Online Group Therapy & Support Group Scoring Criteria
Many online group therapy and support group platforms are available for those looking for help in a virtual community setting. Our goal is to ensure that consumers find the right service that meets their personal mental health goals and provides the level of support they’re looking for.
We researched and reviewed dozens of online support groups and group therapy programs to identify key factors that contribute to successful outcomes. Below, you’ll find a list of our online group therapy and support group scoring criteria, which includes the key features of an exceptional service. You’ll also see a breakdown of how each category is scored in our star-rating system.
A qualified and experienced facilitator can make a big difference in the success of group therapy and support groups. They help to create a safe and supportive environment where members feel comfortable sharing their experiences, and help to facilitate productive discussions to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate.
Additionally, they can provide guidance and support to members as they work on their individual goals. We take a deep dive into the group facilitators’ professional backgrounds to ensure they have the expertise and credentials necessary to run a productive group therapy or support group meeting.
Star Ratings for Facilitator Qualifications
5 Stars: Groups are all run by licensed mental health professionals or trained experts in the group topic. They have extensive experience running groups.
3-Stars: Groups are run by trained facilitators, but they lack specific expertise, licensures, or credentials. Some groups are run by peers.
1-Star: Groups don’t have designated facilitators, or they’re run by untrained, unqualified, or unlicensed facilitators.
Group Meeting Structure
Having a structured yet flexible agenda at a group therapy meeting can be beneficial for both the facilitator and the group members. Structured group therapy and support group meetings keep the discussion on track, provide consistency, promote participation, and enhance learning.
Our ideal company will run meetings that follow some form of organization, and members will be aware of the meeting format before it begins. For instance, members should know how long the meeting will last, who is running the group, and when it’s appropriate to participate. Group rules or guidelines should also be provided at the start of each meeting.
Star Ratings for Group Meeting Structure
5 Stars: There is a structured yet flexible agenda for every group therapy or support group meeting, and members are aware of the format before the meeting begins. Members are also aware of any rules or guidelines that are specific to that group.
3-Stars: There’s a loose agenda for each meeting, and members are aware of it. However, facilitators sometimes go off-script and lose control of the discussions. Members occasionally report not being able to participate in group meetings due to a lack of structure or time.
1-Star: There is no agenda, no structure, and no organization to the group therapy or support group meetings.
Variety of Group Topics
Companies that provide a variety of support groups and group therapy topics can be beneficial for several reasons. It can help you connect with an online community of people with similar struggles, interests, or experiences. Offering a variety of support group topics can help people learn from each other’s experiences, gain new insights, and discover coping mechanisms.
High-scoring group therapy companies will have a wide range of categories for members to choose from, such as groups discussing anxiety, depression, grief, divorce, parenting, relationships, and more. Ideal services will also include groups that promote personal development, such as groups for improving communication, career advice, or encouraging productivity.
Star Ratings for Variety of Group Topics
5-Stars: The company offers an extensive list of group topics, including several mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and eating disorders. They also include other groups that promote personal development, such as improving communication or offering career advice.
3-Stars: The company has a somewhat limited list of groups that cover mental health conditions. They do not include groups that promote personal development.
1-Star: The company has less than five group topics available.
One of our goals is to protect consumers from costly apps and platforms that don’t meet expectations or quality standards. Some group therapy and support group services will cost more than others, and we want to identify how companies support each price tag. An affordable service will not necessarily be rated higher than an expensive one, and vice versa. The cost should be reflective of what the company offers. In other words, are you getting what you paid for?
The transparency of pricing is another important factor in this category. Companies that provide clear costs, cancellation policies, and fair refund policies will score higher. A user should know the exact price before a purchase without facing any unknown costs or additional fees. We’re looking for clarity, honesty, and fairness when it comes to cost.
Star Ratings for Cost
5 Stars: The cost is directly reflected in its quality, and the company makes the pricing clear to the user. You’re getting exactly what you paid for, and there are no surprise costs or additional fees.
3 Stars: The price doesn’t directly match the quality. It was somewhat difficult to find an exact price or cancellation/refund policy. You can point to other companies that provide more for less.
1 Star: The price does not match the quality. The price wasn’t clearly listed, and/or cancellation/refund policy was not listed. It’s entirely too expensive for what users are getting.
The quality of a company’s customer service is a significant rating factor. Support groups and group therapy services may be penalized if it’s difficult to find contact information, connect with a representative, or if it lacks channels of communication (e.g., only has email, no phone numbers listed)
We also take into consideration user reviews when scoring for customer service. We research and analyze positive and negative reviews that mention customer service and track when app developers respond to complaints in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Star Ratings for Customer Service
5 Stars: The company offers excellent customer service. There are multiple channels to communicate with a representative, including email, text, chat, and phone. Responses to issues and complaints are completed within 24 hours. There are very few, if any, customer complaints in reviews online. When issues are reported in reviews online, the app developers respond efficiently and effectively.
3 Stars: The company provides an average level of customer service. There are limited channels to communicate with a representative. Response time takes more than 72 hours. App developers sometimes respond to issues reported in reviews online.
1 Star: The company provides poor customer service. You can only reach a representative through one channel. Response time takes over a week, and many issues are left unresolved. Developers do not respond to reported issues in reviews online.
Extra features and resources, such as a space for journaling, webinars, workshops, assessments, and skill-building exercises, provide a lot of additional support and guidance for a person’s wellness journey. Platforms that provide these extra features within their app or website will score higher in this category.
5-stars: The platform offers a wide range of extra features in its app or through the website, like a journal space, learning workshops, or skill-building exercises.
3-stars: The platform offers limited extra features in its app or through the website, like a journal or homework sheets, but it may not have any educational workshops.
1-star: The platform offers no extra features and no free resources.
Reliability & Longevity
Our reliability and longevity score will be determined by how long a company has been around and if they have strong plans for growth and development. We want to direct users toward group therapy and support group services that will continue to grow and won’t disappear or phase out after a user purchases a monthly or annual subscription.
We research a company’s history, plans for progress, and legitimacy to ensure that users are signing up with a fair and honest service. It’s important to note that we also conduct updates to our reviews, so newer companies may receive a higher score after proving their credibility over time.
Star Ratings for Reliability & Longevity
5 Stars: The company has existed for three or more years and has released public statements on expansion and development. Any mentions of the company in the news are overwhelmingly positive.
3 Stars: The company has existed for a year or more but has not released public statements for any expansion or development. Mentions of the company in the news are mostly positive.
1 Star: The company has existed for less than a year and has not released public statements for any expansion or development. Mentions of the company in the news are mostly negative.