Friends of the Family provides the following free services:
- Professional group and individual counseling for
o Adult, adolescent, and child victims of relationship violence
o Adult, adolescent, and child victims of sexual assault
o Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse
o Significant others and family members of sexual assault survivors
While group counseling is always available, individual counseling will be considered on a case by case basis. There may be a wait for individual counseling depending on the client’s schedule flexibility and counselor availability.
Professional counseling is provided by staff counselors and counseling interns. Staff counselors have a minimum of a Master’s degree in a counseling related field and are licensed or license eligible and all counseling interns are currently enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral program in counseling or a related field.
All counselors strictly adhere to the ethical guidelines identified by the state licensing boards, as well as those outlined by the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association.
Counseling services are designed to fit the needs and experiences of the clients in a warm and non-judgmental, supportive environment. Information shared in counseling is kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside of Friends of the Family without your written consent, with the following exceptions:
- If abuse or neglect of minors is reported by you or your child, a report must be made to the appropriate authority. (The Family Code, Chapter 261)
- If abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly or disabled is reported by you or your child, a report must be made to the appropriate authority. (The Human Resources Code, Chapter 48)
- If abuse, neglect, and illegal, unprofessional, or unethical conduct by a mental health provider is reported by you or your child, a report must be made to the appropriate authority. (The Health and Safety Code, Chapter 161)
- If sexual exploitation by a mental health provider is reported by you or your child, a report must be made to the appropriate authority. (The Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 81.006)
- A mental health professional is authorized to disclose information to emergency personnel in case of danger of suicide or homicide, or release of records under court subpoena. (Health and Safety Code, Chapter 611.004)
Counseling groups consist of a small number of individuals who meet together weekly, along with one or two trained counselors. Counseling groups generally include individuals with a similar issue or history who might benefit both from intervention from a professional as well as interaction from the group.
What makes group counseling work?
A group counseling format provides a challenging and supportive environment in which members can explore and discuss their concerns with peers and professionals. It offers more than an individual perspective on issues and challenges its members to see things from multiple vantage points.
Within the group setting, members have the opportunity to practice new ways of interacting with others, as well as be challenged to think about the way they currently interact. The trust and support received from the group make it easier to try out these new behaviors. Group counseling also provides members with the opportunity to receive and give help or feedback to their peers.
Another advantage of group therapy is that it helps people recognize that they are not alone in their concerns. Realizing that others have experienced similar difficulties can be an encouraging and empowering experience. Hearing and sharing different ways of coping with similar problems may help one develop new ways of managing their life.
Group can create an environment that mirrors one's experience outside of group. The difference however of having a controlled and safe environment often helps members to find the confidence it takes to try new things. Once the change occurs inside group, making changes outside becomes easier.
Common Misperceptions about Group
“I will be forced to tell all of my deepest thoughts, feelings and secrets to the group."
No one will force you to reveal your deepest, most personal thoughts. You control what, how much, and when you share with the group. Most people find that when they feel safe enough to share what is troubling them, a group can be very helpful and affirming. We encourage you not to share what you are not ready to disclose. However, you can also be helped by listening to others and thinking about how what they are saying might apply to you.
"Group therapy will take longer than individual therapy, because I will have to share the time with others."
Actually, group therapy is often more efficient than individual therapy for two reasons. First, you can benefit from the group even during sessions when you say little, but listen carefully to others. You will find that you have much in common with other group members, and as they work on a concern, you can learn more about yourself. Secondly, group members will often bring up issues that strike a chord with you, but which you might not have been aware of or brought up yourself.
"I will be verbally attacked by the leaders and by other group members."
It is very important that group members feel safe. Group leaders are there to help develop a safe environment. Feedback is often difficult to hear. As group members come to trust and accept one another, they generally experience feedback and even confrontation as positive, as if it were coming from their best friend. One of the benefits of group therapy is the opportunity to receive feedback from others in a supportive environment. It is rare to find friends who will gently point out how you might be behaving in ways that hurt yourself or others, but this is precisely what group can offer. This will be done in a respectful, gentle way, so that you can hear it and make use of it.
"I have so much trouble talking to people, I'll never be able to share in a group."
Most people are anxious about being able to talk in group. Almost without exception, within a few sessions people find that they do begin to talk in the group. Group members remember what it is like to be new to the group, so you will most likely get a lot of support for beginning to talk in the group.
Group Ground Rules
- The group sessions are confidential. The identity of the members of the group and what they say in group is not to be talked about with anyone outside the group at any time.
- Attend regularly and punctually. If you are going to miss a session or be late, please let one of the leaders of the group know.
- While you are a member of a group, we ask that you not socialize with other members outside of group. This affects the safety of the group environment.
- Mutual respect is essential to maintaining the safety of the group. It is okay to disagree with others. It is not okay to treat other members disrespectfully.
- If you decide to leave group, because you have met your goals for treatment or because it isn't the most appropriate treatment method for you, we ask that you come to the group and say good-bye.