Group Counseling in a School Setting
“Every school district and every institution of higher learning should include and support the group counseling concept…” – The American School Counselor Association
Group counseling in a school setting can tackle many issues at once. For one, group counseling is a time efficient exercise. Multiple students of similar ages, who are dealing with similar issues are grouped together to accomplish similar goals.
Secondly, whether the primary issues dealt with in a group counseling session is regarding relationship building or not, the nature of the group counseling setting for students involves the development of respect and proper human interaction between group members. For students of all ages, this type of exercise is invaluable for students’ development.
Additionally, group counseling is a fantastic opportunity for students to acknowledge similarities of developmental issues that everyone deals with. The development of commeraderie and acceptance often helps struggling students gain confidence in themselves and consequently perform better in school.
Group Counseling Stages
(Tuckman & Jensen, 1977)
- Initially, students often have little confidence and will look to the school counselor for direction and reassurance.
- This stage can result in volatility if the school counselor is not aware of the group dynamics or actively monitoring the group’s direction. At this stage, students can verbally push and shove for position or status within the group.
- This is the stage occuring after the dust has settled. Students have become comfortable with their position within the group and have accepted all others’ positions as well.
- The Interdependence stage is the time when most progress will be made by the group. This is when the most insightful contributions are usually made and also when students are in the correct frame of mind to accept the ideas of others as well as freely share their own opinions constructively.
- At the end of a group counseling program, students often deal with varying levels of loss. The intimacy shared between group members can be powerful and difficult to let go. This is a time for the school counselor to help the group focus on the achievements of the group and perhaps revisit the growth of the individuals.
Group Counseling Leadership Skills
Group counseling leaders must have various skills and a tool bag of methods to successfully facilitate a group counseling session with school-aged students.
The school counselor must be sensitive on responsive to all types of group dynamic indicators such as the style of language used, gestures, the pattern of hierarchy developing between group contributors, etc.
Group facilitors must know when to intervene to help more shy individuals become part of the discussion as well as when to block more vocal member from monopolizing the conversations.
Finally, group facilitators need to keep notes and follow discussions on a higher level in order to keep discussion goals in mind and to be able to reconstruct the conclusions reached by the group.
Group Counseling Resources
- ASCA Position Statements (scroll down to find Group Counseling)
- The ASCA is the standard setting body for the ongoing development of concepts for what a school counselor should be able to do as well as what a school counseling program should be.
Gladding, Samuel T. (1994) ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services, Greensboro NC.
Tuckman, B.W., & Jensen, M.A. (1977). Stages of small group development revisited. “Group and Organizational Studies”, 2, 419-427