Group therapy is a form of treatment that allows participants to learn about themselves and their relationships with others and address personal difficulties that are often shared by some other members of the group. A significant benefit of group therapy includes not feeling so alone with your concerns since others in the group will likely have experienced similar things. Also, the interactions members have with each other in the group will parallel interactions they have with people outside of the group. This allows members to learn about their reactions and practice taking risks with new strategies for interacting with others in the safe environment of the group. These insights and new ways of interacting can then be transferred to relationships outside of the group with the aim of improving them.
In group therapy, 8-10 members meet with two trained group leaders for 1 ½ hours each week. Members are asked to commit to attending group for a minimum of 8 sessions. This is to allow the time to establish trusting relationships and to develop them to the point of working through issues that might emerge such as difficulty being assertive, being vulnerable, or sharing deep feelings. Learning in the group occurs through participation. However, members can also learn about themselves by listening and observing the interactions of others. No one is forced to discuss issues they are not ready to discuss.
There is no agenda. It is up to group members to determine what they want to work on each week. Often there is continuity from week to week related to the topics raised. The co-leaders work with the group to facilitate meaningful interaction and attend to identified problems or areas of dissatisfaction in the member’s lives. Also, co-leaders and members too, over time, begin to address issues, feelings and dynamics that come up among members in the group in the here and now. This is a very powerful means of learning about you and about changing patterns of behavior that are not working.
Group therapy is often the ideal form of therapy for college students since a primary focus of group is on relationships and understanding and managing feelings. These are common issues for students. Group therapy alone can be a sufficient means of dealing with these issues. At the Counseling Center individual therapy is rarely recommended at the same time as group therapy because there is a risk of confusion and not fully committing to the therapeutic work in the group.
There are a number of rules or expectations that leaders ask members to commit to prior to joining a therapy group. This is to ensure the group’s safety and effectiveness in addressing the concerns of all of the members.
Members are asked to commit to a minimum of 8 sessions to allow enough time to get to know others in the group and effectively use the group to work on personal concerns.
The group sessions are confidential. Everything discussed in group must stay in group. This also means that you cannot discuss what happens in group with other group members outside of group.
Attend all group sessions unless an absence is unavoidable.
The group starts and ends on time. If you are going to be unavoidably late, please let the group leaders know in advance.
If you are going to miss a session, please let the group know in advance or the leaders know as soon as possible.
Talking about your feelings in group is important. Acting on those feelings is unacceptable.
It is your responsibility to participate in group. Active involvement can be helpful as can listening. Now one will force you to talk about things you do not want to discuss.
Dating or special friendships with others in the group is prohibited while you are in group.
If you have decided you have met your goals in group therapy or that group is just not for you, please let the group know. It is important to provide enough notice to the group to be able to say goodbye.