Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

The Benefits of Online Group Therapy (And Why You Should Try It)

Every day, whether we want it or not, we enter into a variety of relationships with others: we worry about misunderstandings with relatives, we rejoice in common interests with a new acquaintance, we experience discomfort after an accidental collision in the elevator, etc.

The importance of relationships cannot be ignored. But how to build them so that you feel calm, confident, inspired?

After all, many of us are familiar with these feelings:

  • Awkwardness when communicating with strangers
  • Frequent thoughts about what others will think instead of enjoying communicating with them
  • Difficulties with managing your feelings.

Because of such stress, many people close themselves in and retreat into silence. After all, this is the first thing you want to do to protect yourself.

However, a more effective solution may be to undergo individual therapy or to work with a group therapist. The focus is on the relationship between the members of the group and the feelings that arise simultaneously.

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With the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, the main workflow of thousands of people has moved from offline to online, and mental health professionals are no exception. Today we are aiming to help licensed therapists and people seeking help understand whether online groups are a way out.

The Features of Group Therapy Sessions

Online support groups solve emotional, behavioral and interpersonal problems with the help of group dynamics – trusting social communication.

In a group you can help your clients to:

  • Talk about exciting problems without fear of condemnation
  • Get an outside look at serious life problems
  • Find out what our habitual behavior and way of thinking looks like from the outside
  • Correct their erroneous emotional and behavioral attitudes in practice and receive emotional support
  • Gain valuable skills in effective conflict resolution and building healthy relationships with people.

Depending on the purpose of therapy, groups can be therapeutic and therapeutic-thematic.

There are therapeutic groups for mutual assistance and for the correction of symptoms of mental disorders, such as groups of alcoholics and drug addicts.

Thematic groups are for therapeutic study of specific tasks:

  • For teaching emotional and behavioral self−control
  • For overcoming relationship issues
  • For working out conflict situations
  • For personal growth groups.

Medesk helps automate scheduling and record-keeping, allowing you to recreate an individual approach to each patient, providing them with maximum attention.

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What Problems Can a Psychotherapist solve online?

If you are a private practice manager, or you work on your own, then you should get a closer look at the variety of problems patients want to solve online. Here is the list of the most common complaints according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Treatment uptake

Apart from common mental health issues mentioned in the pie chart, people suffer from psychological bottlenecks that can be lessened with your help online.

Online group meetings help to overcome:

  • Social anxiety
  • Inability to relax
  • ADHD
  • Panic attacks
  • Apathy
  • Systematic stress
  • Emotional burnout
  • Low self-esteem.

8 Advantages of Online Type of Therapy

#1. Clarity/transparency of work

The group does not analyze in detail the past of the participants, does not look for the underlying causes of actions and thoughts. The observable facts are evaluated - life events that have happened, the way that people think and behave now.

Problems are resolved "here and now", in a confidential mediated conversation between participants with their own kind - this helps participants understand the therapy more clearly and transparently.

#2. Realistic

In individual sessions, an experienced specialist communicates with a client one-on-one. You know how to choose the right wording and not cause a patient discomfort.

A small group is as close to reality as possible. Participants communicate in their usual style and recreate everyday activities.

Group therapy practice will clearly show the patients’ mistakes in social communication, indicate destructive emotional reactions and behavioral habits. It will also help them to look at life problems from different angles – there are many participants, and everyone has their own opinion.

#3. Trust of equals

In a group, you can safely and without fear of condemnation solve the most painful problems of your clients: everyone is equal and in the same position.

Listen carefully, offer emotional support to other participants, tell about similar situations in their own lives, help eliminate mistakes together, and learn how to interact with others. Of course, under your strict supervision.

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#4. Fast and powerful effect

The large number of participants, long classes (from 1.5 to 3 hours), the extensive range of methods for interaction between participants make group therapy services more intensive and diverse than single-person therapy.

Benefits of group therapy is a rich emotional experience and a peer support in a relatively short time.

#5. Economy

Group therapy is cheaper than individual therapy. Group sessions can be 1/3 the cost of individual therapy, or be longer in session time. For a larger part of the population, this type of mental help is more affordable. If you are getting ready to start your own private practice, we recommend you consider this option. This is a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to establish yourself and acquire the first patients. Make sure you get excellent feedback.

In addition, even if a person is not in the mood and is silent, he remains a passive participant. Thus, he can evaluate and adopt someone else's experience, thoughtfully observe the behavior of others.

#6. It is for everyone

Almost everyone.

It is contraindicated only for patients with severe mental health conditions of the brain and nervous system, in which communication in a group is impossible.

So, even patients with schizophrenia undergo group therapy, because classes teach how to communicate with others correctly and build interpersonal relationships.

#7. Availability

A key advantage of psychotherapeutic virtual group sessions is the ability to conduct them from your own home and anywhere in the world. This is very convenient in cases when the client does not have the physical ability to go to the therapist's office.

For example, a person has planned a trip to another country, but does not want to interrupt a psychotherapy course. Online consultation services are convenient to use during business trips. So, this will be the smart option when a person is in another country by profession or in connection with moving. Or, being away from home, a person suddenly finds himself in critical conditions, experiences stress, emotional overstrain. In this case, he may urgently need psychotherapeutic help. Video consulting provides an opportunity to get specialist support right now.

#8. Saving time

If most of your clients are residents of a megalopolis, such as London, given its scale and the usual traffic jams, they probably spend an impressive amount of time on the road: from home to work, from work to home.

Agree, in this mode it is difficult to allocate time for a trip to the office, but it is possible to devote 1-2 hours of an online session for this purpose.

If you work with non–transportable patients, a video chat is sometimes the only way out for their successful treatment.

The possibility of receiving psychotherapeutic help remotely is also convenient for residents of small towns and settlements, where there are simply no specialists capable of providing it. So, by implementing it into your workflow, you’ll increase a number of patients and the revenue.

How is Everything Arranged Inside Online Group Therapy?

Group psychotherapy stimulates a variety of psychological phenomena in the participants in the process of work: transference, countertransference, projection, projective identification, etc.

In the transference state, a person will see in one of the participants some significant figure from his childhood. He will attempt to play a destructive or positive scenario with him. If in the therapeutic group he can accept the possibility of competition with other men, then in society he will be able to build his career and life in a new way, from the position of a winner, not a loser.

A therapeutic group will allow group members to give adequate feedback about how they feel about a person and what he is like. One person requested that he be unable to make friends. However, during group therapy it turns out that a person talks only about himself. He wants to always be the center of attention, and he is not interested in the lives of other people. Accordingly, other participants will tell him about it, and he will be able to change. Agree that this is much better than walking around friends and asking: "What's wrong with me?".

Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances, not everyone always manages to attend therapeutic groups in real life. Therefore, the Internet format is becoming increasingly popular, where participants first get to know each other, and then begin to work on their psychological problems.

Working in an online group can be based on different schemes

  1. Participants in pairs (or in teams) perform therapeutic exercises
  2. Or each participant is given 10-20 minutes for individual work with a psychologist
  3. Or a participant may ask the group to discuss something in a discussion format
  4. In some Zoom meetings, theoretical blocks with information on psychology are also included.

Examples of exercises used in online group sessions

Video sessions don’t tie the hands of a mental health professional. The video format of meetings, on the other hand, gives him an opportunity to take advantage of modern achievements of the global network. Here we are talking about dance therapy, video therapy, metaphorical cards and so on.

See the table for some examples of group communication and exercises during online sessions.

Examples of exercises used in online group sessions

The best online group therapy is where you play the facilitator role. Listen more than you speak, always keep that in mind.

Online Group Therapy Software

Do you work for a clinic, or run your own private practice? You'll need software for the workflow anyway, so it doesn't matter.

If you’ve made up your mind to run online sessions you have three main options.

  1. You can try to join the online therapists’ community, for example, Therapy Groups Online and cooperate with them.
  2. Use free applications like Skype, Zoom, Discord for your sessions
  3. Or you can enjoy the benefits of PMS and combine the elements of your everyday routine in one simple place.

Learn how to simplify your practice workflow and free up more time for patients with Medesk.

Open the detailed description >>

The Telemedicine module makes it possible to run a group of up to 10 people via online video consultations directly from the platform. If you have Internet access, you and your patients can be anywhere. By the way, there are user-friendly apps for different operating systems.

Another advantage is that you can fill out all the reports during the online session without interrupting it. Making notes during the session is crucial, and we’ve got you covered here. The user-friendly interface helps you to concentrate on the most important thing: active listening of the patients.

As we can see, modern progress has made it much easier for people to get help. We spend most of the day online: from work and ordering food, to caring about their well-being. Keep up with the times and introduce online groups into your practice! This way you will help more people with less money.

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