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When you seek treatment for addiction or a mental health disorder, you will most likely experience individual therapy and group therapy. While both have similar qualities, the two therapies are different. However, participating in both individual and group therapy can be highly beneficial to your recovery.

Individual Therapy vs. Group Therapy

Individual therapy is defined as one person in therapy with one psychologist, counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. On the other hand, group therapy is loosely defined as more than one person being treated together in a formal therapeutic environment. Any number of people, with at least two participating, can engage in group therapy.

Group and individual therapy can follow various treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and art therapy. The type of therapy provided in each is not indicative of their differences, only how many people are participating in the session and their benefits.

The Advantages of Individual Therapy

In recovery, you can experience multiple advantages of individual therapy. The most significant benefit of one-on-one therapy is confidentiality. You may feel more comfortable disclosing personal information in a private space. Only the therapist you are working with will know what you are going through unless they are required to breach confidentiality. A breach of privacy can only occur if you are actively suicidal, actively involved in an action that threatens the safety of others, or actively involved in some form of abuse.

Individual therapy also creates a more intimate therapist and client relationship. When a therapist is solely focused on you in a session, they can better understand what you are going through. As a result, your therapist can more readily uncover what is going on. It also becomes easier to deeply explore your issues and develop an individualized approach that suits your therapy needs.

The Disadvantages of Individual Therapy

Overall, individual therapy is highly beneficial to healing. However, only participating in individual therapy and not group therapy can have some disadvantages. Only participating in individual therapy gives you less of an opportunity to learn about others with similar problems and how they address their issues. The sole focus being on you may also be challenging if you have difficulty communicating your feelings or trusting others.

The Advantages of Group Therapy

The most significant benefit of group therapy is working together with others as a cohesive unit. In group therapy, you have the opportunity to share and listen to similar issues and share with others ways to overcome them. You can realize that you are not alone in your struggles — other people have gone through similar experiences. This sense of belonging can allow you to come together with others and work through issues collectively. A cohesive approach can be especially beneficial to people recovering from substance abuse, as many people believe their struggles are unique to them.

Identifying with other people in a group can also help you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware. As other people share their experiences and where specific feelings and thoughts may stem from, you may recognize something in yourself you never have before.

Other advantages of group therapy include:

  • Learning how to listen and communicate with others appropriately
  • An opportunity to foster modeling
  • Modeling is a method of learning where an individual copies what other people are doing. Group therapy allows you to see what works for others and copy that behavior.
  • Learning to take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences as a result of the group process
  • Groups with more than one therapist can maximize the benefits of treatment through multiple experiences and skills

The Disadvantages of Group Therapy

Some disadvantages of group therapy may include:

  • Less of an opportunity for personal attention
  • Issues brought up may not be relevant to you
  • The same level of confidentiality as individual therapy is not reached
  • Other group members may not fully participate in the process

Using Individual Therapy and Group Therapy Together

Research has found that treatment outcomes for individuals in group therapy and individual therapy are generally equivalent. However, using both types of therapy together can bring you more advantages than only participating in one or the other. When the two therapeutic models are combined, you reap the benefits of both individual therapy and group therapy and are more likely to be at no disadvantage.

In treatment for substance abuse or mental health disorders, you will most likely engage in both individual therapy and group therapy. This form of treatment is highly beneficial in preventing relapse in early recovery due to the intensive treatment provided from combining the therapeutic models.

When you enter treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders, you will most likely be exposed to both individual therapy and group therapy. The most significant difference between these two therapeutic models is the size of groups; individual therapy is one-on-one, while group therapy involves two or more individuals and often more than one therapist. The two therapies also provide different advantages and disadvantages when not combined. Participating in both individual therapy and group therapy can provide you with numerous benefits and help prevent relapse in early recovery. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we provide individual therapy and group therapy to offer you the best chance at recovery. Our outpatient services in Southern California are designed to meet every client where they are at. Healing is possible through many different avenues, and we will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that works for you. For more information on our services, call us today at (760) 492-6509.