Ethics within Groups


The topic of ethics within groups encompasses various other topics that are considered hot by the many therapists in the field of counseling. Thus, ethical considerations must be evaluated in either individual or group settings to narrow down the various conflicts of interest between these settings. More to say, one can observe many similarities and differences between the ethical considerations, whereby psychiatrists are required to meet all the aspects of human life as well as the stipulated code of ethics. The two modes of counseling procedures enable psychiatrists to provide therapeutic services depending on the nature of therapy. Notably, a counselor must serve one person in the case of individual therapy and more patients in a group therapy. Even though the patients may have varying topics to discuss, it is apparent that they have a similar purpose for participating in the counseling. An analysis of the different ethical issues unique to group therapy as compared to individual therapy will provide an understanding of the reasons why a therapist would choose the individual therapy over the group therapy.

The Topic of Ethics within Groups

In the counseling field, therapists have many reasons for choosing either the individual counseling method or the group therapy. Thus, in this context, the biggest issue is the conflict of interest, as noted above. Psychiatrists face ethical dilemmas as to when they should refer patients to group or individual counseling. The focus of the conflict of interest builds concern on whether therapists should force professionals or clients to share their darkest sorrows and secrets. Therefore, therapists should have too much self-disclosure while dealing with the clients who have relationships outside the therapy sessions. The counseling ranges from ethical decisions to the dilemmas that may be unavoidable at some point. For instance, in the rural communities, it is apparent that there are a few therapists, meaning that many of the counseling sessions have group backgrounds. In an individual setting, where the therapist and the client know each other’s lives outside the therapy sessions, it is clear that some ethical considerations and rules must be applied. They also require great deal of thought to establish their safety. In a group setting, the stakes for protection and safety are even higher due to the involvement of many families and lives.


The discussion of ethics within groups also focuses arguments on the aspect of referring clients. Some clients may need to move on to the more qualified therapists or from the group setting to the individual setting. A therapist should know the appropriate time, in which the client should move. The limitations of therapists should not hinder the clients from obtaining justice since it is their responsibility to provide excellent services. Therapists should know about other qualified or experienced therapists who have the potential to further the needed aid to the client. In the case of the group setting, a therapist should be knowledgeable about the benefits of being in the group therapy as well as the challenges of moving to a different setting for recovery. It is the mandate of a therapist to refer the client to an individual setting that suits his needs if he seems to be struggling in the group setting.

Clients in the mentioned settings often share information that may be confidential or that should not be relayed to other parties that are outside of the therapeutic sessions. However, therapists should ensure that they are free to share whatever they like to the individuals within the group setting. Such topics as child abuse, substance abuse, and anger management should be discussed to enhance the experience of the therapy. Furthermore, clients should be allowed to discuss what they feel is uncomfortable as well as what they feel is important. Even though it may take more time for some clients to trust the groups and become comfortable with them, they will need to experience the counseling sessions and overcome their problems. Therapists try their best to be at the same footage with the clients by disclosing their training and experience to obtain a level of trust with their clients. They should not falsify information during their teaching as an ethical infraction reduces the level of trust of their clients. Therapists are also required to ascertain with their clients that they are competent, trained, and efficient for the kind of therapy that they provide.

Unique Issues in Group Therapy

Various ethical standards apply to the group therapy and the individual therapy. However, in both settings, clients need to be screened to ensure that they fit in the topics that are discussed in the group therapy. Screening also enables the clients and the therapists to correspond to the level of expertise and the experience of the issues discussed during therapy sessions. In both settings, roles are clearly identified between the clients and the therapists. The roles should also align with the purpose and the rationale for the group and the therapist.

Another unique issue is defining the client’s roles as well as the therapist’s roles. It is apparent that psychiatrists ought to understand their business. This involves constantly spending much time on education to evolve into better persons and professionals. Therefore, they should also be conversant with the newest information that involves their foundation of knowledge. Modern theories and techniques should be part of their understanding to aid in meeting the needs of the clients. One of the unique areas is addressing the needs of the entire group and advancing the healing process of the clients. Therapists must know the religious and cultural aspects of all their clients. For instance, a therapist may find it hard to acknowledge the cultural and religious perspectives of a group that has more than 50 or more individuals. They should ensure that their clients do not become angry by showing empathy. The client must obtain emotional support from the therapist, an aspect that is obtained from the group experience.

The therapist must experience hard moments while dealing with clients in a group therapy. It is apparent that co-leadership is one of the unique dynamics, where two therapists share leadership in a single group. The success of co-leadership depends on the relationship between the clients and the therapists. A healthy working relationship is also significant in the case, where the therapists and the clients exist as siblings. Another unique area of group therapy is the aspect that it is hard for the client to understand that counseling is a difficult process and that they should be honest with themselves. Clients should understand their roles and expect their therapists to work on their problems and issues as well. It should be noted that therapists undergo a painful experience in the group therapy. Counseling is believed to be a healing but a problematic journey, which means that it requires hard work. Therefore, clients must participate in the healing process to limit the challenges faced by their therapist.

Understanding the purpose and the rationale of the group is a hard task for most therapists. The success of the group depends on the establishment of the reasons why the clients are in the counseling session. The group obtains a clear direction upon understanding what to expect in the course of therapy. Enabling the team to establish what they should present to the rest of the clients is important as it helps them build their emotions and experiences. When they begin to share with each other, they build their parameters and often identify with other clients and therapists. Furthermore, clients and therapists have a collective life experience that they can emulate. On the other hand, therapists must understand the group beforehand and build a plan for it. A plan should be reiterated for the success of the group. Consequently, therapists must know what should be achieved on each day of the teachings until the final day.

Aversions to Group Therapy

It is notable that not all clients come into therapy sessions with a clear mind. Some are uptight and upset and they often think that they do not belong there. Group therapy mandates all persons to be involved; hence, they have no choice. For instance, a court-mandated therapy is evident in anger management, alcohol counseling, and parenting classes. In group therapy, the therapist cannot repeat what was discussed in the previous sessions if a member fails to attend. The type of therapy may not be effective if some clients visit sessions with some preconceived notions or moments of embarrassment, making it inherently unethical. In group therapy, clients also experience moments of rejection, bias, the fear of judgment, ridicule, and fear while speaking in the group. In other words, there is the lack of privacy, which makes the setting too difficult to handle as it scares some clients, forcing them to go into silence. In this case, the therapist needs to establish confidentiality from the beginning of the group to allow the members to be open and to share their issues with others.

Group therapy is likely to challenge the clients who may have had bad experiences in the past. A fearful client needs to relax and join the dialogs and the conversations of other people. Such clients should have the knowledge of what they need to gain to erase the memories of therapy programs. Moreover, they need to acknowledge that moving to the individual setting would help to further their growth. Even though not all clients may have such aversions, it is apparent that they have some preconceived notions of what therapy entails. Some may come into the group with the idea that they do not need much help. Therefore, they need to comprehend that group therapy is significant in shaping their understanding and beliefs. Clients, who think that they are rather well established, often create complications with therapists. They need to be humbled to receive the beneficial experiences of counseling. Gaining such experiences is also beneficial because it forms the foundation for social work and enables the client to scrutinize their previous beliefs and understanding.

Apart from aversions, group counseling provides clients with the aspect of self-disclosure. Whenever they share anything, it is for their benefit and that of the group members. Other clients also share their experiences, an act which is not evident in the individual setting. However, the act of sharing information may create problems in the cases when clients share sensitive information. This is one of the biggest challenges of this setting as it may not be wise enough to hold confidentiality; hence, the information could be detrimental to the therapist and the group members. The discussions in the group counseling need a better understanding of the informed consent to prevent the clients and the therapists from generating conflicts. Therefore, the process should act as a supplement tool, which is the essential component of fostering the discussion to the potential participants, enabling them to enhance their knowledge of some of the dangers of group counseling.

When Therapists may Reconsider

In most cases, therapists may reconsider their choice in sending a client to either the individual therapy or the group therapy. The reasons for the change enable the client to stimulate his understanding and to enhance the possibility of growth. Other similar issues may prompt therapists to choose between the individual and the group setting. For instance, a client, who has had a bad experience in the past, may be difficult to teach in a group setting, which allows the therapist to send him to the individual setting. However, the therapists may choose either of the settings depending on whether other clients have similar issues. If the issues are diverse, the client could be taken to a problem-solving or supportive therapy.

The therapist may take the client to the individual setting if he continues to struggle with the feelings of anxiety, fear, and rejection. In this case, the client requires private sessions that can be obtained from the secluded setting. The safety of the client is the most important thing that therapists consider in the in the individual setting. More to say, their decision should have a positive impact on the client, enabling him to build confidence with the therapist.

A group therapy holds clients who have more than one issue going on. This is referred to as the dual diagnosis. The therapy may benefit a single area and not the other, which is the reason for follow-ups. For instance, patients with substance abuse issues have counseling along those with mental illness. Therefore, the setting should be able to connect and to help other individuals. The side of their illness should link with the group therapy topic, enabling the session to be valuable. The clients may also be required to engage both types of counseling, depending on the nature of the illness. The case is also evident considering the aspects of informed consent and confidentiality. Thus, the therapist must communicate with the client to understand the sessions that are beneficial to the client as well as those that require the individual setting. Moreover, the case also applies to the patients with severe personality disorders, whereby the treatment is manualized.


Many similarities are evident when conducting either individual or group counseling. Thus, legal considerations are applied in each of the settings to ensure that the clients and the therapists are at peace with the counseling session. Differences are obtained when approaching each ethical standard. Therapists have the mandate to show concern to the dual relationship, the conflict of interest, and to display their expertise even in the rural communities. If therapy sessions seem not to be working, therapists should strive to achieve significant outcomes. Besides the above-mentioned “hot topics,” many warrant the attention of either therapists or clients. Ethical considerations guide them in choosing the suitable setting for the clients, depending on the type of illness and the similarity of the condition with others in the group setting. As noted, some clients may require both the individual and the group settings due to severe psychological conditions or illness. Clients, who are not willing to share their experience with others, may also be required to move to the individual setting. The aspects of confidentiality and informed consent are more upheld in the group setting than in the individual setting. In the case where the therapist and the client have similar background or know each other, confidentiality is a mandate, leading to the safety of the client. The therapists in the group setting must establish a ready platform to enable the clients to feel free when sharing their issues. The rules of therapy, if available, should be mentioned at the beginning of the session to prevent the possibility of unethical behaviors.

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