Group Counseling

The UCA Counseling Center incorporates group counseling as a part of treatment. For many students addressing their challenges within a group setting can the most helpful form of counseling.  Group counseling is helpful to many students given that they are provided the opportunity to interact with others who have similar life experiences. Validation and feedback can be immediate allowing for quick growth in a safe and supportive environment. Group counseling also gives you the opportunity to practice new behaviors, gain  feedback from peers, and learn from their experiences. Most importantly, you will recognize that you are not alone.

Each group may be led by two facilitators whose role is to is to promote a safe environment and facilitate communication among group members. Their function is to be less directive, and more supportive, as they use their knowledge to support individual and group growth. For more information about a group or to check whether a group has openings for the semester please contact the staff associated with the particular group via e-mail. For general information regarding groups please call 501-450-3138.

  Benefits of a Support Group

  1. The opportunity to connect with others quickly since participants share similar concerns and challenges.
  2. Participants recognize that they are not alone.
  3. Participants give and receive support.
  4. New ways of relating to others can be tried.
  5.  A chance to develop coping skills.
  6.  An environment to remain motivated and hopeful.

Common Misperceptions About Group Therapy

  1.  I will be pressured to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with the group – You control what you share and how much. Participants share when the group  feels safe. Participants vary and  some will share quicker that others. While waiting to share you can listen.
  2. I have trouble talking to people – Many participants are anxious about sharing in a group. As a participant begins to feels safe, and recognize how much they have in common with other participants, they begin to share. Group participants are often very supportive and affirming.
  3. Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy Group therapy can be very efficient. During those groups in which you do not share you learn about yourself through listening. Group participants also bring up subjects that you have not thought about and can help you gain insight.
  4. Group therapy is not as good as individual therapy – There are times when hearing from your peers can be more beneficial than visiting with a counselor. Many participants state that they gain relief by knowing that they are not alone. At times groups are utilized to help participants improve their assertiveness skills, manage their social anxiety, learn how to communicate with others, develop a support system. Meeting with participants in a group setting can represent society/reality  more so than individual therapy.

What to do to Get the most out of Group Counseling

  1. Be yourself. Start from where you are, not how you think others want you to be. This might mean asking questions, expressing anger, or communicating confusion and hopelessness.  Growth starts with you sharing in the group.
  2. Define Goals. Take time before each session to define your foals for that session. Your goal may change (as you grow) throughout  the group process.
  3. Recognize and respect your pace for getting involved in the group. Some group members will easily be ready to disclose their thoughts and feelings; others need more time to gain feelings of trust and security. By respecting your needs you are learning self-acceptance. If you are having a difficult time with how to discuss your problems with the group, then ask the group to help you.
  4. Take time for yourself. You have the right to take group time to talk about yourself. Many people may feel that other’s issues are more important than their own, may have a difficult time facing feelings, or may have fears of appearing “weak”. By recognizing what the reluctance means, you begin the growth process.
  5. Recognize and express thoughts and feelings. Learning to express yourself fully, without censorship, enables exploration and resolution of interpersonal conflicts and self affirmation. If you are having trouble recognizing and expressing your thoughts and feelings, ask the group to help.
  6. Take Risks. Experiment with different ways of behaving and expressing yourself. By taking risks you can discover what works for you and what does not. This may mean expressing difficult feelings, sharing information you usually keep secret, or confronting someone about something upsetting to you.
  7. Give and receive feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is a major aspect of group therapy. Feedback should be concrete and specific, brief , and represent both your thoughts and feelings. Feedback is not necessarily the same as advice. Feedback represents your thoughts and feelings and given to provide additional information or another point of view, not as a suggestion or recommendation as to what another member should do.
  8. Become aware of distancing behaviors. All of us have ways of behaving which prevent others from getting close to us such as remaining silent and un-involved, telling long involved stories, responding to to others with intellectual statements, and talking only about external events. As you become more involved in group you will have the opportunity to identify what you do to distance yourself from others. The question you will face is whether the behavior is preventing your from getting what you want such as close relationships with people.
  9. Growth takes times, effort and patience. Changing what has become such an integral part of ourselves is very difficult.  By having patience with ourselves and accepting and understanding these blocks to growth, we set the foundation for growth and change.
  10. In order to get the most from the group experience, you will need to spend time between sessions thinking about yourself, trying out new behaviors, reflecting on what you are learning, reassessing your goals, and paying attention to your feelings and reactions.  
* taken from the Iowa State Student Counseling Services & Illinois State University