Group Counseling versus Workshops
Is it a group or a workshop?
I’ve collected the following aspects of a group:
- Diagnosis – at least for insurance, participants need a diagnosis
- Engagement is required – giving and receiving support, contributing ideas and experiences, self disclosure
- Confidentiality – expected and ethically required of the counselor
- Goals – skills development, progress towards healing, improvement of symptoms
- Attendance – required
- Intake/screening – required for participant to be admitted to group
- Usually a closed format
(We only assigned diagnoses when we submitted to Medicaid and I think that’s okay that other participants didn’t have a diagnosis, if we had to I think we could have assigned PTSD to most of them)
Workshops would be different because:
- No diagnosis
- Engagement is not required (it isn’t discouraged either)
- Confidentiality – expected and ethically required of the counselor (because it always is in our work)
- There are no goals for participants
- Attendance is not required
- There is no intake or screening to attend
- The material is the same, but the structure of each meeting would involve primarily the counselor presenting material related to that week’s focus with brief question and discussion time; whereas in the groups, participants are expected to read the material ahead of time and be prepared for group discussion of that material as the primary activity
I also didn’t operate the groups in any way related to what a person’s diagnosis might be or whether they had one (many of our group members probably meet the criteria for PTSD). And although you didn’t have anyone that we submitted to insurance for, I did, and so did Amber – the groups do fit Medicaid’s description of what qualifies for a group. And FYI, those clients were all existing clients of mine or hers through Medicaid, so we already had an intake, diagnosis, tx plan etc.
Missing sessions – they did often need to but I think since we ask everyone to commit to attending most of the meetings, that also qualifies them as counseling groups. For workshops, I’m thinking that everyone pays up front for the series of meetings or videos and then if they miss it, it’s on them. ie. For groups they have to commit, for workshops they don’t.
Reading ahead – OMG I totally agree and I tend to be this person in a group, too. Even though many people didn’t do the reading beforehand – the discussion was set up in a way that kind of expected it. Or maybe I should say that mine was – I would usually start out with a check in, and then say “this week, we are talking about forms of manipulation…” or whatever it was. And I would ask if anything really struck someone as important and we would be off and running with discussion. If no one has read it, I did a 5-10 minute overview of the topic and then we were off and running. The way I’m seeing the workshops, it is more like I’m presenting on topic 1 for this week, then a short Q&A; then I present topic 2, then short Q&A, and so on.
My overall thought is that the primary difference is the quality of the discussion throughout that hour and a half. If it is mostly give and take among all groups members plus me too and they are self disclosing, supporting each other, offering ideas…this is a group. If it is mostly me presenting the info and during Q&A we get some support, some sharing, some ideas – great! But that’s not the primary activity going on .