What Happens During Group Therapy?

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Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

Have you thought about attending group therapy, but you weren’t sure what to expect? Part of what to expect depends on the type of therapy group you choose. For more information about types of therapy groups, click here.

But regardless of which kind of therapy group you select, a group therapist will use a broad set of skills to lead the group and facilitate growth and change. Here are some of the skills he or she will use:

  • Active listening – Being alert and present in order to hear the subtle and direct messages being communicated by group members.
  • Reflecting – Capturing the facts, feelings, or meaning underlying what members are saying and expressing this back to the members without sounding mechanical.
  • Clarifying – Focusing on underlying issues and helping group members obtain a clearer picture of what they are thinking or feeling.
  • Summarizing – Identifying common themes in the discussion and providing a picture of where the group has been and where it is headed.
  • Facilitating – Taking the focus off of the group therapist by helping group members take action and interact with each other.
  • Empathizing – Adopting the internal frame of reference of group members.
  • Interpreting – Explaining the meaning of group members’ thoughts, feelings, or behaviors within a theoretical framework, such as cognitive-behavioral theory.
  • Questioning – Stimulating thought and action by asking about issues pertaining to a group member or the entire group.
  • Linking – Promoting member-to-member interaction by pointing out common themes among members.
  • Confronting – Challenging members to face contradictions in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Supporting – Offering positive reinforcement in order to stimulate growth and change.
  • Blocking – Stopping counterproductive behaviors in a group in order to establish ground rules or to protect group members.

As you can see, group therapists have a lot to do! So there’s no need to worry about what will happen during a group or whether there’s a purpose to each intervention the group leader chooses. There’s often a lot more happening in group therapy than is apparent on the surface.


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Corey, M. S., Corey, G., & Corey, C. (2014). Groups: Process and practice (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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