Theoretical Approaches to Group Counseling: Group Psychology

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Group Psychology: Theoretical Approaches to Group Counseling

Case Vignette 2: Phil, the Japanese-American

Phil, a Japanese-American expresses his discomfort and anxiety during the second meeting of his group. A keen listener, he is having difficulty speaking up whenever he is required to, and he is contemplating leaving because he understands that all members are required to participate. Moreover, he fears rejection so he prefers to sit back and watch during the group meetings. To prevent them from leaving, some group members plead with him to give them a second chance; some ask him not to quit and challenge him to prove he is not a coward; while others resort to pressuring him to remain in the group.

Interventions for those attempting to coerce Phil to remain in the group

Every individual works as part of team or in a group at some point in life and therefore, it is imperative to understand how group dynamics influence group work and group outcomes. By definition, group dynamics refer to the processes that are involved when members of a particular group interact with each other - and according to Weimels (2014), poor group dynamics undermine productivity, lead to poor decision making and unsuccessful outcomes, and damage the participants' morale. Toseland and Rivas (2005) also state that groups should develop dynamics that satisfy members' socio-emotional needs, and at the same time facilitate accomplishment of group tasks.

In group counseling, members are encouraged to talk about their problems openly in order to find solutions. The action of trying to coerce Phil to remain in the group is one example of poor group dynamics, and it may eventually affect the performance of the entire team. Instead of trying to establish the main cause of Phil's discomfort, or evaluate actions that may be contributing to his anxiety, they resort to pressure so as to convince him to remain in the group. However, there are interventions that can be used to correct this behavior and identify the root of Phil's discomfort and anxiety. These include:

a) Explaining the importance of cultural diversity

Toseland and Rivas (2005) explain that multicultural differences have a significant impact on the social integration of members. Silence is a significant aspect of communication in the Japanese culture. Consequently, as a Japanese-American, Phil is more of an active listener and this could be the reason for his alienation from the group. The members need to understand the importance of each member's culture and beliefs, and establish ways of integrating them into the daily sessions. They should also embrace values that celebrate and transcend individual differences. This will give members like Phil a sense of belonging and they will be less inclined to leave.

b) Effective communication

Group members should understand how effective communication can address members' problems. Toseland and Rivas (2005) explain that each member of a group contributes a unique set of values, which are blended through interactions and group communication. For instance, dialogue will encourage Phil to voice his opinion and allow other members to give their feedback. Instead of coercion, proper communication will create an atmosphere of acceptance and trust, and encourage members to support each other.

c) Promoting better group culture

According to Toseland and Rivas (2005), group culture emanates from values, customs, traditions and beliefs that are held in common by members of a group. They further explain that after a culture has been developed, the members who share in the culture feel at home while those who do not may feel alienated and isolated. It is evident that Phil does not share in his group's culture. The group, therefore, needs to provide individual attention to Phil and address his concerns. It should also integrate all the members into the life of the group, foster full participation and discourage intimidation or coercion of members who may want to leave.

What might you want to ask Phil or say to him?

It is important to engage Phil in some sort of dialogue in order to understand the source of his discomfort and anxiety. I would allow him to express his opinion about the group's culture, group members, and the group counselor. Once the problem has been established, Phil should explain what he thinks needs to change to prevent him from leaving. If his behavior and attitude is also part of the problem, he should be told how to change in order to interact better with the other members of the group.

Ethical issues involved when group members pressure one another

The main aim of group counseling is to assist members in problem solving and growth. Berg, Landreth and Fall (2013) explain that group counselors should protect the rights of members against coercion, undue pressure, intimidation, and threats in every possible way. It is, therefore, unethical for the counselor to allow members to intimidate and coerce other members particularly because it will foster a hostile environment and discourage participation. Berg, Landreth, and Fall (2013) also explain that members have a right to discontinue membership from a group at a designated time if the sessions are unsatisfactory. This implies that it is unethical to prevent Phil from leaving the group if he feels he no longer benefits from it. When group members pressure one another, they can easily violate the right to privacy and confidentiality. Moreover, it may promote discrimination, where certain members eventually become alienated due to their culture, race, gender, religion or age.

Case Vignette 3: Rose, the Hispanic-American


Rose rarely talks in her group. Other members have expressed concerns about her silence, and Rose responds that she is more of a listener and that she prefers to talk only when she has something to say. She asserts that even though she is interested in group activities, she does not want to talk just so that other may hear her voice.

Introversion in group counseling sessions

Introverts are often preoccupied with their own feelings and thoughts, and they tend to talk less and minimize contact with other people (Weimels, 2014). Likewise, in group sessions, some members are painfully shy, some are introverts, while others choose their moments to speak carefully or take considerably longer before they speak aloud. Majority of group counseling sessions are designed for extroverts, making introverts feel drained and out of place. Rose fits the description of an introvert particularly because she rarely says much and she feels as if the group expects more from her than she is willing to give. It is, therefore, imperative to facilitate introversion or incorporate introverted processes into group counseling sessions.

Things to say to Rose

Rose needs to understand that her silence affects the entire group. Moreover, I would explain that it is not that the group expects too much from her; rather, the members require her to speak up because it is the only way they can understand her problem and help her come up with effective solutions. Toseland and Rivas (2005) explain that in group sessions, all forms of communication convey a message. For instance, silence can communicate lack of interest, sorrow, anger, and thoughtfulness. I would tell Rose that she should not only speak up when she feels she has something important to say because the entire group is supportive and will not judge or mock any member's feedback. Being more of a listener, Rose is an important member of the group because she will notice things and make connections that most extroverts miss. Therefore, I will encourage her to explain some of the things she has observed and to tell me what she thinks needs to be done to make her feel more comfortable.

How Rose can control the group through her silence

a) Set boundaries

To control the group, Rose needs to set boundaries. She should explain to the members the level of pressure she cannot withstand, and facilitate a structure that allows her to participate within her nature and in alignment with what works to support her.

b) Asking questions

Introverts are generally more observant and better listeners. Rose has also confessed that she is more of a listener than one to speak up. Therefore, she can control the group by asking questions based on what she observes. This will encourage reflection, which will facilitate discussions and lead to better problem solving and decision making.

c) Writing and non-verbal expression

Rose can choose to communicate in ways other than talking. She can use writings and illustrations, role playing or even make use of art or drawings. Non-verbal expressions will pass her message across and reduce her discomfort significantly. She can also participate in online forums to express her views on the topics being discussed.

d) Stepping out of her comfort zone

To control her group, Rose needs to step out of her comfort zone every once in a while. The group will respect her more if she tries to speak out, even when she does not feel it is necessary, in order to support fellow members and improve the overall performance of the group.…

Sources Used in Document:


Berg, R.C., Landreth, G.L. & Fall, K.A. (2013). Group Counseling: Concepts and Procedures. (5th Ed.) New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Corey, G. (2013). Case Approach to Counseling and Psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning

Toseland, R.W. & Rivas, R.F. (2005). An Introduction to Group Work Practice. Pearson. Retrieved 14 July 2015 from

Weimels, L. (2014). Group Dynamics: How to Successfully Work in Groups. Retrieved 15 July 2015 from

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