The College Counselor’s Guide to Group Psychotherapy: A New Resource for the Practice of Group Psychotherapy in College Counseling and other Group Settings
Counseling and Psychological Services
Oregon State University
Groups in college counseling center settings have long been an effective albeit under researched modality of treatment. Most college counseling centers offer a variety of groups ranging from psychoeducation, to support and interpersonal process. Little research to date within college counseling settings, has captured the variety and clinical outcomes that these varying types of groups offer. Furthermore, not only do clients benefit from the modality of group, clinicians working in this setting are also given the opportunity to further their training while honing their skills as facilitators and co-facilitators.
Many doctoral students often get their first real training experience within their practicum and in the arena of college counseling centers. They then often further their development within their internship. As an example, I recently began working with a new intern at the counseling center, in which I work, who shared that his tendency was to pull for individual responses more than responses geared toward the group as a whole. This in turn influenced his behavior and resulted in him sitting back and refraining from verbally engaging in our first group. I encouraged him to take a risk, to offer a possible group intervention, like a bridging technique or posing a question to the group as a whole. By the end of our second group, this intern experienced a shift in his perspective and began intervening on a “group as a whole” level. I was impressed by how quickly he began working on a group level rather than through individually oriented interventions and by his overall shift of trust in the group process. After our group members left the room, we both looked at each other and with two thumbs up, we agreed “awesome group.” Upon processing his experience, he shared both his uncertainty regarding how group cohesiveness happens and his amazement in the manner in which the group members opened up one by one, thereby creating an interactive, trusting group.
My role is to teach this intern and all trainees, how facilitators, through their understanding of stages of group development, assist in creating norms that build a culture of trust and vulnerability. Sharing vulnerability does not automatically happen; however, through the leader’s facilitation, members begin to follow the norms being set. Another key to a group’s success, that I am interested in helping this intern and others like him understand, is that of member selection. Though we do not always know what will happen when we put someone in a group, it is the leaders’ assessment of readiness, ego strength, and matching of issues that play a role in creating the experience that we were fortunate to have in the two groups we have led thus far, this term. There are other dynamics such as our race, gender, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. that are also interfacing with our co-leader dynamics, while impacting group members and their social identities.
My hope whenever I start a new group is that my co-facilitator/trainee is able to experience what I call the “magic” of group psychotherapy. This magic of client vulnerability and connection keeps me captivated and yearning for the next term or academic year to roll around so I/we can begin group again, and again. I believe, the magic of group is particularly cultivated and supported within the setting of higher education. Although many group psychotherapy resources exist, a new book entitled The College Counselor’s Guide to Group Psychotherapy by Routledge Press is the first of its kind that aims to capture group, as we know it in higher education and in the context of college counseling centers.
College Counseling Centers are a diverse and rich setting for the implementation of group psychotherapy. The book responds to the many layers of college counseling group work including social identity issues, the group coordinator’s role, practice-based evidence assessments, marketing, co-leadership, and facilitating groups covering support, psychoeducation, mindfulness, therapy and interpersonal process. Most if not all of the authors work, have worked and/or have consulted within the college counseling center arena with center staff on best practices. This book is a helpful guide for those who are just beginning to lead groups in college counseling centers as well as those who help coordinate these efforts. This book can also be an excellent resource for seasoned professionals. I recently provided a colleague with whom I have been working with for over 15 years, the chapter on multiculturalism and diversity in groups. She later shared the material was not only readily accessible as a teaching tool to her, but also to the interns. The writers who have authored the chapters that comprise this text, practice group psychotherapy in the field and are passionate about learning, teaching and training. Although the book’s title emphasizes groups and college counseling center settings, it can also be a useful resource for a variety of therapeutic environments that utilize group treatment. I recently shared another chapter of the book with a colleague who works within a hospital setting and has been charged with creating an effective group psychotherapy program.
This book is a resource for any therapist interested in understanding the complexity of group within settings that aim to build or maintain effective functioning of group therapy programs. If reading this short article has sparked your interest, then I encourage you to find out for yourself what the book has to offer. If you do decide to take a peek, you may find a new level of intrigue and excitement about groups in your work setting as well. For more information on the book, visit: