addressing their concerns about joining a group and reaching a consensus about treatment outcomes. Group therapy, on the other hand, helps foster a sense of belonging, receive peer support and solidarity, and lessen the sense of alienation.

In certain cases, individual therapy is required to equip patients with the coping skills and behavioral responses necessary to participate in a group setting. Individual therapy is used before group therapy to help patients overcome inhibitions, social phobia, and/or negative feelings of guilt and anxiety that would otherwise prevent them from interacting meaningfully and empathetically with other members of the group and hinder their progress in group therapy, according to a 2019 article by Dorothe Türk in the journal Group Analysis, titled “Combined and parallel individual and group therapy—still a red rag?

Individuals who have pronounced super-ego disorders tend to be moralistic and judgmental. They have difficulty accepting anything or anyone that they perceive as “immoral.” Individual therapy helps them learn acceptance of and tolerance toward others, which are essential for giving and receiving help and offering empathy and altruistic support in a peer group setting.