GanWest: Group Psychotherapy

Group Psychotherapy is offered in either a 'time-limited' or 'slow-open' group. If you decide that joining a therapy group may be the most appropriate way forward, thought will be given to which would be the most suitable group for you. You will be offered a number of preparatory sessions with the therapist of the group, and have an opportunity to ask any questions and raise any doubts you may have about joining a group.

Fixed term group analytic psychotherapy usually refers to groups lasting for between 20 and 40 sessions. The focus may be on a particular issue e.g. bereavement, life changes, finding a voice, parenting difficulties, eating problems, anger. The emphasis is on finding a way of identifying and sharing one's experience of the presenting problem as well as exploring and working through the underlying causes of your difficulties.

Brief, workshop-style therapy usually lasts for 8-12 sessions. This is a recognised treatment that has proven successful in helping to manage particular behaviours: e.g. smoking, diet and lifestyle issues, parenting, self-image, anger management. Here, group members will share a common behaviour and the focus of the group will be its underlying causes and habitual associations. With greater understanding of what underlies the behaviour, the aim is then to develop strategies to manage it.

Medium- to long-term group analytic psychotherapy involves meeting once or twice a week throughout the year, with breaks at Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and the summer holiday period. Since the problems of participants have usually been many years in the making, group members are expected to commit for a minimum of one year. These are sometimes referred to as 'slow open' groups in that, as members leave, new members join. Typical reasons for referral are:

Group members will have a range of presenting problems. The assessment and selection of members by the therapist helps to ensure a balanced group that usually consists of both men and women. However, groups with more homogeneity are sometimes advised. For example: single gender, adolescents, young people aged 18-25.

What does joining a group involve?

Groups of up to eight participants meet once or twice a week, for an hour and a half. Members are expected to attend regularly. Group meetings are confidential and members are asked not to meet outside the sessions.

Members of time-limited groups usually start and finish their therapy together. In open-ended groups there is a slowly-changing membership. Individuals decide with the help of the group when they are ready to leave, and new members join when a vacancy occurs.

Group sessions have no formal structure; members are encouraged to bring their concerns and to respond to each other as openly as possible. Old patterns of behaviour or ways of relating can then be identified, understood and eventually given up in favour of more satisfactory ways of relating.