Group counseling has become the preferred term to describe \”counseling with more than one individual simultaneously.
The age groups for which this approach to group counseling has been directed include: preschool and early school (ages 5-9); preadolescent (ages 9-13); adolescent (ages 13-20); and adult. For each group the treatment conditions are set forth including preferred size of the group, group composition, setting and media utilized, and the nature of counselor intervention. The basic contention of the developmental approach to group counseling is that different age groups require significantly different treatment conditions. For example, the size of a counseling group of five-or six-year-olds would be about 3 or 4; nine-and ten-year-olds 5 or 6; fifteen-and sixteen-year-olds, 6 to 8; and adults, 8 to 10. The treatment setting for those five to nine years of age would be a playroom; for those approximately nine to thirteen years of age, an \”activity\” or game room, outdoor play areas, and a conference room; for adolescents and adults, a conference room would be preferred in most instances. The media would vary with the age level of the counselee with greater emphasis on toys and play materials for the young child, games and crafts for the preadolescent, and counselee talk for adolescents and adults.
In the school setting, group counseling is often suggested for children who display behaviour problems, such as excessive fighting, chronic tiredness, violent outbursts, extreme withdrawal, inability to get along with peers, and a neglect of appearance.
In small groups, children have the opportunity to express their feelings about a wide range of personal problems. Children frequently experience learning difficulties in school as a result of inner turmoil. Some of these children suffer from anxiety over broken homes and disturbed family relationships. If the group is structured properly, these children can receive psychological assistance at an early age, and will stand a better chance of dealing effectively with the tasks they face later in life.
For most people, adolescence is a difficult period. It is characterized by paradoxes.
Adolescents strive for closeness, and yet fear intimacy and often avoid it. They rebel against control, and yet want direction and structure. While they push and test the limits imposed on them, they see limits as a sign of caring. They are not treated as mature adults, and yet are expected to act as though they had gained complete autonomy.
They are typically self-centered and pre-occupied with their own worlds, and yet are expected to deal with social demands and expand their horizons. They are asked to face and accept reality and, at the same time, many avenues of escape are available in the form of drugs and alcohol.
With adolescence come some of these conflicts: dependence/independence struggles, acceptance/rejection conflicts, identity crises, the search for security, pressure to conform, and the need for approval. Because of the stresses of the adolescent period, these years can be lonely, and it is not unusual for an adolescent to feel that there is no-one who can help.
Group counseling can be useful in dealing with these feelings of isolation, because it gives adolescents the means to express conflicting feelings, explore self-doubts, and realize that they share these concerns with their peers. A group allows adolescents to question openly their values, and talk freely about their deepest concerns. In the group, adolescents can learn to communicate with their peers, benefit from the modeling provided by the leader, and can safely experiment with reality and test their limits.
A unique value of a group is that it offers adolescents a chance to be instrumental for one another\’s growth and change. Because of the opportunities for interaction in groups, the members can express their concerns and be genuinely heard, and they can help one another gain increased self-acceptance.
A wide variety of special interest groups can be developed for adults of all ages. For example, groups can be formed for couples, single parents, parents who want to explore problems they have relating to their children, middle-aged people who return to college or change careers, and adults who want to explore developmental concerns, such as the search for identity.
On college campuses, groups have become increasingly popular as a way of meeting the diverse needs of students, who range from young adults to the elderly. Such groups can be created for relatively healthy students who experience a developmental crisis, or students who want to talk openly with others about their concerns. The purpose of these groups is to offer participants an opportunity to explore ways of changing certain aspects of their lives.
In group situations, college students of all ages deal with several different issues. They may include issues regarding career decisions, male/female relationships, the need for, and fear of, love, sex-role identity issues, educational plans, the meaning of life, challenging one\’s value system, and the meaning of work. There are also issues regarding feelings of loneliness and isolation, learning to form intimate relationships, exploring marital conflicts, and other concerns related to becoming a self-directed adult.
4. The Elderly
As people grow up, they face feelings of isolation, and may struggle with the problem of finding a meaning to life. Some of these older persons may resign themselves to a useless life, for they see little in their future. Like adolescents, the elderly often feel unproductive, unneeded, and unwanted by society. Another problem is that many older people have uncritically accepted myths about ageing.
Themes that are more common to the elderly than other age groups include loneliness, social isolation, losses, poverty, feelings of rejection, and the struggle to find a meaning to life, dependency, and feelings of uselessness, hopelessness and despair. There are also fears of death and dying, grief over another\’s death, sadness over physical and mental deterioration, depression, and regrets over past events. Acceptance can be through listening to their messages, and by not patronizing them. These individuals need support and encouragement, and the chance to talk openly about what they feel, and about the topics which concern them.
A counseling group can do a lot to help the elderly challenge the myths they may have that limit their lives. It can also help them to deal with the developmental tasks that they face. Like any other age-group, they must be able to face them in such a way that they retain their self-respect. Groups can assist the elderly to break out of their isolation, and encourage them to find a new meaning in life.
DEFINITIONS: GROUP GUIDANCE, GROUP COUNSELING, AND GROUP Psychotherapy
Group counseling lies on a continuum between group guidance and group psychotherapy. Group guidance is organized to prevent the development of problems. The content includes educational-vocational-personal -social information which is not otherwise systematically taught in academic courses. The typical setting is the classroom which ranges in size from approximately twenty to thirty-five. Providing accurate information for use in improved understanding of self and others is the direct emphasis in group guidance, whereas attitude change frequently is an indirect outcome or goal. The leadership is provided by a classroom teacher or a counselor who utilizes a variety of instructional media and group dynamics concepts in motivating students and in obtaining group interaction. Instructional media include unfinished stories, puppet plays, movies, films, filmstrips, guest speakers, audio-and video -taped interviews, student reports, and the like. Group dynamics concepts refer to the process employed in group guidance, such as social dramas, buzz groups, panels, and other related techniques.
The goal of group guidance is to provide students with accurate information which will help them make more appropriate plans and life decisions and, in this sense is prevention-oriented; group counseling is both prevention and remediation oriented. Group counseling is prevention oriented in the sense that the counselee or client is capable of functioning in society, but may be experiencing some \’rough spots\’ in his life. If counseling is successful, the rough spots may be resolved successfully with no serious personality defects incurred.
Group counseling is remedial for those individuals who have entered into a spiral of self-defeating behavior but who are, nevertheless, capable of reversing the spiral without counseling intervention. However with counseling intervention, the counselee is likely to recover more quickly and with fewer emotional scars.
Group counseling is defined as follows. Group counseling is a dynamic interpersonal process focusing on conscious thought and behavior and involving the therapy functions of permissiveness, orientation to reality, catharsis, and mutual trust, caring, understanding, acceptance, and support. The therapy functions are created and nurtured in a small group through the sharing of personal concerns with one\’s peers and the counselor(s). The group counselees are basically normal individuals with various concerns which are not debilitating to the extent requiring extensive personality change. The group counselees may utilize the group interaction to increase understanding and acceptance of values and goals and to learn and/or unlearn certain attitudes and behaviors.
Difference between group guidance and group counseling:
Although the content of group counseling is very similar to group guidance-including educational, vocational, personal, and social concerns-a number of other factors are quite different. First, group guidance is recommended for allschool students on a regularly scheduled basis: group counseling is recommended only for those who are experiencing continuing or temporary problems that information alone will not resolve. Secondly, group guidance makes an indirect attempt to change attitudes and behaviors through accurate information or an emphasis on cognitive or intellective functioning: group counseling make a direct attempt to modify attitudes and behaviors by emphasizing affective involvement. Finally, group guidance is applicable to classroom-size groups, whereas group counseling is dependent upon the development of strong group cohesiveness and the sharing of personal concerns which is most applicable to small, intimate groups.
Group psychotherapy, the third part of the guidance, counseling, therapy continuum, was coined by J. L. Moreno in 1936 (Corsini, 1957). Moreno\’s definition is a general definition: \”Group psychotherapy means simply to treat people in groups (1962, p. 263).\” It is generally accepted that there is a difference in group counseling and group psychotherapy although there is overlap between them.
Brammer and Shostrom (1960) have characterized these differences by the following series of adjectives in which counseling is described as \”educational, supportive, situational, problem solving, conscious awareness, emphasis on \’normal’s\’, and short term. Psychotherapy is characterized by supportive (in a more particular sense), reconstructive, depth analysis, analytical, focus on the unconscious, emphasis on \’neurotics\’ or other severe emotional problems, and long-term. Although these differentiation\’s were applied to individual counseling and psychotherapy, they are equally applicable to group counseling and group psychotherapy.
PURPOSES OF GROUPS
The following are the goals and purposes of groups:
• To grow in self-acceptance and learn not to demand perfection.
• To learn how to trust oneself and others.
• To foster self-knowledge and the development of a unique self-identity.
• To lessen fears of intimacy, and learn to reach out to those one would like to be closer
• To move away from meeting other\’s expectations, and decide for oneself the standards
By which to live.
• To increase self-awareness, and increase the possibilities for choosing and acting.
• To become aware of choices and to make choices wisely.
• To become more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.
• To clarify values and decide whether, and how, to modify them.
• To find ways of understanding, and resolving, personal problems.