Self Help - Getting the Most out of Counseling

Speak with the first person "I"
Rather than "people feel," say "I feel, think,..." such and such. The group is more interested in you than in broad generalities.
Speak directly to individuals
If someone asks you, "How do you feel about Karen?," turn to Karen and say: "Karen, I feel you were very kind to me a minute ago when you said....," or "I resent you right now," etc., rather than answering the one who asked you the question.
Speak from your honest feelings and thoughts
Failing to communicate what one feels - be it anger or affection or indifference toward another is often deemed "kindness" by society, and is often the most cruel thing we can do to another. It is based on lying rather than paying the person the compliment of being able to handle honest feelings. We cannot behave properly if we have never been honestly told how others react to us. This is your group.
Be aware of your thoughts and feelings of the moment
Express them at the earliest time possible. Don’t wait for the "golden opportunity" to start talking or getting into your feelings. The past is important, but the present is the only dimension of time that we live freely in - the here and now. So, be yourself. Show the group all sides of your personality. Try to move into areas that are emotionally uncomfortable for you, both inside and outside of group. You grow only by going beyond the limits you have set for yourself in the past.
Recognize and respect your own pace
Some group members will be ready to disclose their thoughts and feelings, while others need more time to gain feelings of trust and security. You cannot make yourself feel a sense of trust, so by respecting your need to become involved when ready, you are learning self-acceptance. If you are having a difficult time knowing how to discuss your problems, ask the group to help you. Also, to expect yourself to be verbally active during every session is probably unrealistic. Sometimes you may prefer to listen and consider new dimensions of your personality.
Read the messages from your own body
Your body is a most basic aspect of yourself. It is continually giving you messages. The open or closed position of your limbs, sweating palms, rapid heartbeat, etc., tell you that you are afraid, angry, irritated, wanting to be closer to a person, etc. These messages can be noted and understood.
Be as spontaneous as possible
Mulling over, thinking about, choosing careful language, trying to be polite, etc., may negate our genuineness. Try to let ideas thoughts, and feelings convey the true you. Often the thoughts and feelings we hold back are similar to what others in the group are experiencing. As you talk about your concerns, the group will help you recognize themes and patterns. With time being limited, you will be encouraged to provide essential information without going into extensive details. Also, remember that this is your group. If it is not moving in the direction you would like it to, say so!
Report side conversations to the group
If between sessions you hold a conversation with anyone in which you comment on the group or a person in it, you should report the feelings expressed back to the group. The idea here is to speak face to face.
Be aware of the roles you take and your characteristic behavior
Some of us tend to withdraw from confrontation, while others want to fight, others want to be peacemakers, others will conform to the prevailing view, etc. Also, pay attention to how you let others get to know you. As you become involved in group, you will have the opportunity to identify what you do to distance yourself from others. Group can help you learn how to alter these behaviors and develop new ways of fostering intimacy with others. By observing yourself and others in this group you can come to helpful insights.
Listen actively
Good communication means trying to listen clearly to the words, feelings, and behavior of others. Try wearing someone else’s shoes, then, if it does not dampen spontaneity, repeat back to a person what you thought she/he said before you answer. Clarifying with the person is important because there is a strong tendency to read in things that we feel, as well as to read out things that bother us. It is important to both give and receive feedback, i.e., to share impressions, reactions, and opinions of each other in a supportive and constructive, yet challenging manner.
Don’t speak for others
Speak for yourself, and ask those present what they are feeling or thinking rather than making generalizations such as "most men..." If you feel empathy for a person, or feel like defending or attacking someone, speak for what you are experiencing at that moment rather than attributing it to others.
Try to have genuine encounters with others
The aim of an encounter is not necessarily to fight or to always be on good terms. To know that you have been true to yourself while meaningfully interacting with another also being true to herself/himself, is a major goal of group experience. It can have favorable consequences in your social relationships after this group ends.
Expect periods of silence
Although they may seem odd at times, creative things can occur in our awareness and consciousness. Use silence to be aware of what is happening to you.
Respond openly to group leaders
The group leaders do not expect anyone, including themselves to follow these guidelines to the letter. They do expect group members to point out times when guidelines are not being followed, and to attempt to get back on track. All members of the group share the responsibility of keeping to the guidelines, although at the beginning of group the leaders will carry more responsibility for this. Leaders will explain issues that are not clear, and will provide resources that may be helpful to you as the group progresses. Your presence in the group indicates that you are in agreement with these guidelines, and are therefore as responsible as the leaders are for carrying them out. Any suggestions that the leaders make are just that. You have the power to say yes or no to them. An important aspect of what you can learn through group will come through the way you relate to the leaders.
Make the group a part of your life
Don’t think of group as something that happens one day and then forget about it until the next day. After the session, think over what happened. What feelings did you feel when you talked about yourself? You may feel depressed or happy after group. Try to figure out why you are feeling this way. Take a few minutes to write these things down. You may want to discuss them next group.