7 Procedures that a Counselor must Understand Before he Involves Students in Group Counseling

Procedures that follow are those which the counsellor must understand thoroughly and be able to implement before he involves students in group counselling.

Procedures

1. Identifying Each Member’s Objective:

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Group counsellors frequently organise a group and then expect members to find group and individual purpose while participating.

The wide range of interests and purposes that an individual may express diminishes the likelihood that sufficient time can be concentrated upon a given objective to ensure its attainment.

2. Organisational Decisions:

The counsellor needs to consider the optimal size, physical site, and length and frequency of meeting for each group with which he works. Too often the counsellor applies the same alternative to all groups.

Ample conjecture and some research indicate that a group of five or six is optimal for counselling purposes.

As group size increases, the leader tends to become more dominant and addresses him to group rather than individual needs, members become more dependent and talk less, and feelings of frustration, threat, and inhibition concerning participation increase.

They may well be cases, however, where a larger number would actually be advantageous to the group.

The counsellor may vary the length and frequency of sessions, also, in order to enhance goal-directed behaviour. During the early stages of a group, he frequently finds that two or three meetings each week are beneficial.

As more intensive attempts are made by the individual to reach his objective outside the group setting, formal group meetings may be reduced to once weekly.

3. Forming the Group:

Two potential sources of group members exist for the counsellor. First, he might make the opportunity for joining a group available to students with whom he or his fellow counsellors are working individually. Second, he could make announcement of the opportunity to students more generally.

As an example, he may be working with two students who are unable to communicate effectively with members of the opposite sex and might benefit from working on this objective with a group.

The counsellor may, on the other hand, consider it advantageous to have a group composed of people with different primary concerns. A girl who has trouble conversing with boys might well gain more insight from an effective communicator than from another like herself.

The critical issue for the counsellor is in determining the group composition that will maximally benefit each member.

The complexity and unpredictability of human behaviour may force him to rely more on hunch than scientific observation. His knowledge of people from previous counselling contacts may guide him.

4. Getting Started:

The counsellor can get the group started by giving a brief but clear description of his role and clarifying the role of members.

Some counsellors place primary emphasis upon counsellor-student communication and discourage extensive contributions from members.

Students should be aware of the counsellor’s preference and reasons for his choice of primary communication pattern.

Care must be exercised that the time and place of subsequent meetings is agreeable to members’ schedules.

Cautionary words must also be given concerning the importance of confidentiality and the opportunity provided for setting any other rules or procedures that seem appropriate,

As is the case in individual counselling, the counsellor must be able to assist the group in starting to talk. Attention to natural difficulty in getting started may release tension a bit.

To state, bluntly, “Where shall we get started?” may be threatening and cause members to be needlessly uneasy.

From prior contact he may be able to identify a member who has little difficulty in communicating and encourage this student to begin.

The use of open-ended leads rather than specific questions will assist the individual as he begins to speak. Concurrently, the counsellor must be sensitive to other members and encourage them to participate.

5. Building the Relationship:

The counsellor’s transparent honesty and sincere interest will allow the student to realise that the counsellor is fully’ committed to assisting him.

The counsellor, through the linking function, must assist other members to participate effectively also.

The pooling of insights and mutual encouragement will help members to attempt new behaviours outside the group as they gain more confidence.

In some instances a member may be accompanied by another in order that he might have immediate reinforcement for attempts at changed behaviour.

Other circumstances may suggest that this is unwise or that the member is able to act more independently.

6. Terminating Group Membership:

The rate of development varies greatly among group members. Some will attain one objective, then identify and attain another before others have made much progress.

Inevitably, some will have exhausted the group’s potential, and the counsellor must concern himself with terminal alternatives for the group and probably will wish to involve the members in discussion of the alternatives prior to reaching a decision.

A primary decision concerns whether members will leave the group singly or whether all will stay until the entire group is terminated. To ask members to remain after their purposes have been served may seem to be an imposition.

These members, however, have a commitment to assist their peers and frequently will be among the more active contributors.

If they are allowed to leave some of the most beneficial helping relationships may be eliminated and the effectiveness of group counselling may be reduced.

7. Evaluating Outcomes:

The effectiveness of counselling, individual or group, can only be measured by observing how successful the student is in attaining the objective outside of counselling that he established at its outset.

Observations of a counselling group at work or members’ ratings of their peers are not indicative of effectiveness.

Assessment is not a difficult task if the objective has been stated in terms that are measurable. This explains the need for counsellor assistance in developing a specific objective prior to entering the group.

“I hope to generally get along better with people” represents an objective that could only be measured by inference. No direct way exists of measuring attainment.

An objective that states the conditions for attainment might be: “I am shy and awkward with strangers.

My objective is to be able to carry on a five-minute talk with a stranger in the student union in which I introduce myself, reveal my thought on at least two current issues, and recall the stranger’s name after he leaves”.

A simpler, yet equally measurable objective might be identified by a person whose nervousness in tense situations causes him to stutter.

If, as the result of group counselling, he could deliver a two-minute speech to a class without stuttering, counselling would have been effective.

Evaluation conducted in this manner allows the group member to know immediately and specifically whether group participation has been effective. He may identify new objectives or continue present efforts based upon the outcome.

His efforts and those of the group are not consumed in repeating ineffective procedures. Those that are helpful are continued. Those that are ineffective or inefficient are replaced.

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