Differentiating Group Counseling

Differentiating Group Counseling

Differentiating Group Counseling Program Transcript

CYNTHIA BRIGGS: Group is unique from individual counseling in so many ways. And individual counseling is amazing and powerful, but group takes that process to a whole other level. Groups are a microcosm of how we are in the world. So who we are out in the world is who we are in group. And that’s a very different experience than sitting one on one with a counselor.

So all of our clients stuff really comes up in groups. So if they have an issue with their mother, they’ll have an issue with an older female client in the group. That really cesses out and becomes about their mom. Or if they have an issue with withholding affection, that comes out in group a whole lot more than a dozen individual counseling.

So that microcosm experience is really powerful. The other big piece is the peer influence. So as counselors, even if we don’t see ourselves that way, our clients see us as authority figures. And sometimes they rebel against that. But in a group with their peers, if their peers are giving them feedback in addition to the feedback from the counselor, it’s so much more powerful.

And then finally one of the big qualities I love about group is this concept called universality. That is one of Irving Yalom’s 12 therapeutic factors of group. And universality really is an opportunity for group members to support each other, but also to see that their problems are shared in the group as a whole.

They don’t feel so isolated and alone when they see that, for example, everyone else in the group is struggling with depression too. They don’t feel like they’re the only one with that problem. And when we started to see that we’re not alone in our issues, we can really start to heal.

TIFFANY RUSH-WILSON: In peer support groups, the purpose of the group is to provide support to help a person work through their issues and often that NA/AA, whichever group the person has gone to, is a support to therapeutic issues that are going on in a professionally led group.

So they are different but they’re both very useful. So they are often not led by people who have formal training in psychotherapy or in counseling or one of the adjunct mental health or allied professions. They don’t necessarily ascribe to a particular theoretic orientation. They don’t make an effort to cure what’s going on with the person.

They’re there to provide support. In a counseling setting, we are trying hard to understand the underlying issues, the childhood issues that may have been a part of creating whatever the diagnosis is or whatever the issue is. We do diagnose. We create a treatment plan for our group just like we do for individuals.

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Differentiating Group Counseling

We talk about very personal issues. While counseling is not medical, perhaps because of the population with which I deal, there’s a lot of medical connection. And I have to speak a lot with the physicians even of the people in my eating disorder groups. We have to do a lot of homework, a lot of logs. What are they eating? How are they eating? What is the feeling around it?

There’s a lot of almost individual components to the group therapy. I have to watch and make sure that we are carefully listening to what members share because in an eating disorder group sometimes the pathological behaviors of one member sound like good ideas to another member. So we have to be very careful with how we direct and monitor what’s going on in the group.

Eating disorders has a very highly lethality. So there’s still this kind of medicalized hat you have to wear to work with that population, and that’s my group experience is primarily there. In a group like OA, which is where people with eating disorders might go even though sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not. It depends on what the eating disorder is. All of that piece is not a part of it.

They don’t include them weighing the clients and talking about individual personal issues necessarily, medication monitoring and making sure that people aren’t giving other people ideas of how to be the better person with an eating disorder or how to be sicker with an eating disorder, which is often the goal.

But we do still rely in some ways on the adjunct group which is how I see the paraprofessional groups to help give support to the person who’s in the psychotherapy group. There is an overlap. The major difference is that this one is being run by a professional person who has the background and training to understand the nuances and the diagnostic pieces and just the kind of medicalize aspects of the group.

There is a layperson who may have some personal experience and has good stuff to offer, but it’s not based on theory, based on education that’s formally taught in a university.

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Differentiating Group Counseling

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