Group counseling involves a small number of individuals working together on common problems or concerns. Counseling groups may focus on a particular issue (for example, exam anxiety or relationship issues) or they can be less structured sessions that explore broader issues or student concerns.
Typically, groups meet for 90 minutes each week and are led by one or two staff counselors. Groups are offered throughout the academic year. The group counseling listing is updated each semester to reflect that semester’s offerings.
What is group counseling?
Group counseling, like individual counseling, is intended to help students constructively address personal and/or interpersonal concerns and/or problems.
Research has shown that group counseling is equally effective as individual counseling. For certain concerns and/or problems (e.g., social anxiety, interpersonal problems) group counseling can be even more effective than individual counseling.
There is evidence for the effectiveness of group counseling for the following issues:
- Poor self-esteem and lack of self-confidence
- Stress Management
- Traumatic experience
What are different types of group counseling?
Process - The primary purpose of this group is to assist students in exploring and examining "here and now" personal and inter-personal experiences and dynamics to deepen self-awareness and to learn how they relate to others.
PsychoeducatIonal - The primary purpose/goal of this group is to assist students in improving their knowledge and understanding of certain topics/issues pertinent to mental health.
Skills Training - The primary purpose/goal of this group is to assist students in learning psychological skills (e.g. relaxation techniques) to help regulate overall psychological well-being. It is often done in a classroom type format.
Support/Self-Help - The primary purpose/goal of this group is to provide each other with various types
of help (e.g., emotional support, problem-solving advice).
Groups can be categorized into one or the other, but there is often considerable overlap.
How many people are in a group?
Most groups UCC offers have between 4-10 students in addition to 1-2 counselors.
How long does group last?
UCC offers semester-based group counseling. Group therefore meets between 8-12 times each semester. Students, however, are welcomed to stay in group more than one semester. Some students stay for a semester and some continue for a year or more. Each group session is typically 90 minutes long.
Common concerns and myths about group counseling
I am scared group members will talk about what I say outside the group.
In group, confidentiality is taken very seriously. The rule of thumb is "what is said in group, remains in group." Confidentiality-related concerns are ALWAYS thoroughly discussed at the outset of group counseling to help each member feel safe in group.
I have so much trouble talking to people; I'll never be able to share in a group.
Most (if not all) people are anxious about talking in group. You would begin to feel less anxious and more comfortable over time as you observe and listen to other group members. Group counselors may also provide ACTIVE assistance and structure to help members feel more comfortable talking.
I'm afraid I will be judged or criticized by the leaders or other group members.
It's very important that members feel safe in the group. Group counselors are there to help develop a safe environment and will work to maintain a constructive and caring atmosphere for all group members. A benefit of group therapy is receiving feedback from others who are trying to help. Group counselors help members to give feedback in a way that is respectful, thoughtful, and constructive.
What if another member of the group is my friend or classmate?
We often realize how small a world we live in! If you happen to know someone in group, please inform the group counselor. The group counselor can help explore the extent of the relationship and make adjustments as needed. You can choose to discontinue group if you do not feel comfortable.
In group, I am expected to disclose my deepest secrets.
You will be encouraged to share at a level that feels comfortable to you. It is common to feel uncomfortable at times when sharing, though most find their level of safety and willingness to talk increases as the group progresses. You may be invited by the group counselor or other members to discuss your reactions or personal concerns, but you will never be forced to do or share something you do not want to.
If I am in group, I will not get enough attention or may not get my needs met.
Group members are often surprised by how their concerns are being addressed, even when others are speaking. Recognizing how your own experiences may be related or how you can connect with another member can also help you to learn from others and facilitate personal growth.
Hearing other member's problems will make me feel or get worse.
Quite opposite to this apprehension, group members often report gaining a sense of connection by hearing other's struggles that are similar to their own. Group can help you learn to sit with others who are suffering, as well as increasing tolerance of your own suffering, in a way that is compassionate and helpful. In group therapy, you not only receive help from but also provide help to other members, which positively contributes to your self-esteem.