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Copyright: 2012 Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors

Welcome to Edition 129 of Institute Inbrief. In this edition we showcase part 2 of our series on group problem-solving strategies. This article explores potential problems that can arise from the Storming and Norming stages of group development.
Also in this edition:
-      Managing Challenging Clients
-      Professional Development news
-      Blog and Twitter updates
-      Upcoming seminar dates
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Group Problem-Solving Strategies, Part 2
Click here to read Part 1 of this series...
The Storming Stage is a time of conflict and anxiety within the group as it moves from primary tension (awkwardness about being in a new and strange situation) to secondary tension (intragroup conflict between members). Each group experiences the storming process differently. Some groups may encounter all the problems associated with this period where others may only experience a few of the related problems. The danger of this stage is that a group’s development may get arrested if the group either dwells on the conflict or ignores it, thus putting at risk the group’s capacity to proceed successfully onto the next stage.
It is therefore imperative that the group therapist help members recognise and deal with their conflict and any anxiety and resistance associated with it (Gladding, 2003). One method used to work through particular forms of problematic intra and interpersonal conflict during the storming stage is to use a process observer.
This is a neutral third party who observes the group and gives feedback on interpersonal and interactive processes. By giving the group feedback, a process observer can help the group become more open in acknowledging and constructively responding to tensions and anxieties that may be present in particular group member relationships (Gladding, 2003).
Another way of working through the storming stage is to use the process of levelling in which members are encouraged to interact feely and evenly. In levelling, the group therapist draws out group members who are not participating and those who are excessively active and helps them to understand the impact of their behaviour through feedback. By having everyone in the group interact, issues that have the potential to facilitate conflict may surface and be resolved sooner.
For example, if the therapist notices that a particular group member always makes a negative comment after each member voices a concern, they may intervene by saying “do you realise how your active participation in the group affects other member’s alibility to get involved?”. The therapist can also encourage other group members to help that group member come to an understanding how their actions are preventing others from getting involved in the group.
For the inactive group member a therapist may use a different strategy whereby they may choose to offer an invitation to the “not so speaking” group member by saying “what is on your mind? You look to be a bit puzzled or concerned over what was said. Is that correct?”
Another method of working through storming is to get feedback from the members about how they are doing and what they think needs to be done. The feedback process can be either formal or informal. Using informal feedback the group therapist may ask members to give their reactions to a group session in an unstructured way at any time they wish to do so. Such an invitation is more likely to increase spontaneity and sensitivity (Gladding, 2003).
Formal feedback on the other hand is structured. The therapist adopts a more structured way in which members provide feedback. This includes the use of rounds and logs or journal. Rounds involve the therapist having each person in the group make a comment .Each individual has the same amount of time to say what they want to say without being interrupted by others.
The use of time specific rounds gives every group member the opportunity for their views to be heard. Logs or journals involve members writing comments about every group session. This may include documenting the entire group experience. Logs are ideally read by the therapist between group sessions and provides feedback to group members and the group as a whole about specific and general comments
Group norms serve to regulate the performance of a group as an organised unit by helping to keep it on the course of its objectives. The process of norming is often characterised by enthusiasm and cooperation by group members. Norming can be promoted through actions by either the group therapist or the group members. Some of the relational aspects between group members that should be promoted as norms include the following:
1.     Supporting
2.     Empathising
3.     Facilitating
4.     Self Disclosing
1. Supporting
Supporting is the act of encouraging others. The aim of supporting is to convey to individuals that they are adequate, capable and trustworthy. It is through supporting that group members feel affirmed and as such are able to risk new behaviours because they feel safe and sense backing from the group. Giving a sense of support promotes group cohesion and unity allowing group members to potentially achieve their desired therapeutic outcomes.
2. Empathising
During the norming stage of group development, expressing empathy takes on special significance. Empathising refers to “putting oneself in another’s place in regard to subjective perception and emotion while keeping one’s objectivity (Gladding, 2003). It demands a suspension and a response to another person that conveys sensitivity and understanding.
To show empathy, the therapist must encourage group members to listen to both the verbal and non verbal messages of others in the group in order for them to be responsive. For example: a member that says to the other “it seems to me that you are very sad. Your voice is low and you can hardly lift your head up” reflects an understanding of another’s mood and opens up potential for dialogue and avenues for problem solving. It also demonstrates the broader group’s empathy and support.
3. Facilitating
The act of facilitating involves the process of making sure clear and direct communication channels are used between individuals. Facilitation, while assumed to be a major responsibility of the group therapist, is also something all group members should aim to encourage and uphold as a norm. An example of facilitating clear and direct channels of communication is seen in the following dialogue a group therapist may have with a group member, “when Tom said that he was glad you had resolved your differences, you looked a bit confused. I wonder what you were thinking.”
This creates an opportunity for the two concerned members to voice their concerns and resolve whatever issues they may be experiencing. By doing this, the group therapist facilitates a conversation between the two concerned group members to ensure both members feel connected so that any underlying problems do not arise later to the detriment of the group as a whole (Gladding, 2003).
4. Self Disclosure
Self Disclosure is one of the strongest signs of trust and is enhanced when members feel safe. Self disclosure involves revealing to group members personal information that they were previously unaware of. It is through self disclosure that barriers between group members are dismantled.
The group may model self disclosure to show which material should be revealed and how. It is best to disclose material that is related to the individual experience within the group. Disclosure creates stronger bonds between members preparing them for the next stage of group development.
Stay tuned for the third and final article in this series, which explores a range of problems that can arise from the action-packed Performing stage of group development.
-       Gladding. G.T. (2003) Group Work: A Counselling Speciality (4th ed).New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
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The Institute has a list of recommended textbooks and DVDs which can add great value to your learning journey - and the good news is that you can purchase them very easily. The AIPC bookstore will give YOU:
-      Discounted prices!
-      Easy ordering method!
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This fortnight's feature is...
Name: Group: A Counselling Specialty, 5th edition
Author: Gladding, Samuel
AIPC Price: $88.20
ISBN: 978-0136-1735958
This book examines essential skills required to be an effective worker with groups in multiple settings.
To order this book, simply contact your nearest Student Support Centre or the AIPC Head Office (1800 657 667).
Managing Challenging Clients
Within a counselling environment, the need may arise for a counsellor to work with clients who appear resistant to change or unhappy with external assistance. Some clients, who are attending counselling due to a mandated requirement, may resent the fact that they feel coerced into attending. Such clients may cite benefits such as meeting parole conditions or court orders as their only motivation for attendance.
Consequently, many individuals can view a counsellor’s involvement in this process as an imposition of their rights and they take the view that what is happening to them is in some way the counsellor’s fault.
Similar to any interpersonal transaction, an individual’s behaviour can become challenging when they feel threatened, undervalued, judged, or simply if the counsellor they are dealing with appear to have differing goals or desired outcomes than they have for themselves (Roes, 2002).
Click here to continue reading this article...
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Short Course Resource Developer
AIPC requires a full time Short Course Resource Developer to write learning materials for a short course on bullying for use by schools. This is a temporary appointment of 3 months.
The structure for the course has already been developed and the Short Course Resource Developer will:
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Have you visited Counselling Connection, the Institute's Blog yet? We continually publish new and interesting posts including case studies, profiles, success stories and much more. Make sure you too get connected (and thank you for those who have already submitted comments and suggestions).
Goal Orientations Theory of Motivation
Goal orientations are cognitive representations of the general type of goal an individual will tend to pursue. Goal orientations are dynamic and subject to change as information pertaining to one’s performance on the task is processed. While an individual can hold a number of goal orientations that govern their reasons for engaging in an activity, research has primarily focused on two types of goals namely, task oriented goals and ego oriented goals. 
Click here to continue reading this post...
Intimacy and Sex
For many couples, ‘making love’ involves a sense of intimacy and emotional closeness. An intimate sexual relationship involves trust and being vulnerable with each other. Closeness during sex is also linked to other forms of intimacy.
It is important to share a whole range of emotions with a partner, otherwise some people begin to feel lonely and isolated regardless of how good their sexual experiences may be. Explore ways to share love and affection without sex. Often, the more a couple is intimate with each other in ways other than sex, the more fulfilling their sex life becomes.
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"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 
~ Harold R. McAlindon
Many students of the Diploma of Counselling attend seminars to complete the practical requirements of their course. Seminars provide an ideal opportunity to network with other students and liaise with qualified counselling professionals in conjunction with completing compulsory coursework.
Below are some of the seminars available for the remainder of 2010. To register for a seminar, please contact your Student Support Centre. To access the full list, visit:
Diploma of Counselling (CDA) Timetable
Northern Territory
The Counselling Process: 12/12
Case Management: 18 & 19/12
South Australia
Communication Skills I: 04/12
Communication Skills II: 05/12
Communication Skills I: 11/12
Communication Skills II: 16/12
Counselling Therapies II: 01 & 02/12
Legal & Ethical Frameworks: 09/12
Case Management: 06 & 07/12
Western Australia
Legal & Ethical Frameworks: 18/12
Family Therapy: 19/12
Case Management: 11 & 12/12
Communication Skills II: 05/12
Counselling Therapies I: 11 & 12/12
Counselling Therapies II: 18 & 19/12
The Counselling Process: 19/12
Communication Skills II: 04/12
Counselling Therapies I: 11 & 12/12
Sunshine Coast
The Counselling Process: 04/12
Family Therapy: 20/12
Case Management: 20/12
Gold Coast
Legal & Ethical Frameworks: 10/12
Diploma of Professional Counselling (DPCD) Timetable
Northern Territory
Communication Skills I: 11/12
Case Management: 04 & 05/12
South Australia
Communication Skills I: 04/12
Communication Skills II: 05/12
Communication Skills I: 11/12
Communication Skills II: 16/12
The Counselling Process: 16/12
Counselling Therapies II: 01 & 02/12
Case Management: 06 & 07/12
Western Australia
Case Management: 11 & 12/12
Communication Skills I: 04/12
Counselling Therapies II: 11 & 12/12
Communication Skills II: 05/12
Counselling Therapies I: 11 & 12/12
Communication Skills II: 04/12
Counselling Therapies I: 11 & 12/12
Advanced Counselling Techniques: 05/12
Sunshine Coast
The Counselling Process: 04/12
Counselling Applications: 11/12
Important Note: Advertising of the dates above does not guarantee availability of places in the seminar. Please check availability with the respective Student Support Centre.
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