Open agenda group sessions can be an effective form of help for a range of problems, providing an opportunity to explore how you relate to others and benefit from their experiences and support.
These groups are a more effective form of help than individual counselling for many people. Groups can provide an opportunity to explore how you relate to others, to see yourself through their eyes, and to benefit from their experiences and support while offering them your own.
What should I expect?
All group members commit to keeping personal knowledge about each other confidential within the group and the Counselling Service aims to set up groups so that you will not encounter anyone you already know. It is also suggested that group members do not socialise outside the group while it is running. This creates a group which feels safe and can attend to each member equally.
You are free to choose how much or little to say. Groups are most helpful when members are willing to talk openly and make use of the opportunity to share together, by giving and receiving support, feedback and insight. At times this can feel like taking a risk, but you are always in control of how much you want to challenge yourself in this way.
You are asked to commit to regular attendance, but if it turns out that the experience becomes counterproductive for you, speak to the group leader so that you can decide together how best to respond.
Can I join the group after it has started?
Groups normally consist of the same members throughout their lifecycle, enabling a secure and cohesive group to develop. If you become interested in a group after it has already started, let your counsellor know so that you can be considered for the next intake.
What time commitment do I need to make?
The groups all meet weekly during term time, for a session of an hour and a half. Graduate groups sometimes meet during the vacations depending on members’ availability. Counselling groups often run for two or three terms.
In order for the group to work well and feel secure, groups work best when members are in a position to commit to regular attendance, and to prioritise this commitment over other things which may crop up in their lives. This does vary between different groups though, so talk with your referring counsellor or the group leader about how this applies to the particular group you are joining.
The groups on offer
To join any of the groups below, make an appointment for an individual counselling session and let your counsellor know you would like to explore the possibility of joining a group.
Graduate students’ group
This weekly group is aimed primarily at DPhil students, though it may also be suitable for those studying for a masters’ degree. Participants are generally mid-20s or older and are negotiating the transition from being a student to being a self-managing academic. They face a variety of academic challenges - structuring and pacing their work, managing relationships with supervisors, etc - and at the same time are often responding to the life challenges associated with more mature relationships, greater independence and planning a future beyond their studies. Students also bring their individual issues and concerns and attention is given to these.
One- or two-year masters’ students' group
Those on one- or two-year masters’ courses face the special challenge of finding their feet very quickly, and achieving academic, personal and social objectives within the compressed time frame of a single academic year.
In addition to this, many masters’ students, whether pursuing one or two-year degrees, are managing the experience of separation from families, forming new relationships and establishing directions for the future.
Early on the group will identify common concerns as a starting point for discussion. Group members stimulate each other’s thinking, learn from each other’s experience and provide valuable mutual support.
Undergraduate students’ group
Each student brings their issues and concerns, some arising from past experiences and others in response to events in the present, whether these are aspects of the University student experience or belong to life outside.
Some common themes are often represented, for example, establishing independence from home and family, resolving conflicts and uncertainties about identity, forming more mature friendships and relationships and coping with the opportunities and pressures of student life.