Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Professional School Counselors and the Practice of Group Work

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Professional School Counselors and the Practice of Group Work

Article excerpt

An online survey about the use of small groups by school counselors was completed by 802 members of the American School Counseling Association. The vast majority of respondents offered groups in their schools, but were most influenced in that decision by time constraints. Qualitative analysis of comment data provided more depth and insight about school counselors' practice of group work. Implications and recommendations are discussed.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA)includes group counseling as an integral component of comprehensive school counseling programs (Lapan, Gysbers, & Petroski, 2001). The ASCA National Model[R] (2005) provides the foundation and framework for responsive services, including small group counseling. According to the ASCA position statement (1999), group counseling is an efficient and effective way of dealing with students' developmental problems and situational concerns. "Group counseling should be an integral component of the school counseling program" (Thompson, 2002, p. 222). Small group counseling has a variety of applications in the school, including prevention groups (e.g., dealing with peer pressure), problem-focused support groups (e.g., dealing with parental divorce), and information-focused psychoeducational groups (study skills) (Cobia & Henderson, 2003). Group counseling can be helpful to students who are experiencing challenging life situations or tailing grades (Gladding, 2003). Working with students in the small group modality is a viable way to assist students who are not achieving to their potential and who may be experiencing emotional or behavioral problems (Shechtman, Gilat, Fos, & Flasher, 1996).

Research evidence has consistently supported the effectiveness of group counseling in schools (Riva & Haub, 2004). Much of the research on group counseling for children and adolescents has been conducted in school settings, and more groups for children and adolescents are offered in schools than in other settings (Corey & Core), 2006). Small group counseling provides an opportunity for students to develop insights about themselves and others, and it offers a safe setting in which to address developmental, situational, and academic issues (Newsome & Gladding, 2003). Thompson (2002) observed that small group counseling has been found to be efficacious for changing "attitudes, perspectives, values, and behaviors" (p. 223), and Davis (2006) noted that group counseling is an effective means to provide services to elementary, middle school, and high school students on a range of topics. Many factors contribute to the effectiveness of group counseling. For example, in groups children can experience universality--the knowledge that others have similar challenges (Greenberg, 2003). In addition, small groups provide a milieu for peer interaction and observation of peer role models (Brigman & Goodman, 2001). Students not only receive support from others, but have the opportunity to be helpful to others, which may increase self-esteem (Yalom, 1995).

Considering the rapidly increasing linguistic and ethnic diversity of the student population in schools, school counselors are challenged to provide effective, relevant, and sensitive services to culturally diverse students, and small groups are effective in this regard (Holcomb-McCoy, 2003). While the literature is replete with recommendations for group guidance and counseling programs in schools (e.g., Akos, 2000; Cantrell, 1986; Daigneault, 2000; Samide & Stockton, 2002; Sommers-Flanagan, Barrett-Hakanson, Clarke, & Sommers-Flanagan, 2000), there is scant information about the extent to which this modality is actually used by school counselors.

Therefore, the research questions for this study are as follows: To what extent are school counselors offering small groups in their schools? How do school counselors make decisions about offering small groups in their schools? …

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