Groups are one of the most important and dynamic parts of our lives. Our first recollections of any group experience are that of our own families. Every person and each interaction with our family influence who and what we become. We have learned our patterns of behavior and how to relate to others by watching and imitating those who affect us most.
As we mature and grow into adulthood, these interactions may prove to be either beneficial or detrimental to our future relationships. In other groups throughout our lives, such as classes, athletic teams, social groups, etc. we carry out the patterns of behavior that have become so familiar to us.
In a group counseling situation, the group has a definite focus, which may be educational, vocational, social or personal.These groups may be those such as grief support groups, parenting groups, stress reduction groups, etc. There are group experiences for just about any situation that a person could encounter in their life. A group involves a person to person process that stresses thoughts, feelings and behavior. Very often, counseling groups are problem oriented. Their focus is determined mostly by the members concerning their day to day stresses, relationships and tasks. Members in the group relate personal experiences and help each other, which in turn allows them to cope more effectively. This interaction helps people to grow and learn by using their own inner strengths and resources. By creating an atmosphere of trust and support, the group can share and explore concerns that may seem overwhelming until looked at by others objectively.
Some people may be hesitant about joining a group because of feelings of embarrassment or not being verbal enough. Some may not want to talk to strangers or relate their problems to those who are unknown to them. All group members are hesitant or nervous at first, but that is true of most group experiences that we have at all. Building relationships, having a common bond or problem and learning to share experiences soon become the main focus of the group. Some lifelong relationships have developed in this type of group interaction.
The group counselor/leader is the person who encourages the group to interact among themselves. The leader helps members to learn from one another to establish goals and to put their thoughts into realistic plans that involve taking action outside the group.
Group counseling is frequently carried out in settings such as schools, university counseling centers, community mental health agencies and other human service institutions. Any of these sites could have a group that you might need or they could refer you to a place that does.
It is important for any person considering joining a group, to get a clear explanation of what the group's purpose is and to be sure that it matches their own needs and goals. It is also necessary to note, that being in a group experience can be a challenge to each member and that growth and change are difficult propositions. Not all previous behavior patterns may need change, learning to deal with problems and reacting in better ways is the goal of most group counseling situations.
Being a group member takes considerable time and effort. It especially requires a commitment to change and motivation to get involved. The dynamic group experience can have dramatic and lasting affects on your mental attitude and it can be the one group interaction that makes your life more secure.