ABSTRACT

I have chosen to devote an entire chapter to group facilitation in this book because most mental health professionals who work with high-risk adolescents (especially in public agencies) facilitate groups in some form, be they skills groups, substance abuse groups, anger management, and so forth. Because the process and structure of group facilitation takes priority when working with this population, I will not cover specific curricula but rather review the conditions in which an optimal group experience can occur. Therefore, the focus of this chapter will be on the process of developing and maintaining a receptive learning environment in which successful treatment may occur. A “successful group” with high-risk adolescents will look substantially different from a group composed of adults seeking group therapy. Adolescents may be more reluctant to engage in self-disclosure, and it may take longer for the group to become cohesive. Because of this, the role of the facilitator is amplified. The facilitator has the potential to influence a receptive learning environment that can, in turn, contribute to a trusting atmosphere, authenticity, self-disclosure, and overall group cohesion (i.e., a “successful group”). Once this context is provided, any manual-based curriculum or process group will be more effective with high-risk adolescents. The way in which a facilitator can influence the receptivity of the group includes (1) his or her personal qualities as a facilitator, (2) skillful logistical decisions, and (3) skillful process decisions.