Group therapy is an opportunity for one to meet with other students who are struggling with similar issues. It can be a powerful experience as it allows one to see that they are not alone in their problems. Group therapy gives one a chance to tell their story in a safe space, feel supported and understood by others, hear how others have dealt with the same issues, and/or help someone else cope with a problem that one has experience with. Often, people find that the feedback that they get from group therapy helps them to gain perspective and be more effective in their personal lives as well as their relationships outside of group.
Group therapy can be a powerful experience as it allows one to see that they are not alone in their problems.
How Group Works
A group of four to eight students meets weekly at the same time and place for about 50-75 minutes. The groups are led by one or two of the staff therapists at Health and Counseling Services and are held at the health office. The group leaders assist members in sharing their stories and getting to know each other. They also offer feedback and education about a particular issue when appropriate. However, over time, the group members take more ownership of these processes and the group leaders take a step back and loosely guide the discussion. It is important that one is able to commit to the full time that the group meets and can attend the group on a weekly basis for the semester. Without the commitment of the members of the group to attend weekly sessions, it will be difficult for participants to reap the benefits of group therapy.
One of the most important guidelines of group therapy is confidentiality. This basically means that what is said in group, stays in group. We ask that all participants keep the information from group confidential. This helps to maintain a sense of trust and respect amongst the group members and allows people to feel safe in the group.
Is Group Therapy Right for Me?
If you endorse some or all of the following themes, group therapy would probably be a good fit:
- Not knowing who you are – not sure how others might describe you or not being able to describe yourself
- Repeatedly playing a frustrating role in relationships – giving more than you receive, feeling abandoned by friends, etc.
- Lack of, fearing, or avoiding connection or intimacy in relationships
- Fear of confrontation or assertive behaviors
- Feeling lonely – and separate from others
- Feeling “different” – from others
- Feeling ashamed of your presenting problems or life experiences
- Feeling hopeless about your ability to form and/or maintain relationships
- Discomfort/anxiety in social situations
- Harsh/critical self-view
Common Misperceptions About Group Therapy
1. “I have so much trouble talking to people; I’ll never be able to share in group.”
Most people are initially anxious about talking in group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions, new members find that the group process draws them in and they begin to share with the group in ways they never anticipated.
2. “I will be pressured to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with the group.”
You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. We encourage you not to share what you are not ready to disclose. Many group members find that when the group feels safe enough to share what they are most apprehensive about, the group can be very helpful and affirming. At the same time, you can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how their thoughts might apply to you.
3. “Group therapy is second-best to individual therapy.”
If you are recommended or chosen for a therapy group, it is because the therapist believes that it is the best way to address your concerns, either alone or in conjunction with individual therapy. In fact, group is frequently the treatment of choice, and group is in many ways the very best of what therapy has to offer.
4. “Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy because I will have to share time with others.”
Group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy, for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you say little, but listen carefully to others. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, as they work on concerns, you can learn more about yourself. Second, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but you might not have been aware of, or brought it up by yourself. Therefore, learning from others can be a powerful therapeutic exercise and often enhances the work.
5. “I will be judged, criticized, or verbally attacked by the leaders and by other group members.”
It is very important that group members feel safe. Group leaders are there to create a safe environment for all involved. We understand that feedback is often difficult to hear, from leaders and members alike. As group members come to trust the group, they generally experience feedback, and even confrontation, as if it were coming from a good friend. One of the benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to receive feedback from others in a supportive environment. It is rare to find friends who will gently point out how you might be behaving in ways that hurt yourself or others, but that is precisely what group can offer. This will be done in a respectful, gentle way so that you can hear it and make use of it.
Interested in Group Therapy?
If you have any questions or concerns about group therapy, please contact Counseling Services at 718.687.5356. You can also email us at email@example.com. If you are interested in a group, but are finding it difficult to overcome anxiety or feelings of embarrassment, it might be helpful to talk about your concerns with one of the therapists at Counseling Services.