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Common misconceptions about group counseling

“I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group.”

You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. Most people find that they feel safe enough to share what is troubling them – a group can be very helpful and affirming. We encourage you not to share what you are not ready to disclose. Listening to others will also help, as some of what they say might also apply to you.

“Group counseling will take longer than individual counseling because I will have to share the time with others.”

Actually, group therapy is often more efficient than individual counseling for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you say little but listen carefully to others. You will find that you have much in common with other group members and as they work on a concern you might learn more about yourself. Similarly, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but that you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.

“I will be verbally attacked by the leaders and by other group members.”

It is very important that group members feel safe. Group leaders are there to help develop a safe environment. Criticism is often difficult for people to handle appropriately. As group members come to trust and accept one another, they generally come to view feedback and even confrontation as positives, as if they are coming from a best friend.

One of the benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to receive feedback from others in a supportive environment. It is rare to find friends who will gently point out how you might be behaving in ways that hurt yourself or others, but this is precisely what group counseling can offer. This is all done in a respectful, gentle way, so that you can make the greatest use of everything you learn.

“Group counseling is second-best to individual counseling.”

If group counseling is recommended to you, it is because your counselor believes that it is the best way to address your concerns. We do not put people into group counseling because we don’t have space in individual counseling or because we want to save time. We recommend group when it is the most effective method to help you. Your counselor can discuss with you why group counseling is recommended for you.

“I have so much trouble talking to people, I’ll never be able to share in a group.”

Most people are anxious about the idea of sharing with a group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions, people find that they do eventually talk in the group. Discomfort with speaking in a group setting is probably one of the reasons that your counselor recommended this method of counseling. Becoming comfortable speaking with others in a safe, group setting, may help your relationships with others and other aspects of your life.