About Group Counseling Services
Personal counseling services at the center are often provided in counseling groups. Each group is conducted by a psychologist or other counseling professional. Some are focused on special themes such as test anxiety or stress management. Most are general counseling groups that assist participants in resolving a broad range of personal issues, including feelings of depression, excessive anxiety and worry, self-esteem problems and relationship problems.
What Happens in a Counseling Group?
Generally, groups consist of four to eight participants and meet regularly for about 90 minutes at the same time once each week. It is important to attend each meeting from beginning to end. At group meetings, participants discuss their concerns. In some groups, the counselor will work with each participant individually with comments from other participants. Other groups rely more on observations and discussion from participants with the counselor providing consultation as necessary to facilitate the work.
How Can I Be Helped in a Group When Everyone's Problems Are Different?
Each individual is unique, as are their concerns. 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.) Our experience has shown that while the problems people bring to counseling can be quite different, the underlying issues that produce these problems are often similar.
These root causes of our problems have to do with patterns and habits that we have learned during our formative years that are not working well for us now in our current life circumstances or are holding us back. (For example, our families may have taught us that certain kinds of emotional expression are to be avoided, but now as we deal with the normal stress of adult life the pent-up feelings that result from this avoidance produce such symptoms as depression, worry or overreaction.)
The goal of counseling is to learn about our habits and patterns of feeling and behavior and how they cause us problems. We can then learn new habits and patterns that will be more successful for us. Although it seems strange to think that we might not know ourselves completely, experience has shown that many of the problem-causing habits and patterns are things we have done all our life and are so automatic that we don't even think about them as learned or optional behavior.
Groups provide a special setting in which we can learn about ourselves, others and ourselves in relation to others. This can help us to be more effective in our relationships with others and with ourselves outside the group. It takes time, helpful observations and support from others to recognize and change our ways of living.
Shouldn't I Get Individual Help?
While individual counseling can be important for some more severe problems of certain types, experience has shown that group counseling can often be even more effective for most issues. Perhaps it is the opportunity to see that some of what we regard as our most terrible secrets or distasteful aspects of ourselves are really only common human experiences that is so helpful.
Embarrassment or shame keeps many people from taking advantage of group counseling. Overcoming these feelings about aspects of ourselves is an important part of living our lives more successfully. Group counseling is very helpful in this respect.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Everything that is discussed in counseling groups is considered confidential. It is not to be discussed outside the group, even with other group participants. Each member signs an agreement to observe this rule.