Finding Your Flock: Surprising Facts About Therapy Groups that You May Not Know

Students often face significant challenges at university, including difficult emotions and concerns with adjustment, relationships, and academics. Human beings are naturally social creatures. So when it comes to figuring out what helps us make beneficial changes in our lives, other humans can hold an important key to reaching our goals. Group therapy is often the best support option, as it can be more effective than individual counseling.

“Many students may not think of therapy groups as a possibility,” says Dr. Broderick Leaks, director of Counseling and Mental Health Services in USC Student Health, “but for individuals who have participated, they find it has really been valuable to them.” He tells us more about what makes a good group, and how it works.

What is a therapy group? Therapy groups are facilitated by a licensed therapist, and they provide a safe place to process challenges, learn skills, and build a community. Students typically feel less alone and more connected with others. All therapy groups and workshops are confidential with USC Student Health, and all fees are included in the USC Student Health Fee.

Is this similar to a workshop?
Group therapy is part of the range of clinical services in Counseling and Mental Health Services. Workshops are different; they are a great place to gain information and to learn coping skills to manage common concerns. While workshops are an effective resource, they are not considered therapy.

Is it effective? It really works—research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in groups find it as helpful, or sometimes more helpful, than one-on-one sessions with a therapist. Most of our clients say they wished they had joined a group earlier!

What are people in groups like? They are just like everyone else—especially at the start of a group, when people are nervous about sharing in front of others. But over time members can often help each other with perspectives, and also hold each other accountable. CMH therapists meet with students to ensure that groups are going to be a beneficial part of students’ individualized plans.

There are groups for common concerns such as depression, panic disorder, ADHD, social anxiety, eating disorders, etc. Other groups build up helpful skills that can help address social confidence, loneliness, and low self-esteem, and life skills.

Why seek out a group? Many people will struggle with a mental health issue at some point in their lives, and making time to regularly explore what they are going through can help. Finding others who are facing the same difficulties can provide perspective, and relief! Shared experiences can help individuals make desired progress.

How do I start? Contact Counseling and Mental Health for an initial consultation. If you have had an initial consultation within the past year, either contact the last therapist that you met with or submit a Group Interest Form on MySHR.