Group Counseling FAQ
You can easily gain information about how you can join a group by calling the SCC, mentioning Group Therapy during your Walk-In Intake, or talking to your current individual counselor. Group therapy is seen as a highly important mode of therapy at the SCC and much research has shown that group therapy is viewed as equal to or even better than individual therapy!
A counseling group is usually comprised of 6-10 individuals along with one or two group leaders. Members play an active role in communicating, listening, and providing feedback to one another. As members interact, they are supported in developing more productive ways of communicating and in dealing with their problems. The information discussed in group is confidential and group members agree to make a commitment to that confidentiality to participate in the groups.
Group counseling has been a helpful tool for dealing with psychological, emotional, and interpersonal problems for more than 50 years. This unique format provides many opportunities that are different from individual counseling and that can only be gained in group counseling. In addition, the group counseling program here at the SCC has received consistently positive feedback from hundreds of previous group members.
This is a common question that many people ask when they are referred. Research on the subject has been consistent in highlighting the benefits of group counseling. In fact some research provides evidence that group counseling is superior to individual counseling based on the many relationships formed and the real-world feedback. The fact is, group counseling offers a number of experiences that you cannot find in individual counseling.
The group setting provides a context where individuals act and respond with others freely. As these relationships develop, individuals tend to recreate the maladaptive patterns in relationships that exist outside of the group. The group counseling environment provides a safe confine to gain acceptance and understanding and to realize that one's problems are not unique, and receive constructive feedback on how these patterns affect others. Many people feel misunderstood, alone with their feelings, or unaware of how they are affecting others and group counseling can be provide the encouragement, comfort, and understanding as you develop better ways to treat yourself and others.
Simply talk about what has brought you to the Student Counseling Center in the first place. Talk about what is most concerning you. If you need understanding, let the group know. If you need pointed feedback about some of your actions or behaviors, let the group know. If you are having an emotional reaction to another member in the group, let the group know. It is very important that you communicate what you expect of other members in the group. In fact, unexpressed feelings are a major reason people experience difficulties. Revealing feelings, or self-disclosure, is an important part of group and is directly related to how much you will gain from your group experience. The best way to do this is to talk about your present concerns.
How much you talk in group is your own decision; it will depend on your comfort level and how much you are committed to change in a given area. The greatest impact on your individual success in group is based on your commitment to attendance, opening up to the group, and desire for change. If you have questions about what might or might not be helpful, you can always ask the group.
- Group Atmosphere:
Generally, the first group task will be to establish an atmosphere of safety and respect. The first session is usually more structured in nature to help individuals become more familiar with the group process. Over time, the group will develop a more unstructured environment where the individual group members will set the tone and nature of discussions in the group. The leaders of the group help members to share emotional experiences, make emotional connections, and provide direct, yet supportive feedback.
- Fears of Group:
It is very common for people to be somewhat fearful of the group counseling experience. The idea of being in a room with many strangers and sharing the problems that have brought you to counseling can seem daunting. This reaction is quite normal as most people have never experienced group counseling and don't know what to expect. However, this common fear of group is the first part of your emotional connection with the group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people get comfortable enough to interact freely in group.
Ultimately, you control what, when, and how much you talk about in group counseling. The more you become involved in the group, the more likely you are to benefit.
You can experience emotions one of two ways in group counseling (both are very good). You can be expressive with your emotions. By expressing emotions you can find the direct support, understanding, and feedback you might need in the group. Second, you can also be attentive in group and experience support, understanding, and receive feedback indirectly by listening and experiencing vicariously what other members might be expressing.
- Understanding Self:
Throughout the group experience a natural process of understanding and acceptance of self occurs as one relates to others more honestly and directly with members in the group.
- Personal Experimentation:
The group environment provides a safe and secure place to take risks to learn more about yourself.