Most people don’t realize that group treatment is often more effective than individual treatment for some issues. For many emotional and relationship concerns that college students face, group is the best treatment choice. Groups may be focused on specific themes and needed skills for coping with issues such as 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.
Group therapy is a potent treatment strategy. Through the sharing process, members can develop a level of trust that allows them to be honest, open with one another, and accepting towards each other. With the therapist's guidance this process creates a powerful tool for growth, self-awareness, and change.
For most of us, many of our day to day relationships may be constrained by social conventions that prohibit directness, honesty, and "real" interactions. We want to know what people really think and maybe want to share our own thoughts and feelings but "something" inhibits this genuine interaction. When people learn to interact freely with other group members, interpersonal patterns arise and self-awareness develops, members experiment with new communication strategies or coping skills, and individuals gain compassion for themselves and others.
Additionally, many students feel that they are somehow weird or "wrong" because of their feelings or problems. As a group member, it can be encouraging to hear that other students have similar difficulties and are learning or have found ways to cope. Students at EC who have attended groups usually comment on their surprise at how much they enjoyed and benefited from their experience.
Before attending the group, you will be scheduled for a pre-group intake with the group leader. This meeting is focused both on the types of problems you are experiencing and a description of the particular group. If both parties decide that the group is a good match, the clinician provides information about meeting times. Groups usually include 4-8 people who meet once per week for about 75-90 minutes with 1 or 2 trained facilitators and discuss what is concerning them most.
- The first few sessions usually focus on the establishment of trust. Group therapists and members work towards establishing a level of trust that allows them to communicate openly and honestly. The importance of confidentiality is reviewed and members sign an agreement to commit to this important aspect of group.
- During the group meeting time, members are responsible for talking about what is troubling them. Group leaders do not ask members to reveal any "deep dark secret" but leaders encourage student to share their difficulties and distress. Each member gets to decide how much and what they share.
- 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.
- Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties and distress in life. 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.
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. Therapists too maintain the confidence of members within the limits of the law.
I am scared to talk to people in groups. Is this common for group members?
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 state 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. Most students report how much they enjoyed the experience of listening to others and knowing that others were listening to them.
Is group confidential?
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. Therapists are required to observe the confidentiality of clients within the limits of the law.
What if I know someone in group-like they are a friend or a classmate?
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.
How much do I have to share in group?
No one will force you to share in group; if you don't want to talk you don't have to. However, unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties and distress in life. 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. Group leaders will encourage members to share their difficulties and distress but each member of the group gets to decide how much they share with the group. 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.
What if I don't like the other people in the group? Won't that be a waste of my time?
We do usually choose to talk about difficulties with a close friend or a family member because we trust them. But groups can work well together and be very helpful even when the group members might not otherwise chose one another as friends. It is possible not to want someone as a friend and still trust that the group and all of its members are committed to helping one another change. In fact, sometimes talking to and hearing from others who are different from us or our circle can provide particularly helpful perspectives.
I am worried there won't be enough time for me to share because there are so many other members in the group?
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 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.
How can I be helped in a group if everyone's problems are different?
Each individual is unique as are their struggles. 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. The 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 in our current life circumstances or are holding us back. Group provides a safe and powerful space to experience, understand, and change these habits and patterns.
Fall 2023 groups will be updated shortly.