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What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a series of therapy sessions that usually include five to ten people and one or two group facilitators. People in the group are encouraged to talk about what is bothering them and provide others with feedback and support. While this may seem daunting, it should become easier as trust is established in the group.

Nonetheless, members control what they share with others in the group. Through the course of group therapy, members become better able to express their feelings about others. This form of therapy gives members opportunities to try new ways of interacting with others in a safe environment.

What Is the Format?

The exact format of group therapy depends on the purpose of the particular group you join. The group may meet for only a few weeks or a full semester. Some groups have a specific focus area (e.g., diminishing social anxiety) while others are directed at more general topics, such as interpersonal relating.

Sessions meet regularly for between one to one and a half hours per week. It is important for each member to attend the full length of each session. Generally, the first few group sessions are important for group members to get to know each other better and establish trust. This will allow each member to open up more freely and talk about themselves and their difficulties. The members must agree to make a commitment to the group in order for everybody to feel as comfortable as possible. The group facilitators are trained to help with this process.

Why Group Therapy?

Group sessions provide people with a safe place to interact and explore possibilities. Under such conditions, people tend to recreate life situations that happen outside of group, including the difficulties that brought them to the counseling center. Since the group facilitator is skilled in helping group members learn how to give support and offer alternatives, individuals can learn ways of interacting that lead to better outcomes.

In addition, group therapy gives members the chance to hear from others with similar problems. Instead of feeling isolated because of seemingly unique problems, members realize that some of their peers deal with similar difficulties. This allows members to learn from and care for each other.

Is it Confidential?

Yes, all group members are expected to keep the information shared during group sessions confidential. Although group members can decide how to interact with each other outside of group, it is important that all group members agree to keep confidentiality about group topics. A group facilitator will discuss this with each member during the group screening session and it will be stressed again at the beginning of group therapy.

How Much Do I Have to Talk in Group?

This is up to you. All group members are encouraged to talk about their troubles during group sessions. They are also encouraged to discuss their reactions and feelings about others in the group. This may be an area that members find difficult, but it is important to challenge yourself and grow from this experience. Since everyone agrees to respect each other, you should not be frightened of saying the “wrong” thing. If you are unsure of the appropriateness of a topic, ask the other group members what they think.

Should I Have Individual Therapy, Too?

This depends on your situation. For certain types of problems, group therapy is a more effective treatment than individual therapy. However, it may be possible to be enrolled in group and individual therapy simultaneously, depending on your particular needs. This may be an important issue to discuss with the group facilitator or in a group session.

What Groups Are Offered?

The Counseling Center attempts to offer the groups that will be most beneficial to the students at Colgate. Therefore, depending on the semester, different groups may be available. These are some possibilities:
  • Interpersonal Group
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs Therapy Group
  • Family Issues Group
  • Stress and Anxiety Management Group

How Do I Learn More?

If you are already enrolled in the Counseling Center, talk to your therapist about group therapy. If you are not in counseling, you can set up an appointment with a therapist at Counseling & Psychological Services (ext. 7385) to talk about this option. This consultation session does not commit you to group therapy; it just gives you a chance to talk more about it.

If you decide that you would like to explore this option more seriously, the therapist will help you schedule a screening appointment with a group facilitator. The screening appointment gives the facilitator the chance to assess your appropriateness for the group and answer any questions you might have.