Thursday, April 25, 2013

#ESCchat #2: Small Group Counseling 4/25/13

I feel so inspired after chatting with other current and aspiring school counselors! Our topic tonight was small group counseling, and participants had such fantastic ideas. I cannot wait to start planning new lessons and groups for next school year! Here is a summary of the questions and answers. To see the "chat" as it happened, check it out on the Storify transcript

==>Q1: Why is it important to provide small group counseling opportunities for students?

  • Many students feel isolated in school (huge risk factor!) and making connections with their peers helps so much.
  • It is an opportunity to focus on specifics needs and build peer support.
  • Showing students they are not "going through something" alone.
  • Same importance as a small group academic intervention - not responding to T1 social curriculum - Some Ss need more
  • Merely letting students be part of a group setting where what they say matters is powerful.

==>Q2: How do you create a group atmosphere where all members feel safe & comfortable to contribute?

  • Let students create and agree upon their own rules--ask, what do you need from each other to feel safe in here?
  • Especially with younger kiddos, a discussion on "What is Confidentiality?" is very important. Make it kid-friendly!
  • A2 careful selection of group members. Collaboratively developed norms.
  • Setting clear expectations, lots of relationship building and time to share personal interests.
  • Making sure your group "meshes" well. Having individual relationships with students before the group starts helps!
  • Asking the students what they hope to gain by being a group member - give them a voice from the start!
  • Having students who are good role models in that particular area be involved in the group as well.

==>Q3: What topics/themes have you used to bring students together into groups?

  • Currently I run grade level social skills groups and larger grade level lunch bunches that have more of a classroom mtg feel.
  • As a PPW I pull attendance groups. Important for kids to want to come to school.
  • Next year I hope to start anger management, stress/anxiety, and self-esteem grps - notice the need more and more.
  • I run social skills groups all year, also 6 wk Changing Families, Self-Esteem, Test Anxiety, New Students at start of year!
  • Cute names can be used. FISH = Families in Sep Households. I use START- Student Test Anx Reduction Team. Elementaryfying!
  • Positive communication, grief relief, study skills, self-esteem
  • Bully prevention groups, peer mentors are some other themes.
  • Kids with incarcerated parents. Music therapy. Just more ideas!

==>Q4: Have you co-led groups? If so, with whom? What was the benefit of co-facilitating?

  • I interned with a music therapist working with children w/ autism--the effect it had on them was amazing!!
  • I loved co facilitating! I worked on a grant so we had the staff to do so. Helps w/ group management.
  • Benefits include helps to have an experienced partner facilitate and different perspective.
  • Just ended two co-led groups. Benefits of one was male/female leader--great modeling of opposite sex healthy conversation.
  • A classroom teacher co-facilitates my social skills grps with me - They are able to monitor if skills get carried over to recess.
  • I co-facilitated with the speech therapist. Also, one of my special ed teacher colleagues may pop in soon!
  • Social wrkr, psych, nurse. It's great to have more than one counseling style since the kiddos have such different personalities
  • I co facilitate a lunch bunch with our CSE Secretary. She's crafty!
  • I like to invite the next grade level tchrs to visit some grps at the end of year - eases fears and lets the kids ask questions.
  • I co-facilitated w/ school social worker and school psychologist on an Elementary School Counseling grant.
  • You never know who a child will connect with. I like the idea of involving diff staff members.

==>Q5: Does anyone have any favorite curricula, interventions, or projects to do in group? If so, please share!

  • I used to do second step lessons to reinforce the second step skills. 
  • Students LOVE Superflex! Superheroes always get their attention. I made capes for them and wrote the Superflex Song on guitar.
  • I do a Random Acts of Kindess group that is a BLAST as well as a 'fine dining' lunch group that works on manners!
  • My favorite projects have been friendship bracelets and our Project Stop.
  • I enjoy Lunch Bunch or Game Break with small groups.
  • My 3rd gr girls club read and discuss the book about Chrissa the American girl doll about relational aggression - they love it.
  • "Whoonu" is a GREAT get to know you game for grades 3+! I start every group with it! 
  • Some schools do Girls on the Run-small group esteem building.
  • I have also been trying to incorporate using the smartboard in my group activities - its a work in progress!

==>Q6: How would you handle a student who gets defiant/angry during group and storms out?

  • I check w/ student to see if they can return to class and meet the next day-then discuss how to effectively communicate in group.
  • Notify admin, want to make sure student is safe, will follow up with student to re-connect.
  • Processing with the group to make sure all feel safe.
  • Other than make sure he got to where he was going ok, check in w him individually to process what happened.
  • Our clinicians (and admin) wear walkies so people can be notified when kids storm off.
  • Validate his/her feelings and see him/her individually to process and see where its coming from.
  • I might break the group at that point to work w the student individually.

==>Q7: How would you handle a student who bursts into inconsolable tears during group?

  • I have noticed that the other kids really step up and console each other when that happens -Share that they are not alone.
  • Normalizing crying is a great start! Everyone cries, it's healthy release of emotion!
  • Give them time to cry it out as well as space as needed, then let others share how they can possibly relate to their tears.
  • Ask probing questions, elicit help from the group, offer support.
  • Depends on the scenario. If group can support, great, if truly inconsolable, might be a crisis counseling session.
  • I've noticed many kids and adults apologize when they cry, I love to remind them to never be sorry for tears.

==>Q8: What formal/informal tools do you utilize to measure if your group goals were met?

  • Exit tickets to have students restate what they accomplished is one way.
  • Having the students set goals at the beginning and getting their feelings after. Have to make sure goals are obtainable!
  • Pre and post-tests, learner surveys, Hard data-referrals, grades, attendance, classroom behavior...
  • Talking to parents and teachers to get their observations.
  • Usually informal, student, teacher, parent report. But I have used pre post self report rating scales too.
  • Pre and post info is important. Need to establish a baseline to determine growth. Surveys are helpful.

Did you miss this chat? No worries! Feel free to continue the conversation anytime on Twitter using the #escchat hashtag, or leave a comment here.

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