Why Choose Group Therapy for Your Teenager?

Need to overcome social problems? You can’t beat the power of group.

By Sean Grover, LCSW

Individual therapy is a wonderful tool for helping kids understand their fears, improve their moods, and explore their feelings. But why do so many teens with social problems fail to benefit from individual therapy?

Group vs. Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is a one-on-one experience. The anxieties or difficulties that kids have socially—in classrooms, study groups, or recess—will not emerge in individual sessions. In one-on-one sessions therapists often find that socially-anxious kids relate well, demonstrate intelligence, or have a sense of humor. That’s because they aren’t being challenged; they don’t experience the same anxieties that they encounter in social settings.

Group therapy provides therapists with the rare opportunity to see social problems in action. Shyness, bullying, inattentiveness, fearfulness—all these tendencies are triggered in group. A skilled group therapist catches these reactions in the moment and helps kids to overcome bad habits and make new choices.

Who benefits most from group therapy? Kids who suffer from the following issues:

  • Social Isolation
  • Acute Shyness
  • Bullying Issues
  • Peer Rejection
  • Anger Management Problems
  • Identity Conflicts

The Benefits of Group Therapy

Group Therapy is like a fitness center for social skills or an aerobics studio for interpersonal competence. Kids emerge from a positive group experience with new interpersonal skills and abilities. They speak up in class, resist negative peer pressure, and stand-up for themselves. Group work also helps them expand their ability for self-expression and emotional assertiveness. As their social insecurities begin to dissolve, they feel comfortable talking to just about anyone.

What are the benefits of group therapy?  Here’s a short checklist:

Social Confidence

Group sessions give kids a place to incorporate new ways of relating and developing better social behaviors. As they build confidence and develop a knack for speaking in groups, they become more comfortable asserting themselves in social situations in their daily life.

Better Communication Skills

Many teenagers have difficulty communicating their emotions and tend to bottle up their feelings. Irksome behaviors such a moodiness, irritability, and defiance are often triggered by unrelieved emotional stress. In group therapy, kids are given the rare opportunity to explore their feelings and fears with other teenagers. As they develop better communication skills, they experience a surge in maturity.

Positive Peer Influences

Peers pressure wields epic influence in young people’s lives in both positive and negative ways. When kids are in the company of peers who are also struggling to improve themselves and develop healthier ways of relating, they don’t feel so alone. Each week, group members cheer and celebrate each other’s victories. This positive environment provides kids with the confidence they need to overcome self-doubts and take more social initiative.

Improved Relationships

Isolated teens are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression; these teens withdraw from peers in an effort to quell fears and insecurities. Group sessions offer kids a chance to develop better quality peer relationships. Kids trapped in poor relationships at school are given a chance to start again and become part of a peer community that appreciates and values them.

Reduced Stress

Teens often feel humiliated by social and academic pressures. Group work gives kids relief from the stress of their daily lives by providing them with an opportunity to unburden themselves with peers who understand them. They learn to keep difficulties in perspective and develop a healthy sense of humor.

A New Beginning

Let’s face it, not all kids are equipped with good social skills. Yet, they spend most of their education learning in groups. The sooner they become skilled at managing themselves in groups, the better. Group therapy offers teens a rare chance to develop social confidence and self-assurance. And that’s the best gift any teenager could ask for.

For a detailed look at how Teen Group Therapy helps, see Sean Grover’s Article, “What’s so Funny?”  The Group Leader’s Uses of Humor in Adolescent Groups in 101 Interventions in Group Therapy by Simon Fehr, S. (Ed.) (2008). New York: Routledge, 577 pp.