What Happens in Group Counseling Sessions?

| Staff Writers

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If you are interested in pursuing a counseling degree program to learn the knowledge and skills needed to conduct group therapy, it is important to separate the facts from the stereotypes that many people have about group counseling sessions beforehand.


As a dynamic form of psychotherapy, group counseling has many advantages and is among the most effective ways for counselors to enhance their clients’ treatment.

Resource: The Evolution of Psychotherapy

While individual counseling provides the opportunity to meet with clients on a one-on-one basis, group counseling offers the unique chance for group members to share their similar situations for mutual growth. For more clarification on what happens in group counseling sessions, the following is a full explanation on how group therapy helps people improve their interpersonal relationships and overall well-being.

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How Does Group Counseling Work?

While the negative portrayal of group therapy may suggest otherwise, it is actually a very positive experience for most people because the therapists and group members are able to build a safe place to explore the problems surrounding their relationships. Through the sharing process, members can develop a level of trust that allows them to be honest, open with one another, and accepting towards each other despite any faults. Group counseling usually is effective because members behave in ways that reflect how they are outside of the group and other members can support the individual through changing these unproductive patterns through feedback. Group counseling is also helpful for providing the opportunity to practice alternative ways of interacting with others who are caring and encouraging of their journey.

What Happens During a Typical Group Session?

Before attending the group session, trained professional counselors meet with their clients to conduct a pre-group evaluation and gather information about the types of problems they are experiencing. If both parties decide that group counseling is a good match, the clinician provides the information about the time, date, and location of the sessions. While group therapy varies greatly depending on the type of group, members will typically meet with the counseling facilitator in a private room and sit in a circle for optimal sharing. Some may have an overarching theme geared toward a specific concern like substance abuse or eating disorders, but others may be general therapy groups that are open to anyone.

Within an atmosphere of trust, the group counseling sessions typically involve members speaking openly about their feelings and talking directly to one another about their personal problems. Although no one will ever be forced to divulge their deepest secrets, counselors expect group members to feel free to relate openly and be honest with others to discover that they are not alone in their issues. Along with allowing members to observe one another for emotional growth, counselors also will model healthy behaviors to develop more effective problem-solving skills. Most groups meet for around one to two hours once a week for a predetermined number of weeks with the same members for optimal consistency.

Overall, individuals decide to join group therapy because they are having some struggles with their relationships and are seeking help with concerns in their interpersonal life. Group counseling sessions are usually the most effective method for addressing various interpersonal issues, including loneliness, shyness, excessive dependence, frequent arguments, difficulty trusting others, discomfort in social situations, and lack of intimacy. Since therapy groups often involve four to ten clients with one or two experienced professional counselors, group counseling sessions offer the opportunity to address these issues, provide support or feedback, and encourage interpersonal interaction.

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