Thank you so much for your question – and what a confusing thing that this can be!
Both support groups and group psychotherapy (also known as group therapy or treatment groups) share quite a few characteristics – as both bring people together who are dealing with similar issues or concerns.
Here are the key differences between the types of groups:
Support Groups are generally hosted at a location and time where members can meet and provide support to one another over a shared (and often burdensome) circumstance – such as being a caregiver for someone with dementia. Support groups may be led by a professional in the aging field – however, some groups are managed by the group members themselves. They may be in-person or virtually held. The role of the group leader is to facilitate discussion and to manage the dynamics of the group. These are typically open groups – which means that people can choose to enter or exit at any time. The focus is for the group members to share their own experiences in a way to support, encourage, uplift, and strengthen one another. Difficulties are frequently shared – but the dynamic is to be supportive. Most of the content for the groups comes from the discussion between the group members – although the person in the leadership role might introduce topics at times.
Group Therapy is different in the way that the focus is on the change and growth of the individual. They are increasingly structured with a focus on teaching with clear outcomes. They are facilitated by a group leader – who is almost always a mental health professional and meetings are held in-person. Most of the content of group is led by the professional with a therapeutic focus. The participants learn that they are not alone in experiencing their concerns – however, they are able to share openly in a safe group environment with the support of the professional present. These can be closed groups (not open to new participants at any time) and are frequently for a set time (for example, 10 weeks) for which change of behavior or condition can be generally proposed to occur.
The group held by SeniorCare Options is a support group focusing on caregiver needs.
Wishing the best to you and yours! Lisa