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Reflections on Group Counseling

Posted Nov 03 2010 12:00am

Based on your experiences and the readings how is group work different from other counseling in terms of ethical issues? Based on the chapter readings do you think any specialized training is need before doing group work?  In your experience do you think that most group leaders have the necessary training?

There are specific ethical concerns that are raised and should be considered when we enter into the group counseling environment.  First and foremost, proficiency in individual counseling does not necessarily translate into competency in the group environment.  They are two different dimensions of service, and group leaders should be adequately trained to meet the specific needs of a group.  For example, co-leadership or co-counseling is not typically a concern in individual therapy, but can be a real cause of distress in the group which employs multiple leaders.

Group work gives rise to specific concerns regarding confidentiality, since confidentiality cannot be controlled to the degree that it would be in an individual counseling relationship.  It’s literally impossible for us to “police” multiple members to ensure that they do not divulge excessive information regarding group members, although we can take practical steps to encourage best practices among group members.

Member screening is not something that is typically conducted within the context of individual therapy, but it should definitely be a consideration for leaders of group therapy.  Ideally, members of a group should share common goals or issues, including a common motivation to help each other succeed.  Specifically, the text cites several types of individuals that may not be a good fit for group therapy, including “brain-damaged people, paranoid individuals, hypochondriacs, those who are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, acutely psychotic individuals, and antisocial personalities.”  (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 489)

Aside from supervised experience and adequate education, the most important training that can occur is to engage in group members ourselves.  “One of the best ways to learn how to assist group members in their struggles is to be a member of a group yourself.”  (Corey et al., 2007, p. 482)  Specifically, the text recommends self-exploration groups, which is something I am definitely going to engage in as soon as possible.  Specifically, the text recommends at least basic training in “nature and scope of practice; assessment of group members; planning group interventions with emphasis on environmental contexts and the implication of diversity; implementation of specific group interventions; co-leadership practices; evaluation of process and outcomes; and ethical practice, best practice, and diversity-component practice.”  (Corey et al., 2007, p. 481)

I don’t believe I am in a position to judge whether or not most group facilitators have sufficient experience and training to conduct groups.  I have never personally had an experience with group therapy, but I am led to believe by the text that there is reason to be concerned.   I should be better able to answer this aspect of the assignment after engaging in group therapy myself, but it is my expectation that the facilitator process a certain degree of competence before they engage in leading a group.  On the whole, I think “we try” but there is certainly room for a great deal of improvement.

Reference

Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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