Expert answer:Forming Group

Solved by verified expert:Forming a GroupDescribe your approach to forming a group. Develop your ideas around how you will recruit, screen, and select members. State what age group you would be working with along with the type of setting (that is, school or community) and how you might go about the process of establishing a group at your site.


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ISSN: 0193-3922 (Print) 1549-6295 (Online) Journal homepage:
Pregroup Screening Issues for School Counselors
Peggy LaTurno Hines & Teesue H. Fields
To cite this article: Peggy LaTurno Hines & Teesue H. Fields (2002) Pregroup Screening Issues
for School Counselors, JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK, 27:4, 358-376, DOI:
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Published online: 21 Jun 2010.
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Hines, Fields
WORK / December 2002
Pregroup Screening
Issues for School Counselors
Peggy LaTurno Hines
Indiana State University
Teesue H. Fields
Indiana University Southeast
The environment in which a school counselor conducts group counseling within a
school is different from the environment in which a therapist conducts child or adolescent therapy groups outside of school. Although some of these factors inherently
create challenges for the school counselor, others offer special benefits to aid in the
screening process. The authors review the key screening issues that face school counselors and discuss specific screening methods and how the uniqueness of the school
environment may affect the screening process. A pregroup screening protocol for
school counselors is suggested.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA 1998b) lists
small-group counseling as a component of a comprehensive developmental school counseling program. With a national school counselor to
student ratio of 1:500 (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2001),
it is important for school counselors to be able to successfully use group
counseling interventions. Although the research in the area of child and
adolescent groups led by school counselors is not nearly as prolific as
research on group work with adults, there is a growing body of literature
that shows the effectiveness of school counselor led groups (Prout &
Prout, 1998). Group counseling texts increasingly include chapters specifically focused on the knowledge and skills needed to conduct effective
groups in schools (Corey & Corey, 1997; Gladding, 1999). In addition,
within the past decade, a number of books devoted to school counseling
groups have been published (Margolin, 1996; Smead, 1994, 1995, 1999,
2000; Walz & Bleuer, 1992).
Peggy LaTurno Hines is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling at Indiana State University. Teesue H. Fields is an associate professor in Counselor Education at
Indiana University Southeast. For more information, contact Dr. Hines at Indiana State
University, School of Education, Terre Haute, IN 47809; phone: (812) 237-2870; e-mail:
JOURNAL FOR SPECIALISTS IN GROUP WORK, Vol. 27 No. 4, December 2002, 358-376
DOI: 10.1177/019339202237598
© 2002 American Counseling Association (ACA)
Within the field, pregroup screening is recognized as an important
step in the implementation of group counseling (Capuzzi & Gross, 1992;
Corey & Corey, 1997, Jacobs, Masson, & Harvill, 1998). The field’s ethical standards specifically address the issue of screening. The ASCA’s
(1998a) Ethical Standards for School Counselors states that a “professional school counselor screens prospective group members and maintains an awareness of participants’ needs and goals in relation to the
goals of the group” (Ethical Standard A.6.). Ethical guidelines for the
American Counseling Association (1995) and best practice guidelines
for the Association for Specialists in Group Work (1998) also clearly
state that all group members must be screened before placement in a
group. Although the field recognizes group counseling as an important
component in school counseling programs and pregroup screening as a
critical step in the formation of groups, comparatively little has been
published concerning the unique issues that surround pregroup screening for school counselors. While there are some issues regarding screening that might be characteristic of group counseling with children in any
setting, the school environment provides unique challenges and supports for school counselors. Differences in the way in which groups are
used in schools also contribute to distinctive screening issues for school
counselors. This article examines the unique environment in which
group counseling occurs in schools, considers key pregroup screening
issues faced by school counselors, reviews screening methods, and delineates a screening protocol that addresses these issues.
Group counseling is unique within the school environment. School
counselors and students are in the same building every weekday for 9
months of the year. Counselors have an opportunity to observe and get to
know students apart from the group situation. Their relationship exists
in some form before a group experience and will likely exist after the
group experience. In fact, school counselors and postgroup members
may be together for several years. Although the school environment may
share some similarities with an inpatient or residential treatment setting, rarely do children stay in that environment as long as they do in a
Within the school environment, students are referred or recruited for
groups in several ways. Frequently, school staff members refer students.
Although the referral process is not unique to the school setting, other
recruitment methods are. The knowledge gained through long-term
relationships and frequent communication with teachers and parents
may lead school counselors to identify specific students for a topical
group. Students may also self-refer or volunteer. These recruitment
methods are typically not found in settings that are more clinical in
Perhaps most important, the philosophy about what children need to
be successful in school gives a specific context to group counseling opportunities offered by school counselors. During the past decade, the field of
school counseling has begun to transform from a mental health model
that focused primarily on a subset of individuals to a developmental
model that focuses on programs for all students (Education Trust, 1997;
Fields & Hines, 2000; House & Martin, 1998). The American School
Counselor Association (ASCA) has set forth National Standards for
School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). The ASCA student standards in the domains of academic, career, and personal/social
development become the foundation upon which comprehensive developmental school counseling programs are developed. School counselors
create group counseling opportunities based on program goals and student standards. For instance, a school counselor might teach a thirdgrade classroom guidance unit on social skills to help students master a
personal/social standard. After some follow-up classroom activities,
teachers identify two or three children in each class who are still having
trouble mastering specific social skills. The counselor decides if group
counseling may be an appropriate way to follow up with these students.
If group counseling is appropriate, the school counselor can begin
pregroup screening. As part of the screening process, the counselor
refers to the skills already taught through classroom guidance as a way
to assess the skill level of the students. Group participants will come to
the group experience having a common language to use in the group, and
it is hoped that the group will be able to progress more rapidly than if the
school counselor had to start at the beginning with psychoeducational
material on social skills.
There are several important purposes for screening that are applicable to groups in schools. Levine (1991) enumerated three functions of
pregroup screening: to initiate a therapeutic relationship, to explore
expectations and concerns about the group, and to discover the prospective member’s presenting problem(s), commitment to change, and suitability for the group. Sklare, Petrosko, and Howell (1993) discussed the
important role that screening plays in helping group members become
comfortable with the dynamics inherent in the group process. In addition, Gazda (1989) described anecdotal evidence that indicated screening to find a balance of group members is critical to the success of the
These purposes underline the two decisions that are the outcome of
the screening process. One decision is made by the prospective group
member who must decide whether to join the group. Group leaders must
give the prospective member enough specific information about the
group, including clearing up any misconceptions and answering questions, so that the prospective member can make an informed decision.
With children, this would also mean communicating the information in
a developmentally appropriate manner. Although parental consent for
the child younger than 18 is required for group participation, ethical
guidelines and best practice indicate that prospective group members,
regardless of age, must also understand the process they are joining.
Bergin (1993) even suggested having a written contract for the student
to sign that spells out the guidelines for the group and what the student
understands about the group. Although this is an issue for any children’s group, it takes on additional importance for school counselors due
to factors inherent within the school setting.
The other decision is made by the school counselor, who decides if a
particular student is a suitable candidate for a group counseling experience and if this particular group experience is right for the student. This
choice is complex because leaders try to balance the group to provide the
greatest chance of creating a successful experience for all members. Previous research has examined issues important in the prescreening process. These include gender (Perrone, 2000), diversity (Johnson, Torres,
Coleman, & Smith, 1995), group fit and role balance (Bergin, 1993), compatibility (Riva, Lippert, & Tackett, 2000), group member contribution
(Corey & Corey, 1997), and emotional readiness (Smead, 1995).
Although these issues have been researched with adult and, to some
extent, children’s groups, there has been little to no review of these
issues from the unique context faced by school counselors. In addition,
the screening issue of the range of chronological age within a group has
also appeared in the literature. Although this topic has been discussed
with regard to children’s groups (Smead, 1995), the issue of developmental age as a screening variable has not been examined.
Age Issues
Schools usually contain a wide age range of students. Elementary
schools may have students from 5 to 12 years old, middle school students
are usually 10 to 14 years old, and students in high schools are 14 to 19
years old. These ranges do not include those students who are held back
more than one grade or who start school or a particular grade at an earlier than expected age. Although no one expects a large age range in a
group, what is the ideal range?
Smead (1995) suggested that 2 years is the maximum age range
within a children’s group. Gazda (1989) recommended that students be
within 1 year of each other, and Corey and Corey (1997) reported that
children’s groups work best when students are the same age. All these
suggestions seem to be based on the idea that selecting students who are
close in age makes it more likely the group members will have things in
common and develop cohesiveness more easily. Gladding (1999) suggested that high school students are less sensitive to age issues,
although he thinks this is truer for older students than younger ones;
that is, it may bother sophomore students to be in a group with seniors,
but it probably will not bother the seniors.
Developmental Age Issues
Although Smead’s (1995) suggestion of no more than a 2-year age
range may be a helpful guideline for chronological age, perhaps a more
useful variable is developmental age. Because both the elementary and
secondary school environments have such a wide variety of developmental ages, this is an important, yet unexamined, pregroup screening issue
for school counselors. Students with the same chronological age may differ in their maturity level and their verbal and social skills (Wood,
Powell, & Knight, 1984). A mature 8-year-old may fit more easily into a
group of mostly 9- and 10-year-olds than an immature 10-year-old.
It may be that the greatest disparity between chronological and
developmental age is seen in middle school students. For example, the
12-year-old boy who has not entered puberty and collects model cars
would probably not be comfortable in a social skills group with a 13year-old boy who is physically mature and is concerned about girls and
his sexuality. Papalia and Olds (1993) reported that the onset of puberty
normally spans 6 to 7 years for both boys and girls. Thus, consideration
of the developmental age of students when selecting group members
may be more important in the creation of a well-balanced group than the
use of an arbitrary rule on chronological age.
School counselors often have greater access to information on developmental age than do other mental health clinicians. This is due to the
opportunity to observe the referred students in a variety of settings.
They are also able to easily gain information from multiple staff members who work with the students.
Gender Issues
Some school groups may be established to deal with the problems that
are typically related to a particular gender, such as girls with eating disorders or boys with anger management problems. The group issue may
be so closely identified with a specific gender that it makes more sense
not to have both genders included. On the other hand, should school
groups centered on topics such as social skills, divorce, or attendance be
homogeneous or heterogeneous with regard to gender? Research with
adult groups has indicated that client satisfaction in same-sex groups is
not significantly higher than heterogeneous groups (Perrone, 2000).
Although Smead (2000) recommends that children’s groups include
both sexes, unless prohibited by the topic, there has been no research on
gender issues in child or adolescent groups.
Developmental psychology does indicate that at certain ages, boys
and girls prefer to do things separately rather than together. Many second-, third-, and fourth-grade boys and girls dislike being with each
other so much they will be angry if they are made to sit by each other
during a class activity (Underwood, Schockner, & Hurley, 2001). In middle school, pubescent egocentrism influences student behavior toward
the opposite sex (Orr & Ingersoll, 1988). Neither of these situations may
be conducive to the development of trust and honest self-disclosure that
is beneficial to the group process. As adolescents mature, the tenor of
peer relationships changes. High school students gradually start to
develop opposite-sex relationships that allow for friendships and the
kind of disclosure that may foster therapeutic group development
(Selman, 1980).
Diversity Issues
Schools have mirrored the general population of the country in
becoming increasingly diverse. The National Center for Educational
Statistics (2001) reported that in 1999, 38% of public school students
were considered part of a minority group. Johnson et al. (1995) described
a number of issues that are inherent in providing group counseling services for multicultural and diverse populations. Group members may
have different issues, values, attitudes, and perspectives on a topic and
may bring different communication styles to the group process. In addition, the level of acculturation could affect the group experience. For
example, if a counselor is running a group for new students, the issues
for Latino/Latina students who are recent immigrants may be very different from those of African American students or, for that matter, from
those Latino/Latina students who are second- or third-generation His-
panic Americans. The same concept could apply to issues brought by students who have moved from a rural school to an urban school versus students who have moved from a neighboring urban school.
Johnson et al. (1995) discussed the importance of pregroup selection
and recommended group counselors avoid having a minority group represented by a single member. They suggested that counselors consciously select a composition mix that will fit with the group’s purpose
and goal. Perrone (2000), on the other hand, indicated that adult participants in an ethnically homogeneous group have a higher level of satisfaction with the group than participants in groups that are ethnically
mixed. There is no similar research with school groups of any age.
Ethnic diversity is but one type of diversity within a school. Socioeconomic status, religion, and social hierarchy also influence the school’s
diversity climate. It is imperative that school counselors be sensitive
during pregroup screening to the wide range of diversity issues that
could affect the group process.
Group Fit and Role Balance Issues
In Riva et al.’s (2000) survey of how group leaders select members, the
overwhelming first choice for deciding whether someone was appropriate for the group was their fit with the specific group theme. Although
11% of respondents were school counselors, the response summary was
not broken down by place of employment. Therefore, the primary selection criteria for school counselors are unknown.
The research published on school counseling groups tends to focus on
psychoeducational groups and counseling groups with very specific
themes and goals for its members (Edmondson & White, 1998; Riddle,
Bergin, & Douzenis, 1997; Shechtman & Bat -El, 1997; Utay & Lampe,
1995; Zinck & Littrell, 2000). If the potential group member fits the
group theme, then the leader will want to consider the severity of symptom manifestation and how that will affect group balance. It is certainly
recognized that it would be very difficult to put eight acting-out, angry
children in the same group. However, how should the group be balanced?
Although there is no clear research to guide this screening issue, several
authors put forth recommendations for consideration.
Smead (1995) suggested that it is important for students to have
some connection to the topic of the group but that they represent different stages or points of view regarding the topic. She calls this concept
“role balance.” Thus, the group on anger management might have one
student who acts out anger at school, one who only acts out at home, one
who internalizes anger, one who has gotten better about controlling
anger, and so forth. In this way, the students can be role models for each
Bergin (1993) suggested that it is important to balance the group
according to roles needed in the group. Thus, an initiator would balance
a follower, an expressive member would balance a reflective person, and
a high-risk taker might balance a low-risk taker. Bergin, like Smead
(1995), also emphasized the importance of having role models relevant
to the topic in the group. For instance, a group for new st …
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