In an effective functioning group, the members are striving to carry what they are learning in a session into their everyday lives. They do this by formulating plans to practice between sessions, by making a commitment to do homework assignments and by practicing a variety of new behaviors outside of the group. Perhaps the two most important phases of a group are its beginning and its end. The beginning because that is where the tone of the group is set; the end because that is where learning is consolidated and action plans are typically formulated. (pg 164) There are some tasks to be carried out during the closing session! (ending a group)
* Members are encouraged to complete any ‘unfinished businesses’ they may have with other group members or the leader. * Members are taught how to carry with them what they’ve learned and esp. how to talk to significant people in their lives. * Members are assisted in making specific plans for change and in taking concrete steps to put the lessons learnt into effect in their daily lives. * Leaders help members discover ways of creating their own support systems after they leave the group. * Specific plans for follow-up and evaluation are made.
NB. The more behavioral approaches like; transactional analysis, behavioral group therapy, RE behavior therapy and reality therapy – place primary emphasis on the above mentioned tasks. This owing to the belief that, members ought to consolidate their learning, practice homework assignments and develop a specific action plan, if they expect to make significant changes in their lives.
Time is limited in a group counseling session. The leader therefore, constantly remains aware of that and teaches participants how to best use the time available to them. Leaders also need to train members on how to pace themselves so that they do not wait until the end of the session to introduce work that cannot be addressed in the short time remaining.
Good Practice to Carry Out When Ending a Session:
I. Asking Members to Sum up! The leader may allow about 10min at the end of a session for members to summarize what the session has meant to them individually. Some questions that may be asked to help members consolidate their learning include; a) Could you briefly summarize what the session has meant for you? b) What steps towards your goal are you willing to take between now and our next session to make changes in your life? c) Was there anything unfinished for you today that you would like to continue in our next meeting? d) What was the most important thing that you experienced during this meeting? e) What touched you most in other people’s work today? f) What did you learn about yourself? g) Did you get what you wanted from this session? (what in specific?) Questions like these assist members in identifying specific behaviors they must want to change, both in the group and in daily life. They also reinforce their commitment to make changes.
II. Dealing with Unfinished Work! In the case that some work in a session isn’t going to be finished before the group ends, the leader can help bring a sense of closure simply by acknowledging those incomplete explorations or feelings that are left unspoken. This he can do by simply asking the client to differ the discussion until the next session. For example, “Since we’re running out of time today, would you be willing to reflect on it a bit between now and the next meeting, maybe do some writing, and bring it up again then!” #Activity during this time# Psychodrama:
There is a procedure for closing a group session in Psychodrama that increases the chances that members will be able to identify and deal with unfinished business. Psychodrama emphasizes allowing enough time for the sharing and discussion phase for each session. #Sharing which comes first, consists of nonjudgmental statements about oneself. Then after the personal sharing, time is allotted for a discussion of the group process. Members who have engaged in a role-playing enactment are invited to share their reactions to those roles. Others are asked to tell members who participated in a psychodrama enactment how they were personally affected by the work and what they learned from it.
III. Arrange Homework Assignments! Having members announce Homework assignments or some means of carrying further the work they have done in a session, and then report on the same, at the beginning of the next session is a closing technique – it also links the ending session to the next. Homework can be deviced by members themselves or the leader. Keeping in line with behavioral approach, it is important for leaders to teach members that; “the crucial change is the one that takes place in the real world.” And this is where homework comes in handy. The main point is that insight alone rarely results in behavioral change. [‘Insight needs to be translated into action for change to occur’ – premise of the Adlerian Perspective.]pg. 168.
IV. Making Your Own Comments and Assesments! Leaders may form a practice of giving their reactions, a group process commentary or a summary of the meeting towards the end of the session. Leaders might comment on;
* The cohesion of the group * The degree to which members freely brought up topics for work * The willingness to take risks and talk about unsafe topics * The degree to which they interacted with one another (as opposed to speaking only directly to and through the leader) * Their willingness to discuss difficult concerns
Leaders might use write up notes about each session during the week and use those comments at the beginning of the next session as a catalyst for linking the sessions! Another way to close session is to set apart the last 5min for members to fill out brief rating/assessment sheets. The ratings can be tallied in a few minutes and the results presented at the beginning of the next session. A rating scale of 1-5 can be used. Questions that can be asked include;
a) To what degree were you involved in this session? b) To what degree were you willing to take risks in the group? c) To what degree did you trust other members in the group? d) To what degree has today’s session stimulated you to think about your problems, your life situation, or possible decisions you might want to make? e) To what degree were you willing to share what you were feeling and thinking in the session today? f) To what extent are you willing to actively practice some new behavior this week? g) To what degree did you prepare yourself or think about this session before you came today? h) To what degree are you willing to non-defensively take the feedback you receive and consider it carefully? i) To what degree did you see the group as productive today?