When it comes to psychological support and personal growth, the choice between individual therapy and group therapy can make a big difference. Each approach offers unique benefits and considerations, and different people will respond in their own ways to those factors. So, the decision can quickly become a deeply personal one.
At Flourish Psychological Services, we understand the importance of this choice, and how it will affect your future. We’re here to help you decide: do you want to pursue individual or group therapy?
Understanding Individual Therapy
Individual therapy, often referred to as one-on-one therapy, is a highly personal and precisely focused approach to your mental health and healing. In these sessions, you work together with a skilled therapist to explore your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and experiences, without any pressure to bring anyone else in. The one-on-one dynamic creates a safe space where you can delve into your challenges, set specific goals, and receive personalized attention throughout your journey.
Benefits of Individual Therapy
Individual therapy shines in its ability to tailor the treatment to your unique needs. With undivided attention from your therapist, you can collaboratively address any necessary issues – ranging from stress at work to personal relationships, internalized trauma, or treatment of possible disorders and conditions.
This targeted focus on your specific circumstances can lead to a profound exploration of your inner worldview, often creating bigger insights and the potential for lasting personal growth.
Individual therapy is fully confidential – your most intimate thoughts are shared in a secure setting, with every expectation of ongoing privacy. For most people, this means you’re free to explore sensitive topics without fear of judgment or miscommunication.
Scheduling is usually much more flexible, since there are only two people to work around.
Cons of Individual Therapy
One drawback is that you may feel a lack of support and motivation from other people unless you specifically seek out and share with them on your own initiative. Unless they are family or friends, this will be difficult.
Another consideration is that you will only be getting one perspective on any problems you bring up. If this is the case, it’s especially vital that your therapist is a good fit for you and your personality.
Depending on the clinic and the group you’re looking at, individual counselling likely costs more per session.
Understanding Group Therapy
Group therapy may involve several family members coming together for a counselling session, or it may be a shared effort between friends, colleagues, or simply people with a common set of experiences (such as recovery or trauma support groups). Using techniques laid out by the guiding therapist, this communal setting is meant to create a foundation of empathy and show that you are not alone in your struggles. It also takes place in a calming environment, where it’s easier for each individual to speak up, listen to, connect with, and understand the others. There are five commonly-used group models, designed for different needs and situations: psychoeducational, skills development, cognitive-behavioural therapy, support, and interpersonal process.
Group Therapy Advantages
By its nature, group therapy brings you face to face with different perspectives and a variety of coping strategies, which can be the key to understanding your own challenges and negative behaviours.
Many people, though initially hesitant, come to truly appreciate the dynamics of group therapy, and end up forming incredibly strong bonds of friendship within them. When you have someone to talk to who fully understands your situation, it can completely change your life and feel like a huge weight is lifted from your shoulders.
If you have trouble in social situations, group therapy can be a good place to work on those vital interpersonal skills. Over time, you will learn to better understand other people, interpret their needs, and establish healthier relationships. You may even build a whole community that can last for life.
However, working within a group isn’t without its challenges. You may have concerns about privacy, especially in groups where you are new.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some personalities simply clash. While part of our job as therapists is to teach healthy conflict resolution, there may be one or more people within your chosen group that you can’t seem to ever get along with. If not addressed, it can sour the whole group experience.
Individual attention is more limited within a group setting, and it will likely take longer to work through any specific issues for yourself. If you have something to address more immediately, consider individual sessions instead.
Effectiveness of Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy
We’ve already written quite a bit about the benefits and effectiveness of individual therapy in Calgary. It’s good for people looking for help with some of the most common issues facing us in our everyday lives:
Trouble focusing or concentrating
Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders
Major life events like divorce, grief, and disability
Abuse and addiction
Sometimes, you want to work through these issues on your own, in a safe environment where you maintain more control. Individual counselling provides exactly that.
However, group therapy has been proven to be just as effective as individual therapy across a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and more. It’s especially useful for addressing grief, and in particular for reaching adolescents who are seeking therapeutic solutions. It’s also quite helpful for marginalized groups, like refugees and LGBTQ+ people, who find a new sense of community and hope within it, leading to reduced symptoms of PTSD, depression, and other challenges.
As it turns out, group therapy excels in addressing issues tied to shame, stigma, and isolation – offering a unique healing power in shared experiences, especially once people get over initial reservations and misconceptions.
Choosing between individual therapy or group therapy
There’s no “wrong” choice in this matter – both approaches offer help and guidance in their own ways – you may want to decide between one form of therapy and the other. So, reflect on the method you’ll thrive in, think about the level of attention you need, and consider factors like:
The nature of your challenges – is it something you’d be comfortable discussing in front of others? Is it a problem that others might have experienced, and can help you with?
Your personal comfort level – everyone has a different zone of taboo topics, and knowing where your limits are is an important part of your overall therapy journey.
Your treatment goals – think about whether you want to build a like-minded community, learn coping strategies, get new perspectives, overcome a deep trauma, and so on.
Group Vs. Individual Therapy in Calgary
There's no one-size-fits-all answer in this debate. Your journey to healing is uniquely yours, deserving of an approach that resonates with your aspirations and circumstances. At Flourish Psychological Services, we encourage you to seek professional guidance from our experienced therapists, who would be happy to help you make the decision that’s right for you.
Whether you decide to come for one-on-one visits or feel pulled towards the promise of group therapy sessions, we are here to empower you and help you become as healthy and as happy as you can be!