Family vs Group CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. When used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, CBT aims to lessen anxiety by provoking thoughts and symptom maintaining behaviors and teaching patients alternative ways to perceive them (Safak, Karadere, Ozdel, Ozcan, Turkcapar, Kuru, & Yucens, 2014). CBT can be done in an individual, family, and group setting. In fact, social anxiety disorder was proven to be effectively treated with Cognitive Behavioral Group therapy (CBGT) by using psychoeducation and systemic exposure (Bjornsson, Bidwell, Brosse, Carey, Hauser, Mackiewicz Seghete, & Craighead, 2011). This discussion will compare CBT in both family and group psychotherapy.

An obvious difference in family and group CBT is the clients. In group therapy, most clients are unfamiliar with each other and the only thing connecting them is their purpose for attending therapy. In family CBT, the members have known each other for a big part of, if not all of, their lives. This allows a therapist to tailor a treatment approach.

A goal of family CBT is to strengthen the bonds of family members and to stabilize the family structure. In group CBT, members may also create bonds with one another, but these bonds do no strengthen a family unit.

When clients with substance abuse enter a recovery facility, they will experience some form of group therapy. These clients share their experiences with one another, learn new coping skills, and share coping skills that have worked with them. For example, the group was discussing ways they cope with anxiety. The therapists had given them the task of naming five things they are experiencing right now, one for each of the five senses. Another member stated she keeps a Cutie orange with her and when she feels anxious, she pulls it out and peels it. The client stated that the smell calms and distracts her while she focuses on peeling the orange and then separating and eating the slices. These clients may also benefit from family therapy where the therapist can identify a central problem, family members that contribute to the problem, and solutions that do and do not work with the family.


Bjornsson, A. S., Bidwell, L. C., Brosse, A. L., Carey, G., Hauser, M., Mackiewicz Seghete, K. L., & … Craighead, W. E. (2011). Cognitive-behavioral group therapy versus group psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder among college students: A randomized controlled trial. Depression and Anxiety, 28(11), 1034-1042. doi:10.1002/da.20877

Safak, Y., Karadere, M. E., Ozdel, K., Ozcan, T., Türkçapar, M. H., Kuru, E., & Yücens, B. (2014). The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group psychotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Turkish Journal of Psychiatry, 25(4), 225-233.

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