Group therapy is a powerful tool for growth and change. For many emotional and relationship concerns that college students face, group is the best treatment choice. It can, in many cases, be more effective and produce quicker results than individual therapy.
In Group 5-10 individuals meet face to face to share their struggles and concerns with the facilitation of 1-2 group therapists. Groups meet weekly for 60 to 90 minutes. Some groups are focused on special themes like anxiety, depression, grief or body image. Others are more general counseling groups which assist individuals in resolving a broad range of personal issues, including setting appropriate boundaries, challenges with communicating, self-esteem difficulties, and relationship problems.
Many times group can be more helpful than individual counseling because it is an opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in a safe and confidential environment.
This group offers the opportunity to build on concepts of pathways in a group environment. Group members have the opportunity to explore their concerns in terms of the balance of 'acceptance' of concerns through ‘recognition’ and ‘understanding’ and 'commitment' to live a life of value to them through ‘willingness’ to explore new behaviors within a supportive environment of group.
This is an ongoing group that offers education and support for anyone who is grieving the death of a person. Participants are given an opportunity to share their experiences and to give and receive help in a supportive environment.
This group focuses on looking deeper into your sources of negative body image, rather than simply passing out positive affirmations to counteract your negative ones. Transforming negative body image into body acceptance and peace often takes more than trying to give yourself complements. This group will help you examine how your body image connects to your core beliefs and values in a safe and supportive environment with other people struggling with body image.
This group focuses on having healthy relationships with friends, family, and dating partners. The need to belong is one of our most primitive human drives. We can love nature, our work, hobbies, etc., but they can’t replace satisfying adult relationships. Building and maintaining healthy relationships can be difficult. This group includes relationship support and education. We will focus on the components of a healthy relationship, including healthy communication, boundaries, coping skills, managing anger and building self-esteem.
1. I am scared to talk to people in groups is this common for group members?
Answer: Most group members express this concern before joining the group. It can be very scary to talk to people you don’t know about your problems. Many group members have shared that although they initially feared talking, within a few sessions they felt more and more comfortable talking. By the end of the group many members share that they feel much more comfortable talking within the group than when they started.
2. Do I have to share my deepest, darkest secrets with the group?
Answer: Group leaders will not ask you to share your deepest secrets with the group. Group leaders will encourage members to share their difficulties and distress and as a member of the group you get to decide how much you share with the group. Members of groups report getting more out of group as they share more personal aspects but you get to set your own boundaries.
3. Is group confidential?
Answer: Everything that is discussed in counseling groups is considered confidential. It is not to be discussed outside the group, even with other group individuals. Each member signs an agreement to observe this rule.
4. What if I know someone in group—like they are a friend or a classmate?
Answer: This has happened before, don’t worry! Please let the group leaders know of this at the start of group. In past groups the situations have been processed within the group, one of the group members joined another group, or the group leaders decided how to best resolve it.
5. How much do I have to share in group?
Answer: No one will force you to share in group; if you don’t want to talk you don’t have to. Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties and distress. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive environment is an important part of group therapy and strongly affects how much you will be helped. Most members are worried about sharing in group initially and it might take a little time for them to feel okay about talking, but usually they eventually start sharing in group even though they are uncomfortable.
6. How long is group and how many people in group?
Answer: Usually group runs for 6-8 weeks and groups usually have about 5 to 10 members.
7. How can group counseling be better than individual?
Answer: Many times group can be more helpful than individual counseling because it is an opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in a safe and confidential environment. In individual counseling you can talk about your interpersonal struggles or personal distresses but in a group you could actually experience them and work through them in a safe, supportive environment.
8. I am worried there won’t be enough time for me to share because there are so many other members in the group?
Answer: If this is a concern and you find you are needing more time to talk, we recommend you bring this up in the group. Group is an excellent place to work on assertiveness. You may also find you can learn about yourself by listening to others. Group members may bring up issues that you connect with but that you would not have thought to bring up yourself.
9. How can I be helped in a group when everyone’s problems are different?
Answer: Each individual is unique as are their concerns. Still, as people we have a great deal in common. (We all grow up in families. We all react to hurt in similar ways. We all have the same basic capacity to grow and change.) These root causes of our problems in living have to do with patterns and habits that we have learned during our formative years that are not working well for use now in our current life circumstances or are holding us back. (For example, our families may have taught us that certain kinds of emotional expression are to be avoided, but now as we deal with the normal stress of adult life the pent-up feelings which result from this avoidance produce symptoms like depression, worry or over-reaction.) The goal of counseling is to learn about our habits and patterns of feeling and behavior and how they cause us problems. We can then learn new habits and patterns which will be more successful for us.
1. The first few sessions usually focuses on the establishment of trust. Group therapists and members work towards establishing a level of trust that allows them to communicate openly and honestly. New members are often amazed at how much their contributions help other members.
2. During the group meeting time, members are responsible for talking about what is troubling them. Other groups rely more on observations and discussion from individuals with the counselor providing consultation as necessary to facilitate the work.
3. Members are encouraged to give support and feedback to others, and to work with the reactions and responses that other members’ contributions bring up for them.
4. As individuals begin interacting with other group members, they usually re-experience or recreate some of the interpersonal difficulties that brought them to group in the first place. Under the skilled direction of a group therapist, the group is able to point out troublesome interpersonal patterns by providing feedback and support and offering alternatives, and in such a way that the difficulty becomes resolved.
5. Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties and distress. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive environment is an important part of group therapy and strongly affects how much you will be helped.
Pscyho-educational Groups: In psycho-educational groups the focus is on a particular internal struggle such as anxiety, depression, grief, or body image. Group members receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in a safe confidential environment. Typically there will be an educational component to each session and then an opportunity to process your difficulties and distress within the group.
Process Groups: Process groups are usually unstructured. There isn’t a specific topic for each group session, but some of the groups may be focused on a particular theme. The group may be a target to a specific group of individuals (e.g., women, men, or older students). Members are welcome to bring in any issues to the group they feel are important, and the primary focus of therapy in the group is on the interactions among group members. Members are encouraged to give support and feedback to others, and to work with the reactions and responses that other members’ contributions bring up for them.
Everything that is discussed in counseling groups is considered confidential. It is not to be discussed outside the group, even with other group individuals. Each member signs an agreement to observe this rule.
Christopher De Villeneuve is the new executive director of the Student Medical and Counseling ClinicNew Services For The Student Medical And Counseling Clinic
With the installation of a new practice management system the Student Medical and Counseling Clinic