Whether a child has been receiving occupational therapy for some time or are new to OT, parents often find themselves questioning the differences between individual and group therapy sessions and if a group would benefit their child. Individual occupational therapy involves one child working alongside a dedicated therapist throughout the entire session. In contrast, group therapy typically brings together several children with similar goals, all engaging in therapeutic activities under the guidance of a therapist while interacting with each other. So, what should be considered when looking at groups or individual therapy for a child?
In individual therapy, therapists can set and track specific, individualized goals for each child. They are set in collaboration between the parent and therapist to the specific challenges and level of the child. The goals allow for the careful monitoring of progress and can be adapted to meet a child’s level as they progress. In OT groups, goals are typically pre-determined by the therapists to meet a generalised standard goal, in common areas of difficulty. Therefore, it is important to consider whether the goals of the group are in line with the child’s personal goals to determine if they would benefit from the group. If you aren’t sure, it is always important to check with your child’s occupational therapist, who will be able to provide insight into whether the group and its goals are relevant to the child and their individual needs.
One benefit of group OT is the opportunity for children to connect with likeminded peers who may have similar experiences. These group sessions create a supportive environment where children can share their skills, offer encouragement, and work together to develop new skills. It can help provide children the chance to practice their social skills in a safe and structured setting and generalise what they may be developing in individual OT. It may also be motivating and encouraging for children, with peer modelling of skills. This can be invaluable for many children, helping them grow both emotionally and socially. Parents should weigh the benefits of these potential peer connections when deciding between individual and group OT sessions, as it can play a significant role in a child’s overall development.
When considering if a group is beneficial for your child, it is important to determine the level of support they may be given in the group. In individual therapy, the child receives the undivided attention and guidance of a dedicated therapist, allowing for concentrated, one-on-one therapy intervention. This personalised attention enables the therapist to tailor interventions to your child’s specific needs, ensuring a comprehensive and highly individualized approach. In contrast, group therapy sessions involve several children sharing the occupational therapist’s time and attention. While this setting promotes social interaction and peer learning, it inherently divides the therapist’s focus among multiple participants. As a result, the level of individual support may be less compared to one-on-one sessions. Some children may benefit greatly from the social dynamics of a group setting, while others may benefit more the concentrated support provided by individual therapy.
If you believe that your child could benefit from the dynamics of a group therapy setting but may require more individualized support, it’s important to discuss this with your Occupational Therapist. Your OT may be able to arrange the necessary support for your child, such as having an Allied Health Assistant (AHA) to provide personalized and direct support within the group setting, adapting activities to meet your child’s specific needs. This allows them to receive focused one-on-one attention and guidance, addressing their unique challenges and goals, while still benefiting from the valuable social interactions and skill-building opportunities that the group environment offers. This more tailored support can empower the child to progress at their own pace, target specific needs, and gain confidence in their abilities, all within the supportive context of the group therapy environment.
If you are interested in groups for your child, please speak to your occupational therapist to find the right group that aligns to your child’s goals!