Ethical Issues and Standards in Group Counseling


Group counseling as a tool in counseling is relatively new. Group counseling borrows ideas from support groups but in Group counseling, a professional is involved. Group counseling constitutes of a small group of individuals. The individuals meet frequently, may be once in a week, to share their problems and help each other to overcome individual problems. Group counseling has been successful in solving various social challenges in the society (Abrahams, 2007, p. 242).

Rationale for Research Study

As in personal/individual counseling, various ethical issues are encountered in Group counseling. Group counseling involves a group of individuals who are unified by similar problems or common experiences. A counselor in Group counseling offers counseling services to the group as a whole. In some cases, a counselor only acts as a leader by giving guidance on the trend of counseling sessions (Cole, 2008). There are various ethical issues in Group counseling. These include: the relationship between a counselor and an individual client, a counselor and a group, interactions between clients, information revealed to the group, multicultural issues and religious differences (Frame & Williams, 2005). American Psychology Association recognized the existence of ethical issues in counseling and developed various codes to ethical issues in counseling.

The power of group counseling in helping individuals overcome their personal problems is gaining more recognition. Previously, individual counseling was the preferred form of treatment while group therapy was only considered a less developed alternative. This perception is changing as more evidence of effectiveness of group therapy is being identified (Kraus, DeEsch & Geroski, 2001). Group therapy is today known to be as effective as individual counseling in addressing a wide range of psychological problems. For instance, group counseling has been employed in helping substance abusers recover from their addiction much faster and easily. Under a group setting, the substance abuser is offered an environment whereby his/her emotional problems are guarded and supported by both the counselor and other group members. With time, this individual develops trust and confidence in other group members which also helps one in learning the positive attributes from others on how to go about controlling various emotional problems. This is different when considering other settings where the emotions may be suppressed through other means that may involve expression of these feelings in a cruel manner or by going back into doing drugs. In some isolated cases, some substance abusers have been reported to lead chaotic and uncontrolled lifestyles (Hoffman et al., n.d.). However, when these individuals are engaged in a group counseling setting, a continuous, consistent, reliable and trustworthy environment is created whereby these individuals are supposed to follow instructions set by the therapist. Moreover, substance abusers are given an opportunity to look at their lives and problems in order to evaluate the root causes of these problems and explore any alternative interventions that can be implemented in solving them. Additionally, group members share their observations and advice about other group member’s problems. This offers each group member a variety of solutions and alternative perspectives to their problems.

As group counseling becomes acceptable to many counselors, there is need to address ethical issues that may be involved. Ethics is a major consideration in counseling. Unlike conventional individual counseling, group counseling poses unique ethical challenges. The major source of ethical issues in group counseling is the rights of group members and the responsibilities of group leaders. Conflicts and disagreements are common issues in any group of people. However, occurrence of these conflicts in therapeutic settings is a challenge to most group counselors (Kraus, DeEsch & Geroski, 2001). In fact conflicts in a group counseling setting is a major reason as to why most counselors are reluctant to use this method. Though a powerful therapeutic tool, group counseling can lead to negative outcomes due to ethical issues. Williams and Moline (1995) warn that group therapy has the potential for producing harm to members despite of its therapeutic power. Considering these issues, it is imperative to have appropriate ethical standards for the full potential of group therapy to be realized.

As a new counseling approach, there is limited research on group counseling. Many research studies on the subject focus on its effectiveness in addressing various psychiatric and psychological problems but not ethical issues involved in it. The research study will therefore contribute to knowledge on this highly potential therapeutic approach.


Group counseling can be very powerful in addressing various psychiatric and psychological issues. This approach can however be misused if applied without considering ethical standards. To realize the full benefits of this approach, it is important to understand the ethical issues involved and how these ethical standards can help to eliminate these issues. The proposed research paper will explore the ethical issues involved in group counseling with the aim of making the process more applicable to many counselors.

Reference List

  1. Abrahams, H. (2007). Ethics in counseling research fieldwork. Counseling and psychotherapy research, 7(4).
  2. Cole, E. (2008). Navigating the Dialectic: following Ethical Rules Versus Culturally Appropriate Practice. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 36.
  3. Frame, M. & Williams, C. (2005). A Model of Ethical Decision Making From a Multicultural Perspective. Counseling & Values, 49(3), 165.
  4. Hoffman, A.J., Jones, B., Caudill, B.D., Mayo, D.W., & Mack, A.K. (n.d.). The living in balance counseling approach. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The national Institute of Drug Abuse.
  5. Kraus, K., DeEsch, J., & Geroski, A. (2001). Stop avoiding challenging situations in group counseling. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 26, 31-47.
  6. Williams, G., & Moline, M. (1995). Ethical and legal issues in group counseling. Ethics & Behavior, 5(2), 161-183.

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