Theories of Group Counseling

CPSY 660 Kathleen Ritter

Fall 2008 Office: (661) 654-3062

California State University, Bakersfield

School of Education


(4 quarter units)

Catalog Description:

Focus on the major approaches to group counseling. Emphasis on small and large group processes and involvement in experiential activities designed to relate the clinical process to theoretical explanations. Prerequisite: CPSY 650.


1. Understand principles of small, task, and large group facilitation including group process dynamics and components, developmental stage theories, and group member roles and behaviors.

2. Develop a personal perspective on the facilitation of group process from the reflective roles of observer and participant.

3. Recognize the influence of diagnostic and demographic variables such as ethnicity, gender, social class, and sexual orientation, on group process and interaction.


1. Utilize research and theoretical concepts to explain group process.

2. Analyze the ongoing process of a small group and provide accurate assessment of the dynamics and leader interventions.

3. Identify and illustrate the therapeutic factors of a group and specific interactions that facilitate group process.

4. Develop the self of the reflective group counselor by participating in small group interactions.


1. Theories of group counseling and pertinent research and literature

2. Process and intervention strategies

3. Developmental stages

4. Professional and ethical considerations

5. Selection criteria

6. Evaluation of effectiveness

7. Cultural and diversity issues


1. Participate in a group

2. Observe a group

3. Write weekly process papers that relate observations to the theoretical literature

4. Provide feedback to group facilitators

5. Complete a research report in which 10 literature-based concepts are discussed

Course References:

Corey, M. S., & Corey, G. (2006). Groups: Process and practice (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Yalom, I. D. (with M. Leszcz). (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.

On Wednesday, September 24th, you will hand in a paper (10 points) with verbatim illustrations from the September 19th group of 10 of McWhirter's facilitator skills selected from the following list:

Perception Check

Reflection of Feeling


Empathic Understanding



Intensifying Comfort

Intensifying Feelings/Excitement


Deflection of Content

Deflection of Feeling

Discouraging Gossip

Focusing on Here/Now (defocusing there/then)

Encouraging Ownership

Please bring to class on Wednesday, September 17th, recording sheets of your own design onto which you can write verbatim illustrations of 10 of the above-listed facilitator behaviors that you observe during that group session. Please study the descriptions in advance since you will be shown concrete illustrations during the first half of group only. You will be "on your own" during the last half. Your paper will consist of 10 headings and 10 corresponding short verbatim illustrations of facilitator interventions.

[For additional insight into 18 specific group leadership skill competencies (ASGW, 2000), see Corey and Corey (2006) pp. 57-61.]

Course Expectations:

This course is primarily experiential in nature and, by virtue of your enrollment, each of you has consented to participate. As is well documented in the literature, experience alone is unproductive without related cognitive processing. Therefore, you are being asked to prepare 6 papers of no more than 2 typewritten pages each during this class. The purpose of these papers will be to "tie" your experience or perception of the group process to the literature. (Note: the emphasis is upon process as contrasted with content.)

A secondary purpose is to give you the opportunity to develop a skill that each of you will use if you are ever to facilitate your own group; that of researching some phenomena that actually occurred in the group thereby giving yourself a better understanding of the processes involved.

After either the Monday participation or Wednesday observation group, you will refer to resource material in order to explain the theoretical nature of one (or rarely) two of the most prominent PROCESS questions that arose from the day's experience. Please write the question that your paper is attempting to answer at the top of your paper. You should refer to at least two sources per paper and cite each source consulted. Cite paraphrasing as well as direct quotes. Use APA citation style in the text - i.e., (Yalom, 2005, p. 14) - and provide an APA-style bibliography at the end (APA, 5th ed., 2001). Points will be awarded on the basis of depth of analysis. Work with the ideas; don't simply copy verbatim; and build a case from the literature (and not from your opinions) to answer the question. Please interweave your observations with relevant literature.

The papers will be handed in on October 1, October 8, October 15, October 22, October 29, and November 5. PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED ON THESE DATES ONLY. Each paper will be assigned a point value of 0-10 (60 points total).


During the course of the class, you will be reading about various aspects of the group process. Each person perceives events in his or her own way and, therefore, the topics you choose to research in your weekly papers will be unique to you. In order to provide for a commonalty of cognitive input and also to ascertain that you don't "miss" any major areas of group functioning in your research, you are being asked to respond to the following topics. Write a brief (two-page) paper on each topic. The purpose of these mini-papers is to summarize research, and then to relate this literature to an event in one of your groups (if asked to do so by the question). Head each of the mini-papers with the topic you have researched. Please staple all 10 papers together (20 pages total) and hand them in before or on Monday, November 17th (3 points each: 30 total possible).

Since different writers take different views of the same phenomena or explain similar events or dynamics in dissimilar ways, no two of your papers will be exactly alike. Appropriate selection of descriptive materials and clarity of expression are important. I will be looking specifically for depth of analysis, as opposed to mere repetition of content. (In other words, you are not to copy verbatim entire sections or quotes from textual material.) Use at least two sources per question.

Document each major point (i.e., Corey & Corey, 2006, p. 45) and provide one bibliography at the end of the 20 pages. Use only information from your two texts, current journal articles, or the newest texts from other authors that you may borrow from my office.

1. Discuss why it is important for effective group development to establish appropriate norms early in the group. Provide at least two illustrations from one of your groups.

2. Discuss member’s perception of leader(s) during the three major stages of group development and specific facilitative tasks the leader performs in each phase to refocus the group back on itself. Provide concrete illustrations from your groups for each of the three stages.

3. Discuss specific structuring interventions used by a leader to deal with: (a) a monopolistic member; and ( b) a silent member. Use facilitator illustrations from your groups for each of the two “problem” members.

4. Discuss the effect of subgrouping on the total group process and describe specific leader interventions to work effectively with this phenomenon. [Cite two specific instances from your groups]

5. Discuss differences in facilitator focus between content and process when leading small (counseling or therapy) or large (task or psychoeducation) groups. Provide illustrations of the use of 1) a content and 2) a process focus in the groups with which you were involved (two separate illustrations needed).

6. Discuss relevant ethical considerations in establishing a group in the kind of setting in which you see yourself working. Be as specific as possible.

7. Discuss the concept of structuring, versus the use of structured exercises. Distinguish between the two and provide a rationale for the facilitative use of each. Provide an example of both concepts from your groups.

8. Discuss leader self-disclosure and provide two specific illustrations of situations from one of your groups where this was facilitative (use verbatims or paraphrases, if possible).

9. Discuss issues and therapist interventions related to: (a) member transference to the counselor or therapist; and (b) therapist countertransference to a member. Cite one specific instance from your groups.

10. Discuss the issues of process illumination and consolidation of learning as related to member gain or growth. Provide a separate discussion and a specific illustration from one of your groups for each of these two concepts.


The Master of Science in Counseling Psychology is sequentially arranged and includes an emphasis on principles of experiential learning. Students are expected to participate from both counselor and client perspectives in individual, dyadic, and group exercises. Accordingly, the Counseling Psychology program places a particular value on personal exploration in training and supervision. This philosophy is reiterated in two of the program’s stated objectives. Enrollment in the Program implies student consent to engage in individual and group learning activities of its various courses.

This informed consent is particularly important in the two group courses in the CPSY program since students are expected to be a participant in a weekly experiential group. Numerous authorities in the field contend that being a member of a group is “indispensable” (Corey & Corey, 2006, p. 90) for effective group leadership. Collectively, they agree that leaders are much more successful and helpful if they have experienced the range of emotions and events that are common for members of a group. While some of these may be uncomfortable, they are clearly a necessary component of learning.

The group experience is designed to assist students in encountering and exploring personal issues that may impede their effectiveness as a therapist. In addition to this opportunity for self-exploration, students will be expected to provide feedback to others as well as to receive their perceptions. Members are free to decide what aspects of their personal life they are willing to explore and can, at any time, decline to participate in the discussion. Like the Coreys (p. 91), however, your instructor would like for you to stretch” yourself thereby creating opportunities for you and others to learn.

Your instructor will serve as the facilitator of the small group experience and will take care to insure that the focus of the group is on training for effective leadership. While the process can be therapeutic, it is not meant to substitute for personal psychotherapy, although issues certainly will arise that students may wish to explore in their own counseling. Care will be taken to balance the multiple roles the instructor necessarily must play when teaching a group counseling class. In order to increase objectivity on the part of the leader, every session of the small group experience will be videotaped, and observers will be present at all meetings. A process observer will also be present with those watching the small group meeting. Finally, the grade in the CPSY 660 class will be determined by the quality of work done on the assigned papers, and not on the basis of any content or processes that occur in the small group or observation experience.


It is important for students to remember that they are enrolled in a program designed to train professional counselors. The use of case vignettes, live clients, and student experiences are essential to this process. It is, thus, expected that students will conduct themselves as professionals and maintain the confidentiality of all client or student material generated or presented in any program class. A violation of this ethical requirement of confidentiality will result in faculty review of a student’s progress in the program.


This course requires the attainment of a B- or better grade. The class must be repeated until such grade is achieved.


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