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Group Counseling


Guest articles > Group Counseling


by: Sujatha Venkatesh, Counseling Psychologist


In today’s world, there is an increase in the use of the process of Group Counseling in all sectors of the society which include schools, colleges, community mental health clinics and other human service agencies.


Group Counseling mainly involves a small group of members who come together forming their own specific goals, share their problems, provide empathy and support to the others and also in turn try and change their self defeating behaviors . The group members are also assisted in developing their existing skills in dealing with interpersonal problems.


Role of the Group Counselor:


The role of the group counselor involves facilitating interaction among the members, help them learn from one another, assist them in establishing personal goals and also provide continuous empathy and support to the members and also to check if the members have carried their learning experience from the group and practiced it in the outside world.


 Ethical issues involved in group Counseling are:


  1. Informed consent: The leader has to demonstrate to all the members honesty and respect and also provide information about the group in the initial session. The information includes a clear statement regarding the purpose of the group, ground rules, the group leader’s introduction, information concerning fees, issue of confidentiality, rights and responsibilities of group members etc.
  2. It also involves stressing on the responsibilities of the group members which are regularity, punctuality, being willing to openly talk about oneself, providing feedback to others, maintaining confidentiality.
  3. While a member wants to0 leave a group, he should provide a valid reason to the group leader for opting out and not just leave without prior notice and explanation.
  4. Confidentiality is one of the key norms of behavior in a group. It should be clearly explained in the initial session by the group leader to all the members and also the situation when confidentiality can likely be broken in certain cases.


Characteristics of a Group leader :


Some personal characteristics are very essential for the group leader as in order to promote growth in the member’s lives, the leaders themselves should live growth oriented lives. They are:


  • Presence: Being emotionally present means able to share the joy and pain that others experience. This helps in being empathizing and compassionate to the group members.


  • Personal power: It involves the group leader to be confident about themselves and facilitate the member’s towards empowerment.
  • Courage: The group leader must be able to openly accept his faults, confronting others.


  • Willingness to confront oneself: The group leader should be willing to question himself, about his attitude, feelings, biases etc.


  • Sincerity and Authenticity


  • Sense of Identity


  • Inventiveness and Creativity: They should be open to new experiences, share new ideas and not stick to traditional  ritualistic methods.


Stages in the Development of the group:


1. Formation of the Group: It involves making students aware about the Group by making announcements, putting posters etc. The second step involves screening and selection of group members. The third step involves briefing the members about the group, plan, its goals and also the group ethics.


2. Initial stage: Orientation and Exploration: This involves determining the structure of the group, getting acquainted and exploring the member’s expectations. They also become aware of how the group functions, define their own goals and clarify their expectations.


3. Transition stage: Dealing with resistance: This is quite a difficult phase where the members deal with their anxiety, resistance and conflict and the leader helps them deal and work with their weaknesses.


4. Working stage: Cohesion and productivity: During this stage, the members develop greater cohesiveness; feel a sense of belonging to the group. It also involves in-depth exploration of issues and also they strongly focus on bringing desirable changes in behavior.


5. Final stage: Consolidation and Termination: This is a time for summarizing, pulling together the loose ends and integrating the group experience.  Members may also feel sad; express their anxiety due to separation. Members may also share their experiences of being in the group with other members, they would also provide information about their insights and learning in the group and how they are going to put it into practice outside. They would also plan for follow up meetings for accountability so that members will carry out their plans for change. The leader in turn should help the members consolidate their learning by assisting them to develop a conceptual framework for working. They also develop specific contracts and home assignments as practical ways of making changes.


  1. Follow up sessions (Post group)


Advantages of Group Counseling:


    • It caters to the needs of more than 1 student and the maximum being 8 to 10 students forming a group.
    • It also is time saving when compared to individual counseling as issues can be addressed simultaneously among the students.
    • It also provides a healthy atmosphere for sharing experiences and learning from the other group members so that the student doesn't feel left out and also is supportive.




Group counseling is really an effective form of learning experience as members can share their experiences, learn from others, and also come to know that everyone has similar problems and they are not the only one struggling with an issue. Group Counseling is basically effective in a school or college setting as students find it easier and enjoy learning with their peers provided the leader or the Counselor is effective and maintains the ethical issues and standards efficiently and is able to use his potential to the fullest and also his personality.


Contributor: Sujatha Venkatesh, Counseling Psychologist

Published here on: 18-Dec-06

Classification: Counseling, Groups

MS Word: Group Counseling.doc

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