Group Therapy: Process and Practice

Group therapy refers to a situation where one or more therapist or counselor is working with a group of people at once (Finn, 2003). Group therapy operates in the form of several people meeting for two or three days a week to discuss their issues, with the help of a therapist. This can take an hour or two. Group therapy is effective in certain ways, which makes it a necessity for treatment.

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Effectiveness and necessity of group approach to treatment

Through group therapy, individuals get encouragement from other group members (Hall & Hawley, 2004). In this case, they learn that they are not the only ones with such problems. Through learning that other people going through the same problems, an individual gets encouraged to overcome his/her situation (Scott, 2000). Group therapy allows individuals to practice safe behavior since they have to conduct themselves within the confines of group norms (Finn, 2003). Additionally, it allows the therapist or counselor to notice how an individual behaves socially. This makes it easier for them to understand the individual outside their reserved personality (Hall & Hawley, 2004).

Why group counseling?

Group counseling is relevant since it is a cost-effective method of obtaining help from therapists and counselors. Additionally, group therapy gives people experiences beyond their own (Hall & Hawley, 2004). This way, an individual can learn what other people go through and how they manage their situations. This way, group therapy serves to provide role models and create optimism for the individual seeking counseling (Scott, 2000).

The necessity for ethical code and ethical boundaries within group counseling sessions

Group therapy is undertaken with the intention of ensuring that the individuals participating are helped to manage and overcome issues facing them. Therefore, it is necessary to establish ethical codes and set ethical boundaries for the facilitator and the clients (Finn, 2003). This serves to ensure that no harm is done, by safeguarding the welfare of the parties involved. While working within the confines of ethical codes and boundaries, the facilitator and the clients avoid taking issues to a personal level, which is likely to cause harm (Hall & Hawley, 2004).

Dealing with resistance in group therapy

It is natural for some people to resist sharing any information they find uncomfortable or sensitive. Considering that therapy and counseling deal with such issues, resistance is inevitable. However, the facilitator can deal with resistance by allowing the individual portraying resistance to take more time (Scott, 2000). Whenever a therapist senses some resistance on the part of an individual, they should not push more or coerce the individual to participate. Instead, they should allow them some time to think about the issue and share it when it is comfortable with them (Finn, 2003).

Additionally, creating a friendly and open environment for discussion makes people relax and get ready to participate fully, lowering the chances of resistance (Hall & Hawley, 2004). Another key to handling resistance in group therapy is having the facilitator take the position of a director and not a controller (Finn, 2003). Whenever people feel that a therapist is acting as a part of them, by directing the session and not taking control of the group, they will be open to sharing their ideas.

Stages in group therapy

There are four major stages in group therapy. Different activities happen under each stage. However, it is essential to understand the components of each stage and follow them strictly, since they allow the group to be focused and systematic. The main stages in group therapy include:

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The initial stage of a group in group counseling

This is the first stage in group therapy. Under this stage, individuals seeking counseling are new to each other and to the counselor or therapist. Therefore, this stage entails introductions and clarifications (Scott, 2000). At this stage, the parties involved introduce themselves and state their expectations (Hall & Hawley, 2004). The clients also give a brief statement of why they joined the group therapy session.

Transition stage of a group in group counseling

This is the next stage after the initial stage. Under this stage, the facilitator and the clients enter into the main business of group therapy. However, this is the most challenging stage, since the facilitator has to overcome the tension and resistance that the clients have, through opening a session of free sharing (Scott, 2000). At this stage, the facilitator does much of the work, where he/she creates a friendly environment, by easing the tension and anxiety (Finn, 2003). It is also at this stage that the facilitator helps the clients to deal with their weaknesses, by granting them confidence. It is the stage where friendship is cultivated.

Working stage of a group in group counseling

This is the main stage in group therapy, where the facilitator and the clients focus on the real issues that brought them to the session (Hall & Hawley, 2004). They focus on the issues affecting each individual, exploring the possible measures and behavioral changes that should be adopted to mitigate the effects of issues affecting the clients (Scott, 2000).

The final stage of a group in group counseling

This is the stage where all discussions are summarized and recommendations for each client’s problems are given. The participants share their experiences and explain how they are going to implement the recommendations given (Finn, 2003). At this stage, frameworks of implementation are designed and follow-up sessions planned. Any necessary contract for implementation is also signed (Hall & Hawley, 2004).


Finn, F.N. (2003). Helping students cope with loss: Incorporating art into group counseling. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 28(2), 155-175.

Hall, J., & Hawley, L. (2004). Interactive process notes: An innovative tool in counseling groups. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 29(2), 193-205.

Scott, C. G. (2000). Ethical issues in addiction counseling. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 43(4), 209-214.

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