Individual Therapy vs Group Therapy and How Hoffman Differs

individual vs group therapy

For those who are interested in personal development, individual therapy and various types of group work are feasible options, but each route comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. While some people may find the privacy and one-on-one interaction of individual work to be alluring, group work can help them feel more connected with others, especially if they’ve been feeling isolated.

There are various types of group work, from group counselling sessions for family members going through a crisis to self-discovery retreats. The Hoffman Process offers a unique format: individual work in a group setting. To help you decide if this format might work for you, we’ll explore the advantages of individual therapy vs. group work, dive into the types of group work that exist, and show you how the Hoffman Process combines both.

Individual Therapy vs. Group Work

There are many reasons people decide to engage in inner work, whether they are aiming to improve some aspect of themselves or make it through a crisis. For people who did not get as much attention or activation from caregivers or other one-on-one relationships, individual work with a therapist or coach can be particularly helpful. In the private setting, they are allowed to develop self-awareness by discussing personal issues and getting tailored feedback from another person.

One of the most daunting things about group work for some people might be the social aspect. After all, research suggests that almost 11 percent of the Australian population experiences social anxiety during their lifetime. The idea of working through delicate issues with strangers may induce feelings of fear or anxiety, but the social component can actually be the most healing aspect. By hearing that other people are suffering, sometimes in similar ways, a person engaging in group work can feel less alone in their pain and more understood. In this sense, group work can be a great equalizer, even if members of the group come from drastically different walks of life.

Benefits of Individual Work

  • Confidentiality
  • One-on-one attention from therapist or coach
  • Flexible scheduling

Drawbacks of Individual Work

  • One perspective
  • Completely dependent on the experience of the therapist
  • Removed from the social context where a participant can be triggered

Benefits of Group Work

  • Identifying with the experiences of others
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Corrective experiences for social emotional trauma
  • Opportunity to work on transferences, such as expresssing and tolerating strong emotions triggered by others
  • The approach allows therapists to observe relational patterns

Drawbacks of Group Work

  • Social aspect can be intimidating for some
  • Divided attention from facilitators (except for scheduled one-on-one time in some formats)

Types of Group Work

One of the earliest examples of group therapy was in the early 1900’s with Dr. John Pratt, an American physician in the Boston area who ran group sessions with tuberculosis patients. Pratt found that the patients benefited emotionally due to the support they received from others in shared experiences. Group therapy accelerated following World War II when groups of combat veterans were treated together.

Despite this fairly recent history, the importance of peer support has been known through the ages and group support has even been linked to longevity. Consider the Okinawa people of Japan, who are known for living long, healthy lives. One of their longevity traditions is called moai, a term which refers to social support groups that begin in childhood and extend to advanced age. Originally, moais were established to gather resources from a whole village for projects or public works. Today, the concept has grown to become more of a social support network, a cultural tradition for built-in comradeship.

These days, there are a variety of options for group work. These include:

Support Groups
Support groups involve regular meetings where people experiencing similar problems, such addictions or crises, come together to talk candidly with each other and offer support.

Family Counselling
Family counselling is designed to address specific issues that affect the mental health of the family, resolve challenging issues, or improve communication skills across members.

Personal Growth Retreats
With a focus on personal development and growth, these retreats vary widely in structure, overall aim, and the tools and techniques involved. From mindfulness workshops with meditation teachers to mental health retreats with trained psychotherapists, the range is extensive. The Hoffman Process is a type of personal growth retreat, which focuses on unlearning negative patterns of thought and behaviour.

How the Hoffman Process Differs from Individual & Group Therapy

The Hoffman Process is unique because it is a type of individual work done in a group setting. Throughout the 7-day residential experience, the Process affords people an enormous amount of privacy because it allows participants to share with the large group only when they feel comfortable. And while there are group-driven activities, each participant also works with a facilitator who can give them one-on-one attention and guidance. In the more expressive pieces of the Process, the facilitators help participants go beyond the way certain emotions were allowed to be expressed within the context of their families. By expressing anger, grief or even joy in a new and more authentic way in this new group, the Process can be a corrective experience.

Group work in the Process can also solidify a person’s sense of belonging. When a participant reveals their toxic shame beliefs to the group and the group doesn’t reject them, they realize they’re still worthy of belonging. While they might reveal these same toxic shame beliefs in the presence of a therapist, and receive a positive reflection, there’s always a chance that their inner saboteur may doubt the therapist. They’ll think, “Of course they have to say this because I’ve paid money,” but hearing these positive reflections from the group breaks through this self-sabotage. The participant also gains a new and surprising belief in this process: that people actually feel closer to them because of their vulnerability in sharing these toxic beliefs.

After the Hoffman Process, participants do have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Hoffman facilitator as well as opportunities to work with the larger network of Hoffman graduates. To learn more about how the Hoffman Process works, read What is the Hoffman Process.

This article was contributed by by Erica Garza. Follow @ericadgarza on Instagram


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