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UCL Student Psychological Services

This information is for any student who wants to find out more about student therapy groups or who may be considering joining one. If you decide to take things further, there will be an opportunity to talk in more depth when you meet the group therapist who run the groups.

Is group therapy suitable for the difficulties I am facing?

Therapy groups can help students with a wide variety of difficulties and problems ranging from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or just feeling stuck. Groups are particularly helpful for addressing interpersonal difficulties with, for example, family members, friends, in intimate relationships and in social groups. Many students join a group after having already had some psychological help at UCL or elsewhere.

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How might a group help me?

Many students find the group a source of support as they come to realise that they are not alone with their problems. People discover their strengths as they find they can help, as well as be helped, by others. Each group member can learn from the number of different perspectives and personal experiences available within the group. Over time, greater awareness of oneself and others develop through group interaction. All these things can provide the basis for long term change in how one thinks, feels and behaves in life. Whilst at university and after, students spend a lot of time in peer groups of one kind or another and therefore student counselling groups can be a natural setting for gaining an understanding of one’s problems and how to create change in one’s life.

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Group therapy sounds interesting but the idea scares me. Does this rule me out?

Not at all. The idea feels daunting to most people initially. Your individual appointment with the group therapist will help you work out whether your fears are likely to be overwhelming and whether they are balanced by some hope and interest in what a group can offer.

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It's hard to imagine what a group would be like. Can you give me an idea?

The groups meet weekly during term time in one of the therapy rooms at the Student Psychological Services. Each group meets for one-and-a-half hours at the same time each week. There is one early evening (5.15-6.45) and one daytime group (2.00-3.30) each Tuesday. There are a maximum of eight students in each group, a mixture of men and women, undergrads and postgrads, with a variety of problems.

We sit together in a circle of chairs. There is no agenda or structure for each meeting. People do not take turns. Group members are encouraged to put into words their thoughts and feelings at their own pace. Usually common themes develop as one student’s issues will set off thoughts and ideas in others. The focus shifts between talking about particular problems outside the group, problems in the past, to interpersonal issues in relation to the group and between group members.

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What is the group therapist's role?

It is the responsibility of the therapist to ensure the safe and therapeutic facilitation of the group. The main focus is on building safety and trust in the group. The therapist will also help students work through difficulties with other members, which do occur from time to time. The group therapists role may be more active or may take more of a back seat depending on the needs of a particular group or individual.

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I'm worried that I might meet someone I know in the group. Is that a problem?

The group therapist tries to ensure that group members do not know each other within the wider university setting. Although group members often form close relationships during their time in the group, everyone makes a commitment not to develop friendships or intimate relationships outside the group while they are attending therapy. This is important for therapeutic safety, to avoid subgroups or breaching the confidentiality of the group setting, which is very important. However, inevitably students do bump into each other or see each other around the campus and group members are encouraged to bring such incidents back to the group for discussion.

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Are there any eligibility criteria?

Some problems are not suitable for group treatment, but its best to talk this through with a therapist or the group therapist. You must be a student at UCL with at least 2-3 terms left before leaving university. This is because it takes time to settle in a group and most people need a year to benefit. Students can stay in the group for a maximum of six terms.

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What commitment is required from me?

Joining a group is a commitment, with students needing to take responsibility for attending the group each week and being on time. Group therapy can be uncomfortable or challenging at times and sometimes leads to thoughts of dropping out or leaving. However, being able to talk about frustrations and stick with the group through such difficult times can be very beneficial.

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How do I go about joining a group?

There are two main routes

a) If you are seeing a therapist already, please let them know that you are interested. Your therapist will let the group therapist know and you will be invited for a pre-group initial consultation.

b) If you are new to the psychological services you will need to fill in one of the Student Psychological Services registration forms (available from the Student Psychological Services, 3 Taviton Street or from the website, www.ucl.ac.uk/student-psychological-services/Registration). Please write on your registration form that you wish to be considered for group therapy.

In either case there may be a wait, depending on availability of places.

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