HSCO 511 Liberty University Counseling Group Development Discussion

In this module, you will read and hear about stages of group development and factors that contribute to group cohesion. Discuss a few aspects of the beginning and transition (storming/norming) stages of a group that—based on the readings, videos, and your experience—are most critical for the group leader to attend to and to address in order for the group to reach the working stage. In your replies, offer additional insights and constructive feedback.

Group Counseling: Strategies and Skills Chapter 4

?>> Hi, I’m Ed Jacobs, and I coordinate the counseling program at West Virginia University, and this is Chris Schimmel.

>> Hi, I’m Chris Schimmel, and I coordinate the school counseling master’s program at West Virginia University. Ed and I, along with two of our colleagues are co-authors on a group counseling textbook called ‘Group Counseling: Strategies and Skills’. Ed and I, together, for over 20 years, have been leading groups, and teaching group counseling in university and college settings. Today we want to talk to you a little bit about how to set up your groups.

>> How do you go about getting group members? What would you — what is your thoughts on that?

>> Well, I think a lot of group members come from — if you’re in a school certainly, teacher referrals or maybe a school counselor gives a needs assessment and assesses what kinds of groups are needed by the students in the school. I think in a clinical mental health setting, you typically get clients referred by maybe the court system or even other therapists, or sometimes you can run a group and advertise for that, so I think those are all valid ways to constitute your groups.

>> How ’bout — how many members should be in a group, and what should the leader be thinking about when he or she is setting up a group?

>> That’s a tough question, Ed, because it depends. It depends on how long your group is going to be, the members, the age, the developmental levels of your group members. For most school groups and school counselors, I recommend groups between five, six, maybe seven students. For groups in clinical mental health settings, you may have groups of eight or 1ten members.

>> And educational groups can have ten or twelve, usually if it gets more than that, it becomes a class or a crowd. So, I would say most groups are under — really under twelve, but under ten.

>> Under ten, yeah. I think certainly we’ve run into people all across the country that come to us with questions or struggles with leading their group. And we say, well how many members do you have? And they’ll say 25 or 30, and we look at them and say, ‘You know, that’s not really a group, that’s a class.’

>> What about screening? Do you think people should screen, and how do you do that?

>> Absolutely, I think it’s imperative to screen. A lot of people are trained that everybody is suitable for the group counseling experience, but I think what I’ve found in practice and certainly in supervising students in my school counseling practicums and internships, there are some children and adolescents, and some adults that just aren’t ready for the group experience.

>> Well, and also, I know we advocate this, not everybody should be in a group. And if you can screen them before by talking to the people and you realize that they shouldn’t be in a group yet, they should be in individual counseling. Or you get them in the group, and it’s two, three weeks in, sometimes you have to screen members out because if you let them stay in it, they suck the energy out of the whole —

>> Out of the entire group.

>> — yes.

>> One of the things that we teach, and I think adhere to pretty soundly, I think you’ll agree with this, is you never want to sacrifice the entire group because one member is really inappropriate or off target, or can’t stay focused.

>> Yeah, I think so. What about — this is just very nuts and bolts, how do you set up a room? I mean how does a group — if you were — yeah, what would you say?

>> It’s one of the first things I certainly teach, and probably you do as well, I think always setting in a circle is a great group setup. I know a lot of school counselors out there don’t have the opportunity to even have a good space, but if you can, a circle is good. I like to think that you’re not all sitting around a desk. Certainly the way we teach conducting group counseling requires the ability to be flexible, and move around, and have members up moving around. So I prefer a circle.

>> Yeah, not a round table. Yeah — you know, not a table in the middle where people can’t do it.

>> Right, an open circle. Open circle, chairs in an open circle.

>> And if people are co-leading, should they sit next to each other, or —

>> I think it’s always better to sit across from each other.

>> Not like what we’re doing.

>> No, no. Sitting across from each other where you can look across the room at your co-leader, and pick up signals, and pick up queues from each other, and maintain a certain degree of eye contact, I think that’s most helpful.

>> What about this length of the sessions? And I know it varies, but what advice do you have about that?

>> Well, you know, school counselors usually get about 20 minutes for a group, so the practice of running groups in school counseling can really be dictated by the school schedule. So a group can be anywhere from 20 minutes to maybe a therapy group in a clinical mental health setting may meet for two hours. So it really just depends on the setting and the group. I think the key is you have to take in two things; one, you have to take in your clients’ developmental levels. Children cannot be asked to sit in group for hours, and hours, and hours, and you have to take their development into consideration. And then also I think when working with adults, you have to consider their circumstance. Do they have children they need to get home to? Do they have jobs the next day, so they can’t stay extremely late at night for groups. So I think you have to take in all those kinds of considerations.

>> The other thing to think about is how often should a group meet? And I think the truth is, they — some of them meet every day in certain residential settings. In schools, they would meet once a week, or once every two–. Yeah, and then there’s certain ones where you meet every — once every two weeks. I guess what would you — how is the best way to summarize that idea about how often should groups meet?

>> At running the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think it’s just going to depend. It’s going to depend on how much time and attention those particular groups probably need from you.

>> Yeah, hopefully this helps you when you go to set up a group, you’ll give thought to the different things that we addressed here in this short video.

>>We want to share with you today some ideas on a group leadership skill that we think is very important, and that’s planning your group. So, Ed I wanted to ask you, what do you think about big picture planning? Like how do you go about planning a group in the big scope of things?

>> Well, I think, I know we use that term in our book. Big picture planning is getting the total picture if you were leading an anger management group or you were leading a drug and alcohol group. You have an idea of the topics you want to cover, so anybody that’s setting out to plan a series of sessions and we’ll talk later I think about a single session.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> But, big picture planning is that whole idea of what topics need to be covered, what would be interesting, is there some that shouldn’t be covered at the first but maybe more in the middle?

>> Mm-hmm.

>> That’s —

>> I know when I teach my school counselors how to lead groups, one of the assignments that they do at the end of that class is they have to plan a series of four groups that build, you know, that are part of the same group experience for that group of students, so we really want to encourage them to look at that big picture.

>> Oh, yeah.

>> What do you want to cover the first week? What do you want to cover the second week?

>> Yeah.

>> Yeah. What do you think about planning each individual session? I mean, is it OK to just go in and sort of wing it off the cuff or do you have to have an individual setting?

>> I think that, I know it does you too, it drives us crazy when people just wing groups, and sadly, that’s what a lot of people do partly because they don’t know they didn’t learn how to plan, but planning the session, I think, is very important just like we’ve got a plan sort of for what we’re going to say here.

>> Right.

>> You know, because and not, I don’t think you should stick to the plan rigidly when it’s not working but —

>> Or something better comes and —

>> Yeah.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> But, absolutely I think you should plan your session and not wing it at all.

>> Mm-hmm. How specifically do you think or do you encourage your students, if you could comment on that, like how specifically should they plan the session?

>> Well, the way I teach is they plan what they’re going to do at the opening, and what they’re going to do in the middle, what they’re going to at the end and really they plan, they make a guestimate, you know, sort of how much time that’s going to take.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> Partly because then they got a sense, you know, especially if it’s a group that’s an hour-and-a-half like a parenting group. They get a sense of what they want to put in that group, and I think that is such an important thing, so I say be very specific, and I think a lot of people just write three words on a page, and I don’t think that’s as good.

>> Mm-hmm. I would agree. I teach that also that you really need to think through what are you going to do the first five minutes, what are you going to do the second ten minutes.

>> Yeah.

>> I really think that’s true. What do you think leaders need to be aware of or know in regards to planning?

>> Well, like planning a session they need to know that there’s three parts, a beginning or a warm-up and then there’s the middle and then there’s a closing.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> I think they need to know that.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> And the reason why they need to conceptualize it that way ’cause some people blow it, they let the, they either skip the beginning or warm-up, they jump right in or the warm-up takes twenty-five minutes of the forty-five minute group.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> So, they need to aware of the three phases of a session. I think that’s real important for anybody that’s thinking of leading groups, there’s three phases. In the middle part, that middle phase if when they write a plan, they ought to think very much what are we’re going to do? What’s, where’s the meat? Where’s the depth of it?

>> Right.

>> Yeah.

>> Yeah. And the closing I think is so important. I know you and I shared a story about when I was in the internship, one of the groups I was leading, I didn’t pay attention to the closing and the group didn’t feel good to me or the members, so especially paying attention to how you close and process in those last few minutes I think is so important.

>> Yeah, so I guess to summarize this, if you’re planning a group you plan the overall five or six sessions and get a big picture of what probably is going to be covered and that evolves but in any specific session, always be aware there’s a warm-up, there’s a middle and there’s a closing.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> And I think the —

>> And you attend to those.

>> Yeah, you do.

>> In your plan.

>> Yeah.

>> Yeah. Thanks for joining us today, and good luck with your groups, and we hope this has encouraged you to plan for your groups. 

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