Group counseling refers to addressing a specific problem that is common to all group members in order to achieve a specific goal. The group consists of a limited number of participants (usually not more than 10) and 1 or 2 group leaders.
In general, it takes place once or twice per week. In group counseling people have the opportunity to express their feelings without the fear of being judged. The main aim of group counseling is creating a feeling of belonging through sharing similar experiences.
Participating in group counseling is beneficial for the individuals as they are motivated to proceed when they see the progress in others. There are numerous benefits of group counseling, some of which are outlined here (source: NCBI).
Identities of the group members are often hidden. The concerns that are raised in group counseling are confidential and members are not allowed to discuss them outside of the group. This provides members with a sense of security and takes away the fear of being judged. This way members can share their innermost thoughts and feelings in a comforting environment.
Group counseling costs less than individual counseling. This is a result of the therapist spending the same amount of time with multiple group members.
When sharing problems with other people who have had the same experience, members feel understood and safe. Members are also more likely to receive advice from the other members with the same problems if they see it has helped in overcoming the specific issue. It also provides a sense of security and lowers the feelings of isolation as you see other people struggle in the same way.
While sharing their problems, group members listen to each other and receive or give feedback. This helps in increasing their understanding, building healthy relationships and getting trust. Being open about your concerns and feelings is very important for group counseling, however it is strongly correlated to the comfort level of a specific member. Some people are more open, while for others it takes time to build trust and share their thoughts.
Sense of belonging
By listening to other peoples’ problems you become aware that you are not alone. This is very important for building a sense of belonging. When you listen to other people and their problems, you can identify with the situations and get a new perspective on an existing problem. In group counseling, the members also learn about a new level of intimacy while they honestly communicate with other people who understand and support them.
Through forming relationships within the group, counseling can help members to learn new social skills and also to connect to others both within and out of the closed group, in more meaningful ways. By interacting with the rest of the group, members learn how to communicate their feelings clearly, they develop listening skills and give valuable feedback. This is also important so that members can identify toxic relationships and get the courage to end them for their benefit.
By sharing your experience, feeling and fears with people who feel the same you become part of a closed and supportive community. Even for those members who are quiet in nature, group counseling can be beneficial because while listening to other peoples’ problems they can see how it applies to them when they have similar problems. It is also encouraged for members to contact each other outside of the sessions if they need support in the form of mentoring.
It is encouraging for members to see the progress in others. It motivates them to proceed further and it gives them proof that they are doing a good job. Sense of achievement and accomplishment is good as it builds self-confidence and belief in their activities. People are motivated when they listen to success stories by others they can relate to or identify with. It provides inspiration, independence and freedom.
Group counseling can help you identify feelings and trauma that can grow into a bigger issue over time and help you overcome them before they become a problem.
Listening to other people can help in getting to know yourself as they might point out issues that you are currently unaware of.
Learning new strategies
Although members have a common problem, all of them are at a different stage of the recovery. This way they provide unique skills and perspective, but also ways to handle the problem. By including role play, members can get feedback whether the strategy works. Although members experience discomfort at the beginning, the benefits of group counseling are numerous.
Group counseling is one of the most effective methods for treating concerns and personal growth. In general, the first improvements in members are observed in 2 to 3 months after the start of group counseling.