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What is Group Counseling Really Like?

What is Counseling Like?

Group counseling is a foreign concept to some people.
There's nothing to be afraid of!

Group therapy can be incredibly helpful when it comes to issues like alcohol and drug dependence and many people find it less intimidating than one-on-one consultations.

You could spend years breaking down the elements of successful group therapy sessions but in general, they all have the same goals:

  • Members help each other by imparting valuable experiences and information, which also boosts self-esteem for the sharer 
  • In a group, unity is an important concept. A cohesive group helps each member towards a common goal (like sobriety)
  • Group allows members at different points of treatment to interact with each other, thereby providing hope


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Most questions new members have revolve around what group counseling is actually like. It's important to remember that every single group is unique and will be different depending on whether you're undergoing ASAM Level 1 counseling at a driving school, participating in an AA meeting, or even talking about eating disorders at a live-in clinic.


In general, groups range anywhere from about 3 members up to around 15. Most groups are between about 4-8 members so each person feels heard, safe, and welcome. Every group counselor does things differently: some choose to arrange chairs in a circle, some prefer lecture-style, and some may have their own way of setting up the room.


What's always consistent about group therapy is that it's ongoing. Group counseling sessions typically run anywhere from 6 weeks to a year, and sometimes beyond! Sometimes members are mandated by court to continue for a certain amount of time and sometimes members choose to continue counseling for their own well-being.


The counselor will facilitate the group discussion depending on his or her particular goals for the group. Some weeks may involve more sharing and open-ended discussion while others may have more listening. Any good group will make you feel comfortable and take the confidentiality of all members very, very seriously.


ASAM Treatment Group Atlanta

So, how do you get the most out of your group counseling experience? Here are a few tips for ensuring you don't waste your time in group.

  1. Commit to openness and honesty within the group. The more you participate the more you'll get out of the experience!
  2. Talk to the group if you're feelng scared, anxious, nervous, or worried about sharing.
  3. Take risks when it comes to talking about your own experiences but trust your gut, too. 
  4. Always be respectfu and patient of other group members and remember their experience is different from yours.
  5. Try not to think about the reaction you'll get when you share. There is no judgement in group!
  6. Never, ever "bide your time" while in group, whether or not you want to be there. You can always learn something from others' experiences. 


Group counseling can be a fantastic option for people with drug and alcohol issues, DUI offenders, and plenty of other people who need a little help getting back on track. There's nothing shameful about asking for help and actively improving your life and group counseling may be the way to go.

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