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Group therapy is an exposure-based large-group one-session treatment (LG-OST). It builds on the remarkable advances made in the development of highly effective cognitive-behavioural treatments (CBT) for various mental disorders. So-called ‘exposure strategies’ are at the heart of these approaches.
Exposure therapy refers to ‘repeated, systematic exposure to cues that are feared, avoided, or endured with dread’.
Whether the therapy is delivered in vivo (ie, involving actual objects, events or situations), in sensu (ie, using the imagination – for example, to conjure traumatic memories or obsessional thoughts), or it’s interoceptive (ie, focused on the feared bodily sensations), it should provide the patients with new, anxiety-reducing and fear-relieving experiences that violate their fear-evoking expectancies.
After an exposure treatment, between a half and two-thirds of patients are deemed to no longer suffer from an anxiety disorder or they show significant improvement. This is a blessing when considering the life-limiting, long-lasting, progressing and – as increased suicide rates among anxiety patients show – sometimes even life-threatening character of these disorders.
Despite the promising initial findings, it remains to be proven whether LG-OST is a feasible and effective treatment for anxiety disorders beyond phobias. Moreover, the ‘best’ therapist-to-patient ratio still needs to be calibrated.
And most importantly, LG-OST effectiveness needs to be improved further, because not all participants benefited to the desired extent. The cost- and resource-saving aspect of LG-OST, however, is obvious.
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