Group Development: Initiating
The beginning stage of group development is referred to as initiating. This includes preparing clients to join the group and establishing group norms. Clients need to understand what they can expect from the group counseling experience in order to maximize the benefits and to increase retention. Your Berg, Landreth, and Fall text provides typical group rules and explains the importance of group leaders providing structure and stability. Creating a consistent environment helps groups be more productive.
Groups can be structured to allow new members to join at any time. This is referred to as revolving group membership. Revolving group membership is different from time-limited groups, which meet for a predetermined number of sessions and all of the members start at the same time. These groups can be referred to as fixed (SAMHS 2005). Regardless of the type of group, it is important for clients to be motivated.
While your text argues against clients being mandated for group treatment, this is often a reality for clients who are in substance abuse treatment. Motivational Interviewing is one approach to preparing clients who may come to treatment due to external pressures discussed in Tip 41. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy (SAMHS 2005). Considering the level of interpersonal skills is particularly relevant for groups that address addictions. There can be a significant range in the level of interpersonal skills among group members, which can have a dramatic affect on group dynamics. The level of structure that group leaders provide is closely related to the ability of the group members to manage interpersonal conflict. More structured groups tend to be more common for clients who are in the early stages of recovery.
Berg, R. C., Landreth, G. L., & Fall, K. A. (2006). Group counseling: Concepts and procedures (4th ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN: 9780415952194.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U. S. Department of Health & Human Services (2008). Tip 41. Substance abuse treatment: Group therapy. Retrieved March 9, 2009,
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Identify models of group development as applied to the treatment of compulsive and addictive behaviors.
2. Prepare for the ethical use of supervision as a group leader.
3. Identify client characteristics relevant for ethical group placement.
Use your textbook and the Internet to read the following:
• Chapter 6, “Initiating Group Counseling,” pages 129–171. This chapter offers detailed guidelines for forming a counseling group. Particular focus is placed on facilitating the early stages of group development and encouraging interaction and member responsibility. As you study this chapter, it is good to note some of the typical problems that counselors may expect to encounter in group counseling.
• SAMHSA’s Tip 41. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, Chapter 4. This chapter compares fixed and revolving types of therapy groups and recommends ways to prepare clients for participation, including pregroup interviews, retention measures, and most importantly, group agreements that specify clients’ expectations of each other, of the leader, and of the group. It also specifies the tasks that need to be accomplished in the early, middle, and late phases of group development.
Choose and view a segment from one of the four primary interviews from The Courage to Change: Portraits of Men in Recovery DVD. As you view the segment, pay attention to how the client describes his recovery.
Important Viewing Note: The clients interviewed for this video are real and use their own words to describe their experiences. Some of the language used is not appropriate for a general audience, so you may want to consider viewing the DVD using headphones for the audio.
Question 1: The Courage to Change DVD – 1 page needed with 2 references. I think you can listen to this DVD from the internet.
Select one of the client portraits from The Courage to Change: Portrait of Men in Recovery. Consider how the client you select describes his early recovery. What would you want to cover with him in preparing him for group treatment based on the details he provides? Use the readings for this unit to support what you emphasize.
Question 2: Maximizing Group Cohesiveness-1 page needed with 2 references.
How can a counselor use the techniques from the readings to maximize group cohesiveness in the early stages of group development? Choose the techniques that are most consistent with your own approach (theory) as a group leader and explain their importance.