Joining a Group at the Counseling Center
The first question many people usually have is, "Just what is group therapy anyway?" Group therapy is one of the many different forms of treatment that are offered in the Counseling Center. In group therapy, approximately eight individuals meet face-to-face with trained group therapists. During the group meeting time, members are responsible for talking about what is troubling them. Members are also encouraged to give feedback to others.
Feedback includes expressing your own feelings about what someone says or does. Interaction between group members is encouraged and provides each person an opportunity to try out new ways of behaving; it also provides members with an opportunity for learning more about the way they interact with others.
The first few sessions of a group usually focus on the establishment of trust. During this time, members usually work to establish a level of trust that allows them to talk personally and honestly. Group trust is enhanced when all members make a commitment to the group. Groups experience difficulty when a person delays making this commitment.
What makes the group therapy situation unique is that it is a closed and safe system. Group members have agreed to and are expected to maintain confidentiality of other group members.
Why Does Group Therapy Work?
Another question that people often ask is "Why does group therapy work?" There are a number of reasons why group therapy works.
Firstly, when people come into a group and interact freely with other group members, they usually re-experience those difficulties that brought them to group therapy in the first place. Under the skilled direction of a group therapist, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, or gently confront the person in such a way that the difficulty becomes resolved and alternative behaviors are learned.
Secondly, the group allows a person to develop new social techniques or ways of relating to people.
Thirdly, during group therapy, people begin to see that they are not alone and can be helped. Many times people feel very unique in their problems. It is encouraging to hear that other people have a similar difficulty or have already worked through a problem that deeply disturbs another group member.
Fourthly, in a climate of trust, people feel free to care about and help each other. Through helping others, one also learns about, and helps oneself.
What Do I Talk About?
What do I talk about when I am in group therapy? Talk about what brought you to the Counseling Center in the first place. Tell the group members what is bothering you. If you need support, let the group know. If you think you need confrontation, let them know this also. It is important to tell people what you expect of them. In addition, you will probably be most helped and satisfied if you talk about your feelings. Unexpressed feelings are a major reason why people experience difficulties. When feelings are unexpressed, anger or guilt often turn into depression. These and other feelings may be expressed in other indirect, less productive ways as well. The psychological safety of the group permits expression of feelings which are often very difficult to express outside the group.
When we talk about revealing our feelings, we are talking about self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is an important part of group therapy and relates very much to how well people get helped. How much you talk about yourself depends upon what you are comfortable with. Group is not a place where people are forced to tell their most deep and innermost thoughts. You are ultimately the person responsible for how much you share. The appropriate disclosures will be those that relate directly to your present difficulty. If you have any questions about what might or might not be helpful, you can always ask the group.
Are there any group rules for my participation in the group? There are only six:
1) The group sessions are CONFIDENTIAL. Group members have agreed to and are expected to maintain confidentiality of other group members.
2) It takes some time to get to know the group and really give yourself a chance to become a member. For this reason, and to protect the group from "drop-ins" (members that come only occasionally), we ask that you agree to attend a certain number of sessions decided upon by the leaders of the group before you begin. At the New York City Center, this minimum is eight sessions. The minimum at the Westchester Center is four sessions.
3) If you have decided that you have gained as much as possible from the group or that the group isn't the most appropriate treatment vehicle for you, then we ask that you come to the group and say goodbye.
4) It is the responsibility of each person to talk about his/her reasons for being in the group. Talking about present or "here and now" feelings is usually the most helpful way to solve problems.
5) One thing that helps people is the knowledge that having a feeling and acting on it, are two different actions. You can talk about any feeling in the group. Acting out these feelings, however, is not acceptable. This is true whether the feelings are acted upon oneself or another person.
6)If you are going to miss a session, please let the group leaders know at least 24 hours in advance.
We hope the group experience is a good one for you. If you have any questions about the group, please raise them with the group leaders during the initial consultation or during the group meetings. If you have any questions about the groups offered at the Counseling Center, please call (212) 346-1526 or (914) 773-3710.