HCSW offers group therapy services each semester. We recommend group therapy when we believe it is the best way to address your concerns. As you consider group therapy you may have a number of questions. We hope this information will help answer them.
In group therapy, 5-8 students meet face-to-face along with one or more therapists and talk about their concerns. Members give feedback to each other by expressing their own feelings about what someone says or does. This interaction gives group members an opportunity to try out new ways of behaving and to learn more about the way they interact with others. What makes the situation unique is that it is a closed and safe system. The initial sessions of a group usually focus on commitment to the group and establishment of a trusting environment that allows members to talk personally and honestly. The content of the group session is confidential; what members talk about or disclose is not discussed outside the group.
When people come into a group and interact freely with other group members, they can openly address their concerns, and they often recreate behavioral tendencies that brought them to the group in the first place. Under the skilled direction of a group clinician, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, or gently confront the person. Through this process, the difficulty becomes resolved, alternative behaviors are learned, and the person develops new social techniques or ways of relating to people.
During group therapy, people begin to see that they are not alone. Many people feel that their problems are unique, and it is encouraging to hear that others have similar difficulties. In the climate of trust provided by the group, people feel free to care about and help each other.
Group therapy can help with several issues, including:
Some of the most common ways that students grow from being in a therapy group are:
You control what, how much and when you share with the group. Most find that when they feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. We encourage you not to share what you are not ready to disclose. You can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.
Actually, 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 very little but listen carefully to others. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, and as they work on a concern, you can learn more about yourself. Secondly, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but that you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.
It is very important that group members feel safe. Group leaders are there to help develop a safe environment. Feedback is often difficult to hear. As group members come to trust and accept one another, they generally experience feedback and even confrontation as positive, as if it were coming from their best 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 this is precisely what the group can offer. This will be done in a respectful, gentle way, so that you can hear it and make use of it.
If group therapy is being recommended to you, it is because your intake clinician believes that it is the best way to address your concerns. We do not put people into group therapy because we don't have space in individual therapy or because we want to save time. We recommend group therapy when it is the most effective method to help you. Your intake clinician can discuss with you why group therapy would be effective for you.
Most people are anxious about being able to talk in a group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people find that they do begin to share. Others remember what it is like to be new to the group, so you will most likely get a lot of support for beginning to talk in the group.