Group Counseling FAQs

Q. What are the goals of group therapy?

A. People who participate in counseling groups benefit in many ways. At CMHS, we believe groups are uniquely suited to help students:

  • give and receive support
  • gain understanding of problems and explore possible solutions
  • practice interpersonal skills in a safe group setting
  • learn more about how you come across to others
  • increase observation and feedback skills
  • enhance problem-solving skills
  • improve emotional expressiveness
  • decrease social isolation
  • develop good communication skills

Q. How often do groups meet?

A. Generally groups meet weekly in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Each group is scheduled for a particular day of the week and time of the day that is set for the duration of the group. Typically, group sessions last for 90 minutes.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of counseling group sessions I can have?

A. There is no limit on group sessions. We hope you will utilize our group program as much as you would like.

Q. How do I make the most of group therapy?

A. Suggestions:

  • Attend regularly. In joining the group, you have made a commitment to the other group members as well as to yourself.
  • Make the group part of your life. Don’t think of group as something that happens once a week and then forget about it in between. Between group sessions, think about what happened in group and about how you felt during and after group, and try to figure out why you had those feelings.
  • Take responsibility for your counseling and your group. It’s your group, so if it is not moving in the direction you want, say so.
  • Participate actively. You will make more progress if you get actively involved in the group discussions.
  • Experiment with new forms of behavior. Until you begin to act differently, you won’t change.
  • Take some emotional risks in group. It is structured to be safe and supportive.
  • Be as honest and open as you are able in group. It allows other group members to get to know who you really are.
  • Speak in the first person. This makes what you say much more personal and powerful.
  • Accept responsibility for your own experience and allow other to be responsible for theirs. Don’t foster dependency by assuming responsibility for others in the group.
  • Learn to listen to others attentively. If you are formulating your response while someone else is speaking, you are not really hearing what is being said.
  • Learn to differentiate between thoughts and feelings…when you say “I feel that…”, or “I feel like…”, you are moving away from expressing feelings to expressing thoughts.
  • Speak directly to individuals in the group rather than about them to others.
  • Be honest and direct with your feelings in group in the present moment, especially your feelings toward other group members and the therapists.
  • Be spontaneous. Often we wait our turn to speak, try to be polite, or think about what we want to say for so long that the moment to say it has passed.
  • Be specific and direct with your feedback.
  • Share both positive and negative.
  • Don’t give advice and suggestions.
  • Don’t try to solve other member’s problems for them.
  • Don’t blame or judge others.
  • Be respectful, even when you don’t agree with a person’s position or behavior.
  • Phrase your feedback so it is about your experience of the other person, and not a judgment of how they are.
  • Ask for feedback when you need it, seek clarification and avoid becoming defensive or making excuses.

Q. Are there ground rules for participating in group therapy?

A. The group sessions are confidential. The identity of the members of the group, and what they say in group is not to be talked about with anyone outside the group at any time. It is up to each group member to maintain this confidentiality.

Attend regularly and punctually. If you are going to miss a session or be late, please let one of the leaders of the group know.

Mutual respect is essential to maintaining the safety of the group. It is okay to disagree with others. It is not okay to treat other members disrespectfully.

Having a feeling and acting on it are two different actions. Acting out your feelings in group is not acceptable, whether you act them out upon yourself or on another member. The way we most respect ourselves and others is by experiencing our feelings and then talking about them.

It is your responsibility to talk about your reasons for being in the group as honestly as you are able.

If you decide to leave group, because you have met your goals for treatment or because it isn’t the most appropriate treatment method for you, we ask that you discuss this with the group facilitator first and then come to the group and say good-bye.

Q. What about confidentiality?

A. Groups are private and confidential; that is, what members disclose in sessions is not shared outside of the group. The meaning and importance of confidentiality are reviewed with group members at the first meeting and every time a new member joins the group.

Q. Isn’t individual therapy better?

A. That’s one of the common misunderstandings about group therapy:

“Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy, because I will have to share the time with others.” 

Group therapy can be more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you say little by listening 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. Second, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but which you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.

“I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group.”  

No one will force you to do anything in group counseling. You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. You do not have to share what you are not ready to disclose. You can be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you. When you feel safe enough to share what is troubling you, a group will likely be very helpful and affirming.

“I have so much trouble talking to people, I’ll never be able to share in a group.”  

Most people are anxious about being able to talk in group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people find that they do begin to talk in the group. Group members remember what it is like to be new to the group, so you will get a lot of support for beginning to talk in the group.