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Group Therapy Basics With Youth

Group Therapy Basics With Youth

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Group Therapy Basics With Youth

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  1. Group Therapy Basicswith Youth Phil Boissiere, MFT

  2. Why are groups so important when working with youth?

  3. Group work, defined as a structured activity or process with a group of youth, can greatly support their development by building skills that are useful to their journey into adulthood.

  4. Benefits of Groups

  5. Benefits of Groups • Team work • Coping with daily tensions • Integration into new programs • Preparation for youth leaving a program • Facilitation of personal growth, problem solving and social functioning • Negotiation • Collaboration • Shared experience • Helping one another (build community) • Group dynamics (real life experience) • Opportunity for leadership

  6. Many clinicians are adverse to running groups with youth.Why?

  7. The Facilitator

  8. Manage your own expectations.For both experienced and new group facilitators, designing and implementing a well-run group requires that you understand your experience level as it relates to your expectations for your group and know your limits.

  9. Capitalize on your own strengths.A well run group can start with your identifying what you are good at – when youth know you believe in what you are doing, their confidence in you increases.Groups that play together, stay together so incorporating a playful aspect or opportunities for fun can strengthen your groups long term success.

  10. Secure support for you.It is important that the group facilitators are supported by their colleagues and encouraged in the work or the group/clients may be the ones to suffer.Work in partnership with your colleagues and establishing common and clear goals understood by all is very important.Explore co-facilitation, as it can be a very effective therapeutic tool and strengthen support.

  11. Manage and share power.As a facilitator you are in a role of authority yet knowing when to share power is an important skill for fostering youths independence, leadership and ownership. Ask yourself if there are decisions that the youth can make and provide them with the empowerment to do so.Work in partnership with youth to create common and clear goals understood by all is very important

  12. The Structure of Groups

  13. Deciding who is in a group can be a difficult process. The optimal goal is to provide a group experience for all clients. Unfortunately, certain personalities and ability levels can rapidly destroy a group and prevent them from attending group together.

  14. AgeIn most circumstances there will be a mixture of ages. However, the range of ages should not be greater than 2-3 years difference. The disparity between cognitive and emotional abilities in children is much greater than it is in adults.

  15. GenderIt is common for facilitators to want to create homogenous same sex groups.This is important for gender based groups that focus on “Gender specific sexual issues” etc.However, it is important to remember that our clients are living in the real world where young men and women must learn to tackle issues together. Utilizing co-ed groups can create powerful learning about relationships and development of empathy for the opposite genders experience.

  16. HistoryDo your homework. It is very helpful for healthy processing and healing for the facilitator to know the youths histories.

  17. InsightInsight simply put, is a clear or deep perception and understanding of a situation. It is common to find that our client base varies greatly in their ability to exercise insight into their particular situation. By creating a group that has at least a couple individuals with good insight, those with poor insight can start to experience and learn through the observation and experience what good insight is.

  18. Behavioral Issues / Self-ControlClients with poor self-control and behavior issues can truly be a blessing and a curse to a group and themselves as group participants. On one hand they can learn a lot from observing and interacting with clients who have greater self-control. On the other hand they can tend to distract others in the group and create a situation of real or perceived unsafety (physical or emotional) in the group.

  19. Personality StylePersonality style is a daily challenge for all people, whether a grown adult in the community or child in school. These challenges can become even greater for emotionally disturbed youth. It is important to balance the group in a way that does not create either a hostile group of people or an overly shy and passive group. Again, trying to mix personality styles, as we would with insight and behavior levels is important.

  20. What time of day to run a groups?

  21. Type of Activity/GroupIt is important to have an activity and frame for the group. The structure of the group and activity is what makes this “group” and not “free time”.It is equally important to have a contingency plan. The back up plan may be a game, art project, music group, or any other light hearted group activity that can take place indoors. Go to plan B early. A completely derailed and unsafe group can set up increased anxiety and disharmony in future groups.

  22. Basic StructureThe structure of the group should be the same every time. It is helpful to envision the group as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

  23. Early in the GroupEarly in the history of a group (first several meetings) it is important to review the rules of group.

  24. Rules of the GroupThe rules of group should be kept short and concrete, no more than 4 or 5 rules.

  25. 1. Be Respectful:Listen when other members or facilitators are talking/Don’t talk over people or out of turn/Don’t distract others/Don’t call out etc.2. Be Safe(physically and emotionally):Never hit, kick, spit, or throw things at others/Never hurt yourself/Keep the group an emotionally safe place by not laughing, making fun, picking on, or bullying others in the group.

  26. 3. Be Responsible:Mistakes will happen, if you slip up and are not respectful or emotionally safe, take ownership for it and apologize to the individual and group. If you are physically unsafe, take ownership of your actions and leave the group as asked.4. Participate: Individual levels of participation very day by day and person to person. However, consistently not speaking or participating in the activity is not acceptable.

  27. Behavior ManagementHow do you handle/manage negative behaviors and increase positive behaviors?HELP!!!

  28. Managing Negative Behaviors • Negative behaviors are almost inevitable. • Don’t blow your resources all in one place. Ratchet up. • Cheerleader/Pep Talk • Avoid power struggles

  29. Increasing Positive Behaviors • Positive praise. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. • Be individualized in your comments and praise. • Don’t over focus on negative behaviors. • Try using incentives. • Make group optional.

  30. Thank You Please share with others. Our community is counting on us! For information and resources please visit or email Phil directly at