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What Is Group Counseling?

Among the various different types of counseling that a person may pursue is group counseling. Group counseling is fairly popular for a number of reasons. It is often cheaper than individual counseling, which is appealing to some, but it also provides an entry into the world of counseling that may be more comfortable to certain people than a one-on-one counseling situation might be. If you think that you or someone you know might benefit from a group counseling situation, it may be a good idea to learn a little more about what goes on in counseling.

Group counseling is a type of mental health counseling that is done with several people at once, rather than an individual. The meeting is led by a trained counselor who may be a medical doctor, psychologist or social worker. This counselor will usually take the somewhat more passive role of facilitator to the larger group, giving them a safe place in which to voice any of their fears and concerns and letting them draw support from the group as they do so.

Who Can Benefit from Group Counseling?

Anyone with a psychological issue who is comfortable in the group setting and who does not feel that they would benefit as much from one-on-one counseling can participate in group counseling. Because the interaction of different peoples’ psyches is so complex, a group usually focuses on one specific issue. That is to say, there may be various groups for depression, bereavement, social anxiety, phobias, and so on. By focusing on one specific issue, the group allows each member to feel heard and understood, since they are surrounded by people who are struggling with shared experiences and concerns.

How Does Group Counseling Work?

In the group setting, each individual is encouraged to share his or her thoughts and feelings, both in general and around the subject of the group, when they are ready. Traditionally, one member of the group is allowed to give his or her narrative uninterrupted, with other members sharing their own thoughts and feelings and giving support once that member is finished. The group counselor’s usual role is to keep this dynamic intact and encourage healthy, positive communication between group members. If a particular member has been unwilling to speak after many sessions, the counselor may work with this individual to help him or her feel more supportive and more comfortable joining the discussion.

Ideally, as the group goes on, members will begin to feel more confident and more supportive. There will be more mutual self-disclosure of experiences, and through being able to talk about their struggles with their particular difficulties, healing can occur. Some individuals who began because they were not comfortable examining their feelings in individual therapy may at this point choose to try one-on-one counseling, while others may feel they have drawn enough strength from the group to cope with their difficulties and move forward with their lives.