Group Therapy

NEW YORK, April 24, 2009 – An increasing number of people are turning to
group therapy as an effective and cost-effective mental health treatment in
challenging economic times. Recent news stories in The Wall Street Journal
(“No Joke: Group Therapy Offers Savings in Numbers
<http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785686766020551.html> ,” March 24,
2009) and on Good Morning America (“Need a Group Hug in Tough Times?
<http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=7382531> ,” April 20, 2009)
have highlighted the benefits of this treatment modality for a wide range of
needs and populations.

Children, adolescents and adults can all successfully participate in groups for
more acute needs such as depression, anxiety and addictions, as well as
personal growth issues such as conflict management and relationship issues.
The affordability of this treatment modality, the favorable effectiveness
comparisons to individual treatment (equal or better outcomes), and its
adaptability to real-world functioning in families, the workplace and
communities due to the group setting make this a very attractive treatment

“The effectiveness of group therapy is well documented by research and
consumer feedback,” said Connie Concannon, M.S.W., CGP, FAGPA, AGPA
President. “The cost savings may be the impetus for more people to try this
type of treatment and the quality of the experience and the outcomes
rewards their choice.”

Wall Street Journal
March 24, 2009

No Joke: Group Therapy Offers Savings in Numbers


Conventional psychotherapy was beyond the means of Matthew Chotkowski
on any long-term basis. But a willingness to share the couch with others has
made therapy affordable for him.

"Group therapy is at least 50% less expensive than individual therapy," says
Mr. Chotkowski, an administrator at a child-nutrition program in Newton,
Mass. The 50-year-old discovered that his fear of being judged -- a huge
source of anxiety -- was overblown. He calls group therapy "a more realistic
environment" than individual therapy for confronting one's fears of other

Finding a Group

- Ask your physician, psychotherapist or health insurer for a referral to a
group therapist, or check listings at www.agpa.org.

- Decide whether to join a group discussing a single problem -- depression,
for instance - - or whether you could benefit from a group analysis of a wider
set of social and emotional issues.

Group therapy has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of mental-health
services. It is used mostly in institutions. In private practice, relatively few
psychotherapists are trained in it. Group therapy accounts for less than 10%
of the outpatient market, in part because classroom-style counseling has
been portrayed either as a joke ("The Bob Newhart Show") or a horror ("One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). "People are reluctant to believe that their
problems aren't that different from others' or else they'll think that to share a
therapist's attention would mean getting cheated," says Barney Straus, a
certified group psychotherapist in Chicago.

Yet group therapy can be life altering, particularly for patients experiencing
that deep sense of isolation that commonly accompanies depression, anxiety
and chemical dependency. Bergin and Garfield's Handbook of Psychotherapy
Research and Behavior Change, the widely accepted authority on
psychotherapy research, cites "hundreds of group psychotherapy
outcome-and-process studies" in declaring group therapy an effective,
evidence-based treatment. Health insurers typically cover it, usually on the
same terms as individual therapy. "Group therapy is an effective therapeutic
tool [that] is largely underutilized," says a statement from health insurer
Aetna Inc.

Now, recession-related anxiety, and the loss by millions of people of their
jobs and health coverage, are heightening the appeal of low-cost treatments.
A group-therapy session typically lasts 90 minutes -- twice as long as
individual therapy -- and costs roughly half as much -- between $35 and $80
per person.

"Money figures into the decision-making of a fairly high percentage of those
who are seeking group therapy," says Jeffrey D. Roth, a Chicago psychiatrist
specializing in group therapy.

Group therapy's slow development outside of institutions has largely been due
to logistics -- the therapist's challenge of finding six to eight patients capable
of meeting at the same time every week, and the patient's challenge of
finding a type of treatment that most counselors don't offer.

The Internet is helping resolve those problems. The American Group
Psychotherapy Association (www.agpa.org) in recent years introduced a
directory on its Web site with contact information for certified group
psychotherapists across the country. Although demand for this treatment
isn't tracked, one indication of growth is a tripling since 1994 of the number
of certified group therapists in the U.S., to 3,655. Still, that's a small fraction
of the number of individual therapists.

Therapy groups typically meet once a week. So-called open courses run
indefinitely with revolving members. Closed courses start and end with the
same members over a set period of time. The groups are generally not
recommended for people with a psychosis, such as schizophrenia, or for
someone who genuinely needs to do all the talking.

At times, conflict between group members can arise, though this can
contribute to the healing process. "If I grew up in a family where I felt
betrayed by my mom and I see women as a threat, that's going to become
clear in group," says Malou Thein, a New York pain-clinic therapist who says
two years of group therapy improved her skills in personal and professional

In groups, patients are unlikely to tolerate the abuses of power that
sometimes occur in individual therapy. In fact, camaraderie in groups often
develops in opposition to the therapist, reflecting either members' resentment
toward authority (an issue worth examining) or his or her actual

All therapists strive to steer patients toward insights. In some ways, though,
therapists wield less power in groups than in individual counseling, which can
work to the patients' benefit. Instead of being the lone voice of wisdom, for
instance, the group therapist encourages patients to help each other. "By
the group we are wounded and by the group we are healed," says group
therapist Gary M. Burlingame, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young


Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Group List
Los Angeles Outpatient Group Therapy Directory
James J. De Santis, Ph.D., Editor
Post Office Box 894, Glendora, California 91740-0894
(818) 551-1714 JJDeSantis@aol.com

Copyright © 2009, James J. De Santis, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

The Cost of Group Therapy