Where To Begin ... Individual or Group Therapy?

As one’s personal and work life begin to take a downward spiral, one becomes aware that addressing their feeling state and challenges is no longer a choice, It’s a MUST.

 The question may be where to begin - individual or group therapy? 

 This blog will review individual therapy and group therapy to give you the tools to assess what is right for you!


 Individual therapy offers one-on-one work with the therapist regarding the client’s challenges.  It allows a safe and secure bond to form between the therapist and the client from which the client can move into group therapy to further explore and work with their feelings and challenges.   

 Below, is a brief description of several therapeutic approaches:

 Psychodynamic therapy (short-long term): The focus of this type of therapy is guide the client to become conscious and understand the unconscious content and dynamics in their life so they become more self aware.   Session work may include an array of approaches from talk therapy to movement, bodywork, art expression and hypnosis.

 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (short term 6-20 sessions):  works to educate people in what is happening in their life presently and how this affects their feeling state.  Clients learn to identify, question and challenge themselves in the way they think, feel and act.  Structures and techniques are provided to address distorted thinking that can lead to anxiety, depression and anger issues.  This form of therapy is, it is problem and goal oriented and provides strategies for coping.

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (CBT) is specific in treating people challenged with suicidal thoughts and actions.

 Jungian Therapy /Analysis (long term):  Based on Carl Jung’s work with archetypes and dream interpretation.  The therapist works with the client to uncover the archetypal forms and dynamics in their unconscious and how material is brought forth through the client’s dreams.  Weekly sessions are based on the client’s expanding understanding of theses traits and how they motivate the problems and their feeling state in present-day life.  

 Gestalt therapy: Guides a client to re-experience their problem and draws the client inward to become more body aware of themselves.  In slowing down the re-enact allows the client to deeply feel the situation in their body and the emotional feelings that arise.  Questions of “how does this moment feel?” or “How does your body feel now?” are used frequently.  The basis of the therapy is that the person is a whole being – body, mind and spirit.  It is based on depth psychology which is more long-term therapy (1-2years)



Group therapy, like individual therapy, has three main outcomes:

  • To facilitate members’ understanding of themselves and others

  • To set clear goals/outcomes

  • To guide the group members to practice tools and strategies thereby increasing their self confidence and self awareness to achieve their desired outcomes. 

 There are three basic types of group format: 

Psycho-educational groups (CBT based) educate the clients on their specific challenge and provide strategies and tools to bring about effective positive change to their life.   These groups usually run 6-10 weeks in length and have both a learning and discussion component.    The role of the therapist is more of a teacher. 

Counselling/Supportive groups may be formed around specific issues such as divorce, grief, work or life changes and are based more on support, group interaction and feedback (by group members) where the therapist is more of a facilitator. 

 Psychotherapy groups address long standing issues around depression, anxiety and PTSD.   In this group setting, both the conscious and unconscious dynamics in one’s life are explored through group interaction.   The group members are encouraged to work with their own issues and be aware, draw out and deeply interact with fellow group members.  The interchange provided in this type of group is broader than that experienced in a one-to-one session and is much deeper and honest than conversations in daily interactions with family and friends.  In this group, the therapist’s role is that of facilitator of the group interaction.

 Group therapy in general provides the opportunity for clients to practice their skills of relating to others, let’s them see that they are not alone in their challenges, be witness to others’ challenges and progress – providing hope and allows clients to practice asserting themselves.

 Psychotherapy groups, as stated above, provide a greater range of challenge and interaction than can be attained in the individual session and gives opportunity for role playing and expressive movement to address personal challenges.   The psychotherapy group also gives the client a new network of people with whom to relate.

 Individuals can join the first two groups at their discretion as the groups run for a specific length of time (6-10 weeks).  The third, the Psychotherapy group, is usually by invitation from the therapist to the client.  Several factors must be taken into consideration when bringing a new client into a psychotherapy group.   The therapist needs to assess the client’s needs and dynamics and if they are a fit for the group.  The therapist needs to ensure the therapeutic bond with client is secure. This will help the client manage various feelings that may arise in joining the group and aid them in participating with greater ease in the group.   Also, the therapist must be mindful of the status of the work in the group and how adding a new member(s) may affect the group dynamic. 

 How a group is run is up to the therapist to define.  Some psychotherapy groups can run from 6 months to many years, though there are periods of time for clients to leave and join.  It is an expectation, in a psychotherapy group, that an intent to leave be given.  This allows group members the opportunity to work with the change and express their feelings.

 Generally, any group meeting runs about 90 minutes on a weekly basis.  The standard rules of group therapy are confidentiality of the members’ identity and issues discussed, regular attendance and whether or not participants should acknowledge each other in public.  The therapist needs to make clear that they are mandated, by law, to disclose to authorities any member who expresses overt intention to hurt themselves or another

 In closing, the most important aspect is that one begins to address their emotional state whether by individual or group therapy BEGIN!