Group therapy can offer people a place to discuss a number of topics. So, what is group therapy? Group therapy is a term for any type of in-person or online therapy session where two or more individuals participate to heal or recover. It’s a modality used by mental health professionals to treat a group of people who may be experiencing the same or similar issues.
Group therapy can help participants by allowing them to share their experiences in a safe setting while receiving support from both a therapist as well as their therapy group peers. In combination with individual therapy, the format in which group therapy topics are covered can work well for many people.
Therapy treatment in a group setting might increase your chance of healing and feeling better faster. In fact, more than 50 clinical trials and several decades of research have shown that group therapy can be just as effective as individual therapy.
Read on to learn what types of group therapy topics can be helpful so you can see if group therapy sessions might be worth trying.
1. Family Issues
Many people use group therapy counseling to help them navigate challenging or dysfunctional family dynamics. Family can be some of the most difficult relationships we have in life, and group therapy sessions can help us understand that we’re not alone. Delving into how you interact with your parents, siblings, and other family members might explain a lot about your behavior and relationships with others.
Topics that may be addressed in a group therapy session specific to family issues includes:
- Parent-child relationships
- Sibling interactions
- Feeling supported
- Abandonment issues
2. Substance Abuse
One of the more popular group therapy topics, substance abuse can be discussed in a group setting quite successfully. You can learn more about your addiction and discover the triggers that might be contributing to why you engage in addictive behavior. Understanding triggers for addiction can be hugely beneficial in your addiction recovery.
One of the benefits of group therapy is learning exactly what types of things, events, or situations tend to cause you to crave drugs or alcohol means you can avoid them. By doing so, you can increase the chance that your sobriety will last, decreasing the risk of relapse.
Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings notes that substance abuse group therapy discussion topics can include the following additional subtopics:
- Substance abuse and the need for support and goal-setting skills
- Problem-solving with the opportunity to listen to others’ similar problems and learn
- User’s empowerment and skill learning
- Routine and structure setting
- Relationship building and improvement
- Communal sharing, learning, and healing by talking amongst group members
- Token economies
- Family and community support
“In group sessions, substance abuse can be addressed from a peer-to-peer perspective or as an illness that affects the individual. In group therapy, the help and experiences of the therapist and peers may benefit the person more than individual therapy. Group therapy is an essential part of effective mental health and substance abuse treatment. When in combination with individual therapy and/or medication, the results can be visible within a few weeks.”Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP, CLYL, CMHIMP
3. Mental Health Conditions
Group therapy can be effective for people with many different types of mental health conditions. It can be used in combination with individual therapy, or on its own for people who have conditions like depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorders, and more.
Some mental health group topics that can be covered in a group therapy setting include:
- Education about a specific mental health condition
- Coping skills
- Social skills
- Setting boundaries
- Developing self-worth and confidence
- Overcoming fear
- Dealing with anger issues
4. Emotional Wellness
Emotional wellness, or emotional health, is your ability to successfully navigate the stress you face in life in a healthy, positive way. It’s also how you can learn to adapt and course-correct during difficult times. Emotional wellness groups can help you deal with challenges you may be facing — from loss, to love, to grief.
Some topics that can be covered for groups supporting emotional wellness can include:
- Being more mindful
- Reducing stress
- Having a more positive outlook on life
- How to develop healthy sleep habits
- Strengthening social connections
- Dealing and coping with loss
At some point in life, you’re going to have to cope with grief. We tend to think of grief as relating only to the death of a loved one, but in reality there are many types of grief.
You can grieve any significant loss in life. Leaving a home or town when relocating, losing or quitting a job, the end of a relationship—all of these can result in grief. It’s so important to learn how to navigate the grieving process in order to heal from loss in a healthy manner.
Some topics that can be covered in grief support groups can include:
- Saying goodbye
- Looking towards your new future
- Coping skills
6. Criminal Behavior
Criminal behavior, especially once someone has been convicted of a crime and is in the criminal justice system, can be addressed through specific forms of group therapy. Different types of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been found effective for adult and juvenile offenders, violent offenders, and those who’ve committed substance abuse-related crimes.
Group therapy topics that can be covered to address criminal behavior may include:
- Social skills
- Critical and moral reasoning
- Means-end problem-solving
- Impulse control and management
- Reintegrating into society outside of prison
Divorce can be painful. If individual therapy isn’t enough, group therapy might be helpful as you grieve the loss of your marriage and begin the healing process. Being with like-minded people, who’ve experienced the same struggles as you can be a great way for you to start rebuilding your life. It doesn’t matter if you initiated the divorce, your partner did, or if it was mutual, it’s still a difficult time to navigate on your own.
Some topics covered to address divorce during group therapy may include:
- Divorce depression
- Dating after divorce
- Coping with loss
- Practicing social skills
- Financial freedom
- Single parenthood
Healing from trauma takes a lot of work, which is why trauma might be one of the most common group therapy discussion topics out there. Dealing with past trauma is important to recovering and healing mentally and emotionally.
If you’ve experienced any sort of trauma — such as abuse, assault, the death of a loved one, illness, or anything else — and you’re having a difficult time healing, group therapy might help you tremendously.
Topics that can be covered in group therapy for trauma can include:
- Sexual assault
- Financial abuse
- Mental abuse
- Physical abuse
9. Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse can be incredibly difficult to recover from. Many people assume domestic abuse is violent in nature, but the truth is abuse can come in many forms. It can be psychological, physical, financial, or anything else that’s the result of behaviors meant to scare or control you.
The power dynamic that’s created in an abusive relationship can be tough to overcome, but group therapy can help you realize there is a different life out there for you and you deserve to live it.
Topics that can be covered in domestic abuse group therapy can include:
- Establishing or rebuilding your social networks and connections
- Safety planning
- Understanding how power and control work in a relationship
- Financial freedom
- Forgiving yourself
- Love shouldn’t hurt you
- Fear and isolation
We’re all afraid of something. However, when your fear becomes detrimental to your daily life, or when it holds you back or prevents you from achieving your goals, something more might be going on.
If you have phobias that are bordering on the line of being debilitating, or they’ve crossed that line altogether, group therapy might be able to help. Group therapy can cover several of the most common phobias. Through your sessions, you can work to identify the root cause of your phobia along with coping skills to allow you to move past it.
“Phobias are addressed using a cognitive behavioral therapy or an exposure therapy approach. Sometimes the therapist or group leader combines both of them by teaching the clients to change their thoughts and behaviors as a result, while being gradually exposed to the object or situation that causes the fear or panic.”Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP, CLYL, CMHIMP
Group therapy discussion topics for phobias can include the following:
- Understanding phobias and causes
- Reframing or positive thinking
- Sharing small or big accomplishments and empowerment
- Exposure activities and record-keeping
- Supporting the self and other group members
- Anxiety reduction skills
- Token economies and rewarding ourselves
Self-care is important at every stage of life. Whether you’re a student, working your way up in your profession, a new parent, fighting for your marriage, in your golden years, or at any other phase of life, taking time for yourself is important.
Self-care makes you stronger in any situation or relationship. Working with a group to discuss topics like self-care can help you come up with ideas about how you can take better care of yourself.
Topics that can be covered in self-care group therapy might include:
- How to practice mindfulness
- How to meditate
- Benefits of exercise like yoga
- Goal Setting
12. Weight & Body Image
Weight loss or body image support groups can be extremely effective in helping people figure out why they have the relationship with food that they do. Food and body image issues can be overwhelming. It might be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but working in a group can remind you that you’re not alone and that you can achieve your goals.
Topics that can be covered in a weight loss group can include:
- Learning how to identify and conquer your triggers
- Understanding the weight loss process
- Knowing how to fuel your body for exercise
- Finding the types of exercise that work for you
- Discussing your relationship with food, exercise, and self-image
13. Anger Management
Anger management is a tough mental health group topic, but group therapy can be very helpful if you struggle to manage your emotions. By talking with other people to learn coping skills and how you can control your feelings, you might be able to get to a place where you’re no longer feeling out of control when it comes to your anger.
Topics that can be covered in anger management groups can include:
- Conflict resolution
- Stress management
- Positive thinking skills
- People and social skills
- How to handle the unexpected
Therapy isn’t going to be easy per se, but the right style and technique — like group therapy — might make it easier for you to commit to the process. Group therapy is a great technique for many people who’re looking for additional support on their journey to becoming the best version of themself possible.
“My group therapy participants have shared that coming to the group is important because they feel empowered and motivated to keep working towards recovery or healing.”Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP, CLYL, CMHIMP
1. Novotney A. Keys to great group therapy – Seasoned psychologists offer their expertise on the art and skill of leading successful group therapy. American Psychological Association. 2019;(Vol 50, No. 4):66. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/04/group-therapy. Accessed November 2, 2021.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. National Institute of Corrections. https://nicic.gov/projects/cognitive-behavioral-therapy. Accessed November 2, 2021.
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