Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Benefits of a Holistic Group Counseling Model to Promote Wellness for Girls at Risk for Delinquency: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Benefits of a Holistic Group Counseling Model to Promote Wellness for Girls at Risk for Delinquency: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

The current study examined a group counseling intervention developed to promote wellness in adolescent girls at an alternative school. Findings indicated that the wellness intervention helped girls to broaden their ideas about wellness and to set personal wellness goals. Implications for practice and recommendations for future research are provided.

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Girls who are at risk for delinquency are of increasing public concern as rates for girls who commit deliquent offenses have increased steadily over the past decade (American Bar Association, & National Bar Association, 2001; Stahl, 2003). Between 1990 and 1999, girls' delinquency rose 59% (Snyder, 2001). In 2003, 29% of juveniles arrested were girls, with rates for running away and prostitution much higher for girls than for boys (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Girls also represent an increasing proportion of juveniles who are placed in residential programs (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Girls at risk for delinquency are also of concern because they are more likely than their male counterparts to have experienced psychosocial and emotional difficulties, such as physical and sexual abuse, lack of positive self-image, problems with sexuality, and depression and anxiety (Kempf-Leonard, Chesney-Lind, & Hawkins, 2001; D. Miller, Fejes-Mendoza, & Eggleston, 1997; Rosenfield, Phillips, & White, 2006). However, because girls represent a relatively small proportion of school-age youth who commit delinquent acts, they are often offered limited or inappropriate counseling and related intervention services (American Bar Association, & National Bar Association, 2001; Hoyt & Scherer, 1998; Wells, 1994).

Because girls are particularly vulnerable to psychosocial and emotional problems related to delinquency, intervention programs that address the needs of girls are desirable. In particular, gender-specific programs that are holistic and focus on girls' healthy attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles are needed (American Bar Association, & National Bar Association, 2001; Girls Incorporated, 1996; U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998). Holistic, wellness-focused programs for girls at risk are strength based and emphasize empowerment (Hartwig & Myers, 2003). Focusing on developing strengths rather than on improving weaknesses can create positive change in wellness (Myers & Sweeney, 2004). Holistic, wellness programs empower girls to recognize strengths, and such programs emphasize connections with others and processes that address integration of body--mind, thought--emotion, and logic-intuition (Bosacki, 1997; Omizo, Omizo, & D'Andrea, 1992). Creative, expressive techniques such as relaxation, imagery, art therapy, and psychodrama are often used to cultivate meaningful relationships and integration of the body, the mind, and the spirit (Bosacki, 2001).

Because of an emphasis on the dynamics of relationships, group counseling may be a particularly effective intervention model for adolescents who are vulnerable to delinquency (Wilson & Owens, 2001), especially for girls who are at risk for delinquency (Zinck & Littrell, 2000). For example, Zinck and Littrell found that group work positively affected girls' attitudes and their relationships with others and decreased negative, attention-seeking behavior. Counseling groups that address girls' knowledge and aspirations concerning wellness from a holistic perspective achieve more than bringing about improvements in girls' behavior; these groups also help girls to set specific wellness goals and increase their level of wellness. In the current study, an eight-session, group counseling model to promote wellness was conducted at an alternative school for girls. The current study examined, within a population of girls who were at risk for delinquency, how girls understand and relate wellness concepts to their lives and how a group counseling intervention would increase girls' understanding of the concept of personal wellness and their application of personal wellness goals. …

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