Facilitating Open-Ended Groups
Counselor Toolbox

00:00 / 45:19

Open-Ended Groups
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counselor Education
Host: Counselor Toolbox Podcast
~ Define closed, open and single-session groups
~ Explore the benefits and challenges for each
~ Identify the developmental phases for open groups
~ Discuss necessary skills for managing open-ended groups

~ Closed groups are those which begin with a group of people and do not add anyone else (i.e. a 12 week anxiety management group)
~ Single session groups are stand-alone groups in which participants are not expected to return (i.e. A 4 hour grief workshop)
~ Open groups are those which do not have a set number of sessions and participants regularly rotate in and out.
Closed Group
~ Participants all begin at the same time and learn the same material
~ When all begin together, the developmental process occurs in a predictable way: Forming, storming, norming and performing (Tuckman 1965)
~ Participants form more intimate bonds

~ As people leave, there is no replacement
~ There is often a waiting period for people to get into groups which is not ideal for emergent issues.
~ When people drop out, they usually cannot return

Single Session Group
~ Uses a brief intervention model during a longer session.
~ Available like a “menu”
~ Does not require the participant to return another day

~ Requires the full development of the group in one session
~ Does not typically help participants translate knowledge into practice
~ Typically more psychoeducational in nature
Open Ended Groups
~ Available on-demand for emergent concerns
~ Meets the guidelines for co-occurring disorder treatment of episodic care
~ Provides a gentle transition back into care
~ A certain amount of forming and norming happens each time a new member arrives or rejoins
~ It is harder to develop a deep level of trust with client rotations
~ Requires clinicians to be highly structured, able to foster cohesion between old and new members and
~ Facilitators must be able to develop a clear and specific purpose
~ Facilitators must thoroughly research expected needs to be able to facilitate “on the fly”
Forming in an Open Ended Group
~ Facilitator Planning
~ Divide the topic into stand-alone groups
~ Someone who was not there last week should still be able to benefit this week.
~ Consider a cyclic rotation (every 8-16 sessions w/new information )

Forming in an Open Ended Group
~ Pre-group orientation
~ Explain the expectations and the rules for group
~ Attendance and how to withdraw
~ Participation
~ Reasons for discharge
~ Review what will be covered in group (weekly schedule)
~ Provide introductory information (handouts, videos)
~ Develop personal goals for group
~ Before group starts
~ Buddy up the new member with an existing member
Forming in An Open Ended Group
~ The first (or only) session
~ Goals: Create cohesion, provide a useful nugget
~ New people introduce themselves and identify what they hope to get out of group (5-10 minutes)
~ Have current members share if they have similar goals
~ Tom: I am just so tired of being tired and depressed all the time. I want to find a way to get some pleasure back.
~ Jim Responds: I hear you. When I joined the group life almost didn’t seem worth living, but each week I learn more about the reasons I feel this way and small changes that have made a big difference.
~ Go around the group and have members share how they are doing, one way they dealt with their [issue] since the last group and one challenge they have experienced (if any) (10 minutes)
Storming in An Open Ended Group
~ Existing members typically take a facilitative lead to help empower new members to take full advantage in the group
~ Facilitators need to ensure one person does not dominate the group
Norming in An Open Ended Group
~ The first (or only) session
~ Present the topic for the day and link it to people’s tools and challenges
~ Challenges: Anhedonia, hypersomnia, no motivation
~ Group Topic: Distress Tolerance (10 minutes)
~ Review how dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine are impacted by stress and can impact ability to feel pleasure, libido, sleep, appetite and motivation (ad lib)

Performing in An Open Ended Group
~ The first (or only) session
~ Group Topic: Distress Tolerance
~ Provide handouts on distress tolerance techniques
~ Teach each technique using multisensory approaches (20 minutes)
~ Have participants discuss (30 minutes)
~ How the new technique or information could have helped them address their challenge from the past week (anhedonia, motivation, hypersomnia)
~ How they can foresee remembering and using it in the upcoming week
~ How it will help them achieve their overall goal for group
Other Ways of Organizing Groups
~ By Symptoms
~ By Book Chapters (usu. self-help books)
~ Toxic Parents
~ Surviving the Borderline Parent
~ Self-Esteem
~ Grieving: A Beginners Guide
~ By Current Events
~ Other…

Sample Grief Group
~ The Impact of Grief and Trauma: What to Expect and How It Makes Sense (Behavioral, Emotional, Physical, Interpersonal, Cognitive, Spiritual)
~ Getting Support (LUV) from Others and Yourself: Listening, Understanding & Validating
~ Highlighting Resilience
~ Making Meaning
~ Transforming Crisis Into Opportunity
~ Managing Emotions: Promoting Feelings of Resolve and Competence
~ Envisioning Possibilities: Creative Coping
~ Taking Action
Based in part on Crisis Intervention: Promoting Resilience and Resolution in Troubled Times by Lennis Echterling et. Al.

Multisensory Techniques

~ Whiteboard
~ Graphs/ Drawings
~ Handouts
~ Worksheets
~ Analogy examples
~ Art therapy
~ Note taking
Other Adult Learning Tips
~ Ensure participants see how the group benefits them
~ Make it relevant to their lives
~ Use culturally appropriate examples
~ Take 2-3 minute thinking breaks every 10-15 minutes
~ Open-ended groups are the norm in most agencies
~ The biggest challenges with open ended groups are:
~ Structuring sessions so prior knowledge is not necessary participants have access to all the information.
~ Facilitating progression beyond superficial awareness
~ Developing cohesion among members
~ Tying participants’ current challenges to the planned topic
~ The biggest benefits are:
~ Episodic flexibility
~ Rapid admission
~ New perspectives

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.