The advantages of the group counseling setting versus the individual setting are often thought of quantitatively. More opinions, more support, more scenarios, more interactions and more opportunities to learn. When asked, “What do you think are the advantages of a group format for delivering counseling services?” I understand that it is my instinct to merely look at what is “good” about group counseling. In doing so, my mind is framed around a hypothetical and quintessential group session. In challenging myself to look beyond the multiplication of the benefits of individual counseling, I have arrived at a few other areas where the group format can be advantageous.
First, is cost. Group sessions are often more affordable than individual sessions. In this format, individuals who would not otherwise arrive at counseling are able to retain those benefits because it is simply less expensive.
Secondly, the group format curtails the impacts of “no shows.” In an individual session, if a client does not arrive, the counselor is (typically) not able to use that time frame to directly assist another client. While there are a myriad of ways to utilize such a schedule opening, in the group format, it is likely that some members of the group will be present even if all are not. Thus the counselor’s time is spent facilitating the progression of the clients present, as per the group’s agenda (e.g. healing).
Additionally, group counseling has less uninstructed silence. Counseling groups may on average range from 8-12 participants, in most cases someone from the group will have an answer, a question or a comment.
Furthermore, group therapy provides clients the opportunity to bear witness. One such instance is the sharing of goals. The ability for people to witness the progression of others towards a goal can be motivational.
Let’s look at a common reality. All too often, individuals look up to people who are successful but without understanding the process for such success. Goal sharing is powerful in the group setting because it provides practical insight regarding goal attainment versus empty aspirations, hopes, and dreams. In group counseling, success is witnessed realistically and in a manner that can truly provide influence.
Lastly, in the group setting, clients and counselors are less likely to participate in inappropriate or unethical engagement. Not only does the presence of others increase ethical accountability, it also provides a much less intimate setting than one-on-one counseling.
For further thought and despite the outliers, I simply think about the human needs as prescribed by Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef. Of those, affection, understanding, identity, participation, subsistence, and identity are all benefits of group counseling. In that light, group counseling is a synergistic satisfier, thus arguably by nature a better form of counseling than the individual counseling format.
I realize that every coin has two sides. For instance, the absence of group members (“no shows”) does affect the group dynamics, and can be a limiting factor in group counseling. Perhaps that’s a topic in itself for another day. Better yet, leave a comment to start a discussion centered on both the pros and cons of the group counseling format. Additionally, no particular group counseling theory or technique is the basis for this article, and each maintains its own set of advantages and disadvantages. As always, thanks for visiting fieldsofknowledgeblog.com.