Group Therapy
vs. Support Groups

Therapy terms, defined.

Differences between Group Therapy & Support Groups - Recourse Counseling Phoenix

Differences Between Group Therapy & Support Groups

There are a variety of things that differ between support groups and group therapy. While both kinds of group experiences are grounded in the belief that people find it valuable to navigate various life experiences alongside others with similar experiences, these two structures are very different. Here are some key points:

Group Therapy

Goal is to help people change.

Focus is on understanding yourself better, change behaviors/thoughts, or gain specific skills, knowledge or insight to meet goals.

Time frame is often fixed, like 8-12 weeks with a specific beginning or end date but can sometimes be ongoing as well.

Often, but not always, includes handouts or homework with counseling concepts or “psychoeducation.”

The leader is a trained therapist and will use psychotherapy and counseling skills.

Group Therapists will not act like a participant; their duty to members is to lead as a therapist, not participate as a peer.

Any informational materials will clearly say “this is group therapy” or something similar. 

Group therapy almost always has a fee. They can either be “private pay” or insurance based, depending on the practice.

Group Therapists must keep clinical notes, just like with individual, family, and couples counseling. They also must report things like child abuse or if a life is in imminent danger.

Folks who participate in group therapy can also participate in other therapies with the group therapist, but they must discuss the pros and cons, as well as differences between the services, what clients are consenting to in each, and how they could be affected by participating in both.

Support Groups

Goal is to help people cope.

Focus is on supporting each other through similar experiences by sharing, and by offering encouragement and advice to peers.

Timeframe is typically ongoing, but can be seasonal based on the context and needs of the demographic it supports.

No clinical or therapy element so there shouldn’t be any psychoeducation, like worksheets or homework.

Even if the leader is a trained therapist, their role here is merely host/facilitator.

Facilitators may or may not be a member of the community the group is themed around, and may or may not participate as a peer.

Informational materials will clearly state that this is NOT therapy or a clinical service.

Support groups should be free. A donation for space use or refreshments might be invited, but the groups are not a paid service.

Support group facilitators typically don’t keep notes/records of these groups, but if the leader is a Mandatory Reporter, they must still report things like child abuse, etc.

Typically, support group members are not current or past clients of the facilitator of these non-therapy groups, and group members would typically not become clients of the facilitator. Facilitators might offer referrals to another therapist if a group member requests them.

Recourse Counseling’s groups are clearly identified as one or the other, but please do reach out if you have any questions about this, or anything else on our website! You can learn more about our current and future Group Therapy and Support Group offerings here.

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