The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) hasn’t always offered group counseling, but it was always a service that Coleman wanted to provide. Staff knew that it could be largely beneficial to helping their clients feel more connected and less alone.
About a year into managing the CSU, the time was right to add group counseling to the mix of one-on-one individual sessions and other intensive treatment. Initially, group counseling was available only one hour each morning Monday through Friday. According to Michelle Smith, Chief Officer of Coleman Crisis Services, client response was so strong that a second session was added to the afternoon each day.
“Group counseling is a good icebreaker. It gives our clients the opportunity to socialize, connect, relate, and help each other,” she explained. “Clients constantly ask, ‘when is the next group?’ They look forward to it for the chance to interact with others.”
She hopes that the CSU will be able to offer a third daily group session soon.
Smith emphasized that this opportunity to socialize with others and share experiences leads to clients feeling more comfortable, which in turn increases their participation.
“We see a lot of progress happening in this setting, she added. “As folks become more at ease, they take more away from it. Plus, they feel more connected to each other and not like they are in this alone.”
Led by a licensed counselor, the group sessions enable clients to learn from each other, and teaches them about their own thoughts, feelings, and coping skills through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a well-known, evidence-based intervention technique.
DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps people identify and change negative thinking patterns. It focuses on helping people change their behaviors, rather than thinking about or talking through their issues. It’s most effective for those diagnosed with attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), eating disorders, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
During group counseling, clients are taught new coping skills to help change their behaviors. The four major skills they learn include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. By practicing these skills, the hope is that clients will decrease behaviors that interfere with quality of life and be able to make better life choices that are mood-independent.
When clients leave the CSU, they are given a folder to take home with all their group materials. Coleman offers group counseling at many of its locations, so if clients benefited from it at the CSU, they may continue with it.
Smith is quick to note that it’s not just the clients who have been receptive to the group sessions. CSU staff have also appreciated the more treatment focused approach.
“Our clinicians have completely embraced group counseling. It’s been very positive for our staff,” Smith shared. They feel like they are really doing something to help our clients.”