What is group therapy?
Group therapy is a form of therapy in which a small group of people meets regularly to discuss and explore their problems with each other and the group leader(s). Groups offer students a safe and confidential place on campus where they can work on problems, and hear different perspectives. Group members are able to gain insight into their own thoughts and behavior, and offer support to others. Participating in groups helps students feel less alone with their problems, as they navigate through college. Group therapy is a powerful tool for growth and change. It's an opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, encouragement and feedback in a safe, confidential environment. Group members can deepen self-awareness, enhance relationship skills and experiment with new ideas and ways of being.
What are the goals of group therapy?
- Gain an understanding of personal problems and explore possible solutions
- Give and receive feedback and support
- Feel more connected to other students who are struggling with similar issues
- Practice communication skills in a safe group setting
- Learn more about how you come across to others
- Improve your ability to identify your feelings and express them
- Reduce social isolation
How often do groups meet?
Groups generally meet for an hour and a half weekly through the end of each semester. Each group is scheduled for a particular day of the week and a time of day that is set for the duration of the group each semester. Some groups are closed to new members after the beginning of the group, and require a commitment for the semester. Other groups allow new members to join throughout the semester. Groups meet in group therapy rooms at CCPH, in Hills North or Berkshire House.
What kinds of groups are offered?
Every semester, our groups focus on a wide variety of topics. We have specialized groups for women and men, and undergraduate and graduate students. We offer group counseling focused on making connections, relationships, loss and grief, eating disorders, mindfulness and stress reduction, men’s issues, coping with Lyme disease, among other topics which change each year. We are always interested in meeting the needs of students, so please contact the group coordinator with ideas of groups you would like to see offered.
Group coordinator, Julia Moss Ph.D., MSW 545-2337
How do I get into a group?
In order to participate in a group, you need to meet with a counselor at CCPH to assess whether or not group counseling is the best treatment for you. The clinician will then refer you to the group leader(s), who will give you specific information about their group and together you will explore if it is a good fit for you. If you want information about the group program as a whole, you can ask to speak with the group coordinator who can answer any questions you might have about all of your options for participating in groups at UMass.
How do I make the most of group therapy?
- Attend the group regularly
- Share your hopes and fears for participating in group
- Share with the group what you’re struggling with
- Take some emotional risks in group
- Be direct and honest with your feelings in group
- Be willing to give and receive feedback
- Share your own experiences and ask others about theirs
- Let the group know both positive and negative feelings that come up in group
Common misconceptions about group therapy
"I'll be forced to tell my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets."
You control what, how much and when you share. Most people find that when they feel safe enough to share what's troubling them, a group can be helpful and affirming. Even if you're not ready to talk about something, listening to others can help. What they're saying may apply to you.
"Group therapy will take longer because I'll be sharing the time."
Group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons: First, you can benefit from the group, even when you're quiet and listening carefully. Second, group members may bring up issues that strike a chord with you - things you may not have been aware of or brought up yourself.
"Others in the group will verbally attack me."
It's important for members to feel safe and leaders will help develop that environment within the group. While feedback is often hard to hear, groups can point out damaging behaviors in a respectful, gentle way, so you can hear and use the insights. As trust grows, group members generally experience feedback (and even confrontation) as a sign of caring.
"I have trouble talking to people. I'll never be able to share in a group."
Most people are anxious about talking in a group, but this almost always fades quickly. People also remember what it's like to be new to a group; you're likely to get a lot of support when you do begin talking.
"Group therapy is second-best."
Group therapy is the most effective treatment approach for many issues college students face. When a group is recommended, it's because your therapist believes it's the best way for you to be helped. He or she can discuss the reasons for the recommendation with you.
Common concerns adapted from Counseling Services, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
What about confidentiality?
Groups are confidential, meaning that what members disclose in sessions is not shared outside of the group. The importance of confidentiality and concerns about are reviewed with group members at the first meeting and every time a new member joins a group.
Adapted from Counseling Services at, State University of New York at Buffalo, and Cornell University, CAPS