Thinking about Group Clinical Consultation? Here’s What You Should Know
By Kristen Dammer
Let’s face it, for those of us therapists who are solely telehealth, staring at a computer for hours a day can wreak havoc on our overall health. For those of you with private practices, the forestated is also true. Some of you may even be seeing clients in person, but I’m guessing you are lacking peer-to-peer contact.
Maybe you get the occasional small talk by the water cooler, but that alone does not add up to feeling less isolated. Nor are you gaining new perspectives with different clinical interventions or having peer-to-peer emotional support. If you are thinking about group clinical consultation or are already involved in a group consultation, but finding it unsupportive due to solely focusing on case consultations, then maybe it is time for a change.
As both a clinical supervisor and therapist, I’ve been facilitating clinical consultation groups for a few years. I also attend my own consultation group, and in those years, I have found that consultation groups are paramount to my overall health. Here are some ways that clinical consultation groups provide support to therapists:
Finding a clinical consult group, even if it is online, can be beneficial for reducing the feeling of isolation. I know for me, seeing the faces of my fellow peers is instantly uplifting. I feel supported in any topic that I discuss. I find myself and the other therapists in the group have an immediate connection, despite any clinical specialty differences or differences in professional experience.
I remember being so nervous at the first group consultation that I attended, forgetting that I was meeting with a group of mental health professionals that have joined the group for the same reasons that I had: to feel supported. Knowing that you can meet with “your tribe” once a month helps with the loneliness of private practice.
Gain New Ideas
Consultation groups offer exposure to new ideas to help you feel less stuck. We all have those clients, where you have tried every intervention and EBP (evidence-based practice) tool you know, but you continue to feel like you’re walking through mud. Feeling stuck with a client is a common part of therapy that can lead to feelings of guilt or even shame.
When you’re feeling stuck clinically, talking with a group of peers can be transformative for you and possibly your client. Having peers that you know and trust normalize and validate your experiences, and provide you with possible interventions, is needed when finding a good-fitting consultation group. A group that you belong to can make you feel more secure and confident.
How Others In Your Consultation Group Can Benefit You
After some time getting to know you, your consultation group members might even help you understand any transference or countertransference occurring in session. Group members can also help you celebrate any proud life moments: both professional and personal. Group consultation gives you the opportunity to share openly about your life–those special moments that happen in session, behind closed doors. And, those moments that often go unnoticed and uncelebrated.
If you are a private practice owner, group consultation is a wonderful place to ask questions about your practice stuck points. Maybe you have specific questions about billing, marketing, and disclosures–these types of questions can be answered in group consultation. In terms of case consultation and if you have specific questions about interventions, group members have a vast knowledge base that lends multiple theories and perspectives that they can share with you. They also can help you stay up to date of developments in the field.
Offers Emotional Support
Most importantly, group consultation can offer you emotional support. As mentioned earlier, if you have a client that you are noticing or maybe not even sure if there is countertransference, then talking about it amongst peers can help you understand what’s behind the curtain.
I recently joined a new consultation group myself and noticed that after every session, I feel so much less overwhelmed. Not only can peer support help end any ruminations that occur after I experience a perceived “bad” client session, but my peers, and a good group facilitator, help me understand that I’m not alone and am “allowed” to be “human.”
In one group consultation session that I attended, the topic was vulnerability. We explored how difficult it is to say that we, as therapists, don’t always have a connection with some clients. We processed how sharing our true feelings with other professionals eased the discomfort and guilt associated with not-so-good-fitting clients. If you find the right fitting group, you will find a safe space to discuss any challenges or taboo topics to alleviate any emotional discomfort.
Finding the right consultation group not only helped me feel less isolated but it also offered a place to share vulnerably with a group of understanding professional peers. Consultation groups give me a space to look forward to seeing friendly faces, grow professionally and personally, and normalize the challenging factors in being a therapist. As a group consultation facilitator myself, I continually look for ways to help my members feel supported and connected.
How to Know When a Consultation Group is a Good Fit:
Not all clinical consultation groups will be a good fit for you, initially or in the long run. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you start looking for a clinical consultation group:
What type of structure do you need to match your goals?
Think about your goals. What are you looking for in a consultation group? Are you looking for only case consultations? Are you looking for a combination of emotional and professional support and case consultation? Or are you just looking for networking and business consultation, which is a different type of consultation group?
What size is good for you?
Think about what a good size group is to fit your needs. Some groups cap their members anywhere from 4-6, while others are about 6. What size group offers you the time and space to meet your needs? Small groups offer more time to meet your individual needs and more intimacy. Larger groups can offer a wider range of experience but less personal time.
What is the time commitment and cost?
How much time are you willing to commit to consultation? If you are committing to a monthly, small group, it is important to show up monthly in order to support others and maintain the group numbers. Larger groups could offer more than monthly sessions and the impact of you not showing up will not be as great.
What it comes down to is…seize the day. Stop putting off that internet search and/or call to find a consultation group. You are important and deserve an hour for yourself to connect, debrief, consult, or shed any needless guilt you are grasping. Consultation groups empower you, your clients and other therapists through much-needed connection, exchange of ideas and feelings and validation that you are valuable. Take the time and call today.
Kristen Dammer is a clinical supervisor, therapist, and blogger with Firelight Supervision and Catalyss Counseling. Kristen specializes in trauma, ADHD, and perinatal counseling with adults and is trained in EMDR. Kristen enjoys providing clinical supervision and consultation to beginning to advanced clinicians in private practice, hospital, and agency settings.