Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Group Therapy Provides Mental Health Support to Work Through Challenges

Image of Group Therapy Provides Mental Health Support to Work Through Challenges. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Ottignon, commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force (right), greets U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Biannca Davis, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Marine and Family Programs, New River (left), during a Suicide Prevention Wellness Symposium on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on April 16, 2024. During the symposium, mental health professionals from Headquarters Marine Corps discussed important mental well-being issues with service members and civilian contractors with II MEF. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Labrador)

[Editor’s note: This article deals with mental health issues and treatment. If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call the 988 National Suicide and Crisis Lifelineopens 988 Lifeline.org and press “1”, or text 838255, or chatChat with a counselor for emotional support for the dedicated Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line. For Spanish, press “2”.]

Mental health is health, and evidence-based group therapy is one effective tool for service members to get treatment for a mental health challenge.

Group therapy involves a group of patients who meet to discuss their experiences under the supervision of a trained therapist. The American Psychological Association reports that group therapy can be as effective as one-on-one therapy to help individuals achieve their treatment goals.

“In the military, teamwork is essential, and group therapy aligns with that principle,” said Shira Max, a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychology doctorate who’s a senior mental health provider at the Naval Branch Health Clinic Naval Training Center, San Diegoopens NBHSSD page on TRICARE.mil.

“It can be common for service members to think no one understands what they’re going through, or that you should be able to handle it on your own,” said Ronda Renosky-Vittori, a doctorate in behavioral health, and program area manager for psychological disorders treatment research, Science and Technology Portfolio Management Branch at the Defense Health Agency Research and Engineering Directorateopens Health.mil, Silver Spring, Maryland.

“Group therapy provides a safe environment to practice building trust and opening up to other people who have had similar experiences. It can reduce the isolation that you can feel when you are going through a tough time,” said Renosky-Vittori, who has a background in leading group therapy. “The group provides support that comes from a sense of community, not obligation.”

In this type of therapy, “you can release pent-up emotions without feeling judged or having someone immediately try to ‘fix the problem’ for you,” Renosky-Vittori said. “You can hear how others handle similar situations, and they can support you through problem solving, resolving conflicts, or challenging conversations. Group therapy gives you the chance to support others in that same way, which improves your confidence, and can reduce your own symptoms.”

Stigma and Culture Change

Some behavioral health patients may be reluctant to share their feelings and experiences in group therapy or they may fear stigmaopens Health.mil News article attached to mental health in the military and civilian worlds.

However, stigma is less of a factor now, according to Renosky-Vittori. “We need to move away from talking about stigma as though it is an absolute reality that holds people back from seeking treatment,” she declared.

“Talking about mental health is mainstream now, not taboo. The reality is that we all experience suffering at some point or another in our lives—it is a universal experience we all have. There can be no stigma in a universal experience,” Renosky-Vittori said.

“Getting together with a group of people and talking about your problems is very challenging for some because there is a lot of cultural momentum to overcome,” said U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Good, a doctorate in clinical psychology, and installation deputy director of psychological health at the U.S. Army’s Fort Leonard Woodopens Army.mil garrison in Missouri. Because of the time constraints of active duty, “making time to attend a weekly therapy group is sometimes a challenge,” he noted.

“It’s completely normal to have reservations about group therapy, especially if you're new to the experience,” Max said.

“A common concern is related to the fear of speaking in front of others, but especially about sharing deeply personal experiences. It's natural to feel nervous about opening up in a group setting, but it's important to remember that everyone in the group is there for the same reason—to receive support and work through challenges together,” she explained.

[This story continues, addressing the benefits of virtual group therapy, in part 2.]

Additional Resources

May is the annual Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year’s DHA theme is “Defend Your Mental Health.” For anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, needing immediate assistance, or simply wanting to talk, confidential help is available 24/7/365.

 

Resources

 

Public Outreach

 

Mental Health Videos

You also may be interested in...

Fact Sheet
Aug 30, 2023

Breathe2Relax App

.PDF | 384.67 KB

Initially designed for the military community but beneficial for use by anyone, the relaxation app trains you on the “belly breathing” technique that has proven benefits for your overall mental health. Use the app’s breathing exercises to learn and practice the breathing technique on your own or as part of a stress management program supervised by ...

Fact Sheet
Aug 30, 2023

Virtual Hope Box App

.PDF | 778.13 KB

The Virtual Hope Box is a smartphone application designed for patients and their behavioral health providers as an accessory to treatment. The VHB contains simple tools to help patients with coping, relaxation, distraction and positive thinking.

Video
Aug 23, 2023

Top Signs You Might Need Some Help

Image says: Top signed you might need some help.

We all have difficulties. Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives us his top signals that let us know we might need some help. - not sleeping well - trouble at work - continuing conflicts with people - increased substance use (alcohol, tobacco, medication) - thinking about hurting yourself or other people This video is part of a series addressing ...

Video
Aug 23, 2023

Who can I talk to? - Some Tips for Mental Health Care

Image asks: Who can I talk to? Some tips for mental health care.

Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives some ideas on who you can talk to if you are having a difficult time. Some people you might want to talk to are a peer, a trusted supervisor, someone who has gone through what you've been through, someone who you trust to keep your confidentiality, a faith leader, a mentor, your primary care provider, or a mental ...

Video
Aug 23, 2023

Will Mental Health Services Affect My Security Clearance?

Image asks the question, Will mental health services affect my security clearance?

Dr. Joshua Morganstein addresses a very common question: Will seeking mental or behavioral health services affect my security clearance? The short answer is: No. A study from 2012 - 2018 looked at 2.3 million security clearances. Of those 2.3 million clearances, almost 47,000 people reported psychological health issues. Of those 47,000 people, ...

Video
Aug 23, 2023

3 Tips for Coming Home from Deployment

Image states three tips for coming home from deployment.

Coming home from deployment can be challenging. We might feel a sense of loss of meaning or that other people don't understand the experiences we had. Dr. Morganstein gives 3 easy tips for adjusting to life back at home. 1. Give yourself time and space. 2. Talk to your loved ones about what's going on. 3. Give your loved ones time and space ...

Video
Aug 22, 2023

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 3

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 3

Part 3 - Follow Up Is a friend having a tough time? Do you want to talk to them and don't know how? Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives 3 tips on how to talk to a friend or colleague who you think might be having a hard time. 1. Set the stage for a conversation 2. Find the words 3. Follow-up This is the third video in a series that gives advice on ...

Video
Aug 22, 2023

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 2

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 2

Part 2 - Find the Words Is a friend having a tough time? Do you want to talk to them and don't know how? Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives 3 tips on how to talk to a friend or colleague who you think might be having a hard time. 1. Set the stage for a conversation 2. Find the words 3. Follow-up This is the second video in a series that gives ...

Video
Aug 22, 2023

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations - Part 1

3 Easy Tips for Hard Conversations  - Part 1

Is a friend having a tough time? Do you want to talk to them and don't know how? Dr. Joshua Morganstein gives 3 tips on how to talk to a friend or colleague who you think might be having a hard time. 1. Set the stage for a conversation - find a time when you both have the time and aren't rushed 2. Find the words 3. Follow-up This is the first ...

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: May 16, 2024
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery