University of Minnesota

What to Expect from Group Counseling

What is group counseling?

In group counseling a small number of people with similar life experiences meet together in a confidential setting with a professionally trained counselor/therapist to help themselves and each other pursue personal growth and improve their ability to meet life challenges. Counseling groups can help individuals to enhance their personal support systems, increase their understanding of self and others, and learn effective strategies for addressing specific issues that may interfere with optional functioning, such as self-esteem, assertiveness, grief, relationships, anxiety, depression, and academic stress. .

What else can I get out of group counseling?

The following link highlights many of the benefits of group counseling.
What happens in the first and subsequent group counseling sessions? External Link
Group facilitators create and maintain a safe place for self exploration, and they help group members interact with one another. What group members talk about, and when, is up to each individual. Some groups are less structured than others and afford members the opportunity to increase their self-awareness and to deepen their capacity for emotionally satisfying relationships. Although most of the learning in these groups comes from the interaction between members, group facilitators typically provide more structure in the first session to help group members get to know one another and feel more comfortable. Some topic-oriented groups function like extended workshops, with facilitators offering ongoing structure, agendas and educational handouts.

What will the group facilitators expect of me?

To begin the process, each individual meets with a group facilitator to learn more about the particular group of interest. During the initial group session effort is made to establish an atmosphere of trust. Over time, participants are asked to share some personal information about themselves, at their own pace. In many groups they are also asked to be willing to respectfully share their reactions to other group members and their situations. These counseling groups offer the opportunity to ask for and to share genuine, immediate feedback from several others. In the supportive atmosphere of the group, you might also want to experiment with new, more rewarding ways of relating to people, as you work on your own issues.
Group participants are required to maintain complete confidentiality. Because continuity of membership is also important for the establishment of a trusting environment, group members are asked to attend all sessions, on time, to the best of their ability.

What does it take for group counseling to be effective?

The primary ingredients of an effective counseling group are honesty and commitment to the group. Willingness to gradually take risks in a safe, supportive environment is helpful. Students who do not talk in group get less out of the process. Group facilitators are ready to help these students participate more fully, while respecting members’ personal boundaries about what information to disclose.

What if I have concerns about joining a counseling group?

Students frequently voice concerns about joining a counseling group. This page addresses many common concerns. Your individual meeting with the group’s facilitator is an opportunity to share any hesitancy that you may have.


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