Group Counselling

The togetherness of two or more individuals is known as group. The members of the group share common interests. They come together with common objectives.

Optimum group size
The optimum group size is seven. Too small or too larger than this number will not fulfill the purpose of forming group. Too large a group will have a negative effect on one-to-one interaction between the members and too small a group, the members might lose interest in group proceedings.

Aim of group formation
The motive of forming a group is to work toward a common goal. People with different goals and objectives cannot form groups.

Characteristics of Group
  • Reciprocal Relations: The members of a group are inter-related to each other. Reciprocal relations form an essential feature of a group.
  • We feeling: The members of a group help each other and defend their interests collectively.
  • Sense of Unity: The members of a group are united by a sense of unity and a feeling of sympathy.
  • Common Interests: The interests and ideals of a group are common. It is for the realisation of common interests that they meet together.
  • Group Norms: Every group has its own rules or norms, which the members are supposed to follow.
Patient Counselling
Counselling is a helping process which is offered when the individual seeks professional help to solve his/her problem. Patient Counselling is helping people who have come to the hospital seeking treatment. They might be having apprehensions on aspects like treatment, surgery, adapting to hospitalization, resource mobilization. Patient Counselling helps such people in understanding about the treatment, length of stay, cost, prognosis, and plan for their rehabilitation.

Group formation and Patient Counselling
When patients with similar needs gather for a counselling session, group counselling can be done, provided the number doesnt exceed the optimum group size. Communication will be better among the group members if the group size is maintained.

Formation of groups
While forming groups remember
  • People with similar needs are grouped
  • Group size does not exceed the optimum size
  • Members of the group understand the purpose of the group
  • Each member identifies themselves with the group
  • People with similar background like literacy, with similar systemic illnesses, eye problems, surgery done, etc. would serve the purpose of forming groups
Advantages of forming groups
Forming groups in a hospital setup helps the organization in many ways. While forming groups even a silent spectator is motivated to interact. In groups, the human resources are mobilised to the maximum. The facilitator/counsellor may not know the resources of each person in the group. Such group sessions creates a platform for better self-awareness and better utilisation of resources.

Normally the counsellor conducts at least two group sessions during hospitalisation, one preoperatively and one post operatively. In a developing country like India for most of the people, surgery for cataract would be the first visit to the hospital. It is natural that these people have their own apprehensions and fear about hospitalisation, surgery / treatment, the visual prognosis, etc. The patients worrying about their problem would have a wider exposure while meeting people with similar issues In a group session, when they see people with similar socio-economic-psychological background, their fear is reduced to a remarkable extent. They identify themselves with the group. They might be of help to each other, giving suggestions to find a solution to their post-operative problems. Such group counselling will influence a fair number of people within a short time. It enables people to identify their own capabilities. It creates self-awareness about the individual.

In our experience, it was observed the number of queries was fairly more in group sessions than in individual sessions. When a person in a group makes a query, even a silent spectator who wants to ask the question gets an answer. The information given by the patient counsellor reaches a fairly large number of people within a short time. Similarly any shortcome in the hospital care is also brought to notice of the concerned personnel, which will benefit both the patient and the organization.

Patient Groups helping to achieve Organization Goal
Organizations like Aravind Eye Hospital working for reducing needless blindness, can make the best of these patient groups. Without advertising about the services available, these patient groups are socially influenced and work to reach the organization goal. Proper recognition of these groups will go a long way in increasing the patient load. Focus groups can be formed in every community so that these groups work to reduce needless blindness. The members of focus group may be like community leaders, village headman (sarpanch). Adequate training can be given to this group to identify eye problems of the people in their locality like cataract, squint, corneal ulcer, refractive errors, etc. They themselves might organise eye camps, where the contribution of the hospital is to provide only manpower. This will earn reputation in the community for the member.

Formation of patient groups
In our experience, it was observed that group counselling helps us in many ways. Normally very old people find it very difficult to remember the date and time for review. When an appointment is fixed on the same day for all members of the group and if even one person forgets, the other person reminds and both of them come for review. They also help each other. So even patients who do not have anybody to bring them to the hospital, come for review examination with the help of another patient.

The hospital services are marketed at no cost through the satisfied patients. The patients themselves are the best motivators. They share their experiences in their locality and bring people who need eye care to the hospital. It was also observed that a highly motivated patient brings people to the hospital who need eye care and act as volunteers, expecting no returns. The role of a patient counsellor is to identify such volunteers and recognize their services. Through this means patient flow in OPD (Direct patients) can increase remarkably.

Groups bring people together, pooling their efforts to solve individuals problems. Groups can be of great help to each member as well as to the society at large. Such efforts create consciousness about the presence of others.