The art of counseling has progressed dynamically since the inception of the 20th century. A lot of research has been conducted in a bid to comprehend the effectiveness of techniques used and subsequently improve them. Counseling can be termed as the implementation of psychological and human development principles through cognitive, behavioral, and affective intervention strategies. Counseling is aimed at addressing the mental wellness, personal growth, pathology, or career development of the recipients (Gibson, 1999).
Group counseling has been applauded as a highly effective form of counseling. Unlike traditional, individual counseling, it incorporates beneficial elements such as sharing experiences; enhancing group dynamics, encouraging trust building, and cultivating a sense of togetherness (Ohlsen et al., 1999).There are a number of different groups that can be used to implement group counseling. The groups can be a task, developmental/psycho-educational, counseling, or therapy groups depending on the subject matter and goals that the patients want to achieve. Tasks groups offer counseling by encouraging all members to participate in completing a specific manual or mental task. Counseling groups are aimed at helping patients with normal living problems by using help from qualified professionals. These groups pay attention to group dynamics. Therapy groups on the other hand constitute of patients with more intricate psychological problems that affect their normal functionality. A lot of technical knowhow and care is needed in such groups, as the patients are relatively unstable. Finally, developmental groups help clients learn skills associated with psychological development that are important for social interactions or personal growth. Examples include anger and stress management-counseling groups. This research essay proposes to discuss developmental groups as they pertain to counseling groups and group dynamics.
Developmental group therapy has a wide range of applications, which makes it suitable for us to conduct as a group (Smith & Evans, 1973). We will focus on preventive developmental group counseling aimed at reducing self-harming behavior such as self-loathe, low self-esteem, deliberate cutting, or disfiguring. Further, it will focus on mature audiences as opposed to adolescents and pre-pubescent. It is important to distinguish between these age groups as developmental counseling for each group involves slightly different variables. Patients who are below twenty years or who exhibit cognitive immaturity are often handled in smaller groups not exceeding eight people. On the other hand, adults/mature audiences, which we will focus on, can be counseled in groups of up to 15 participants (Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001). Consequently, we can include more people without necessarily affecting the effectiveness of the treatments.
Moreover, the environments in which such counseling sessions are carried out vary depending on these age groups. Children and pre-pubescent prefer stimulating environments such as game rooms, plays rooms, or outdoor play grounds to respond to treatment effectively. Our focus group (adults) would, on the other hand, prefer conference rooms or less visually stimulating environments. This would make it more suitable as there is easy access to classrooms, library discussion areas, and other age appropriate venues in which to conduct our group counseling sessions.
Another important aspect of developmental group counseling that makes it suitable for implementation is the material requirement involved. Children and preadolescents and adolescents require toys, play materials, games, and crafts during counseling sessions to harness their attention and maximize the positive impact of the sessions. However, our target audience requires only counselee talk, which is sufficient to realize the set goals.
Unlike other types of counseling groups, psycho-educational groups require relatively less professional skills (Smith & Evans, 1973). Consequently, the facilitator/counselor does not necessarily have to be a professional in psychology or any other related field. However, he/she must have some qualities and understanding of group dynamics that would enable them to communicate to counselees and help facilitate a productive relationship between members. Consequently, this form of counseling group is highly suitable to our cause since none of the facilitators has professional training in the field of psychology. Nonetheless, the group has a number of amicable, approachable, and intelligent characters that would serve as competent facilitators/counselors togetherness (Ohlsen et al., 1999).
The first step towards implementing a developmental counseling group is to identify a suitable counselor(s), location, and appropriate audience (Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001). It is imperative that the counselor(s) are highly social and amicable people with whom counselees can identify with. The location will be preferably a conference room or open classroom. Once these parameters are fulfilled, Psycho-educational counseling groups' model consists of three phases that make them highly effective in achieving their set goals. The phases are counselee self-exploration, counselee understating, and counselee reaction. In the first phase, the counselor with the collective help of the group encourages each to express his/her feelings about the topic in question. This will be done by conveying emphatic concern, respect, and understanding as each participant shares. During this phase, it is imperative that the facilitator directs the sessions such that each participant feels important, treated fairly, and understood lest they fallback into their cocoons hence beating the whole point.
The second phase entails feedback from both fellow members and the counselor. The facilitator, shares his/her solutions to each in turn and other members are encouraged to pitch in and voice their solutions. In this stage, the counselor acts as a mediator trying to harmonize the views of the group intone workable solution. However, he/she also has to be objective and give suitable solutions without demeaning the thoughts of others (Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001).
Finally, the third phase entails counselee reaction/actions. After comprehensive discussions, counselees share about the active measures they are using to implement the solutions. The facilitator can ask about the progress and how the patient is faring on while trying to implement the solutions discussed. Group members can also chip in and suggest solutions to probable impediments to the solutions (Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001).
This cycle can be repeated for each individual at a time. However, in our case, the whole group will move from phase to phase together to ensure that none of the members is left behind in their progress. After the third phase, the process can be repeated for different topics or in a bid to find some overlooked problems.
Additionally, the first and second phases can be repeated as many times as is necessary. This will help provide a support system for group members who typically require constant monitoring to rid them of the self-harming tendencies.
Gazda, G., Ginter, E., & Horne, A. (2001). Group counseling and group psychotherapy. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Gibson, R. L. (1999). Introduction to counseling and guidance. Prentice Hall.
Ohlsen, M. M., Horne, A. M., & Lawe, C. F. (1970). Group counseling. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Smith, R. & Evans, J. (1973). Comparison of experimental group guidance and individual counseling as facilitators of vocational development. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 20(3), 202-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0034609
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