Commonly Asked Questions About Groups
What are psychotherapy groups?
Psychotherapy groups are just what they sound like: psychotherapy in a group format. Usually these groups have somewhere between 4 and 12 people and are facilitated by a therapist trained in group psychotherapy. Psychotherapy groups take many forms. Some are focused on the learning of specific skills. Others are focused on getting support from others. Most have some combination of these elements. Here at Michigan Medicine we have over 40 groups treating a variety of problem areas. Below is a list of these groups with information that may help you decide if the group is a good fit for you.
What are the different types of groups?
Skills groups are groups that focus on the learning and practicing of specific ways of treating and coping with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. They usually involve learning and practicing skills in the group session, and then in-between sessions on one’s own.
Support groups are unstructured groups that focus on getting support from others with a similar problem. Usually these groups are facilitated by a therapist, who leads the group in an unstructured discussion aimed at facilitating support between members.
Process groups are groups that allow patients with similar problems to “process” their problems together. The interaction between patients allows for each patient to better understand how they interact with others and gain insight into their interpersonal patterns.
Drop-in clinics (Examples: Bipolar Wellness and Meds Plus Clinic) are clinics where patients can drop-in when it fits their schedule to get support and a limited amount of time with a clinician to make decisions about medications.
Are groups as effective as individual psychotherapy?
There is scientific evidence suggesting that group psychotherapy can be just as effective to treatment mental health problems as individual psychotherapy. Of course, this depends on many factors, including the problem (anxiety, depression, etc.), how actively a person participates in the group, and how long the person participates.
Can I do groups and individual therapy at the same time?
Some patients find that groups alone are sufficient to treat their problem. Other patients use groups to supplement the work they are doing with an individual therapist, whether here at Michigan Medicine or in the community.
What are the different formats for groups?
Some groups allow a person to enter at any time and complete a certain number of sessions from that point. In others a person must start at the beginning of the month and may complete anywhere between 4-20 group sessions. Others involve a waitlist, which means the group facilitators are waiting until they have enough appropriate patients in order to start. Some are always available to "drop-in." If you are interested in a group, talk to your clinician about how that particular group is formatted.
Can I use insurance?
Yes. Almost all insurances that cover mental health services also cover psychotherapy groups. You may need to call your insurance company to ensure that groups are covered. Ask them if they will cover Code #90853, Group Psychotherapy, under NPI #1003878539. You can also contact our patient representatives at 734-936-5855 to find out if your insurance covers group psychotherapy.
Should I do groups?
This will depend on a number of factors. One factor is whether or not the group treats the types of problems with which you are dealing. Another factor is whether or not you believe a group would help you. We recommend that patients try out groups to see how they feel. Because groups can be uncomfortable at first, we recommend that you try one or two groups for at least 4 sessions each before making a decision about whether or not they would be right for you. Sometimes groups are scary and can feel intimidating, but most patients find them to be helpful once you’ve gotten through the initial discomfort. This may be the case especially if you are dealing with social anxiety or some sort of fear that makes the group seem undoable. We find that trying groups actually can be a helpful part of the treatment for social anxiety. Groups can help a person gain confidence, and at the same time feel supported by others that are dealing with similar problems. We are likely to recommend group therapy to many of our patients. Ultimately, you will be the one to decide if groups are right for you.
Tips on Maximizing Your Treatment
- Make sure your definition of the “problem” is the same as the clinicians with whom you are working. For example, maybe they think it is “depression” and you think it is something else. Try to clarify this with your clinicians.
- “Credibility:” Make sure the treatment in which you are engaging makes sense to you and seems to be addressing your problem. There are different paths to the same goal. If this type of therapy is not working for you, you are confused about what you are doing, or you have any other concerns, talk to your clinician right away. Clinicians are trained to have these discussions with their patients!
- Especially at first, gauge success according to how you change your responses to stress, uncomfortable emotions, and body sensations, not whether or not these things exist or continue to occur. Focus on how well you cope and valued action, even more than just “feeling better.”
- Maintain an open mind about the possibility of change, while being realistic about how fast this change can happen. Usually change happens little-by-little.
- Make it about you: engage in your treatment because you want to improve your life, take responsibility for achieving you aims, and feeling better, not because others are telling you to do so. Remember that even if you are being pushed to engage in therapy by someone else, that relationship must be important enough for you to consider this option.
- Expect ups and downs during the process. Think of it as “2 steps forward, 1 step back.” Try not to get too discouraged or give up when things seem to move backward or stagnate.
- Take small steps toward change each day. Try not to wait for “light bulb moments,” “epiphanies,” or for something to take it all away instantly.
- Practice skills over, and over, and over. It usually takes time for changes in our behavior and thinking to lead to feeling better. Like learning a musical instrument, we are practicing new ways of doing things that will feel “clunky” at first, and become more comfortable over time.
- Address the problem or symptoms from different angles. There is no one “silver bullet” that will change how we feel all by itself. Usually a combination treatment, or mixed approach is what works best to make us feel better. This also means putting in some effort to understand the different ways to manage your symptoms or problem.
- Manage barriers to showing up regularly to treatment and practicing skills: improvement depends primarily on follow-through and the amount of work you put into your therapy.
- See this as just one piece of the puzzle in your process of better understanding yourself and moving toward what you want in your life. Get all you can out of it and then make efforts to find out what other types of work could be helpful. For example, maybe you did a great deal of work on managing your depression with cognitive and behavioral skills. Now you believe that you want to improve your relationships to achieve more in that area of your life.