Interaction is one of the remarkable features of group counseling. It is also an important premise and a type of therapy that helps participants to solve certain issues. All groups go through four major stages such as forming, storming, norming, and performing that are characterized by different kinds of interaction (Project Arrive, 2019). A leader should pay close attention to the participants’ progress and transfer from stage to stage, but storming can be seen as the turning point of the group functioning (Lafair, 2010).
This phase is often referred to as exploration as each member explores their role and other participants’ place in the group (Corey, 2015). This paper addresses the peculiarities of the storming stage as applied to the therapeutic group designed for male combat veterans with PTSD.
Leading the Phase
The group leader should be aware of possible pitfalls the participants can come across during this stage and help them cope with these challenges. The leader should acknowledge the way group members can feel and behave during this phase (Corey, 2015). Some participants may be too assertive trying to occupy a leading position in the group, while some group members can be silent and unresponsive. People’s character affects the way they act, but the leader cannot confine their analysis to this area only.
The leader should identify all the behavioral patterns and the reasons for such behaviors that can be a response to such feelings as fear, anger, or anxiety. Combat veterans can be assertive, silent, or resistant due to the peculiarities of their profession, their combat experiences, as well as the overall attitude towards therapy. It can be necessary to emphasize the benefits of counseling and address the myths associated with mental health.
It is essential to address the emerging issues and discuss the roles group members are willing to adopt. Notably, the discussion of roles and the place within the group can take different forms such as a direct dialogue, input into the group discussion, or an activity (for example, game, acting, or drawing). It is critical to make sure that the team member is ready to choose and adopt the role and use the strategies that will be regarded as assistance rather than pressure.
In some cases, participants may try to challenge the leader, so the latter should be ready to respond in an assertive but positive way (Project Arrive, 2019). The attempt to question the leader’s position is often a promising sign as it means that the group members have become more trusting and confident, which makes them ready to pass to another stage. This confidence is important for people with PTSD who are often passive, reluctant to interact, and focused on their memories or issues.
Apart from helping participants to choose their place within the group, the leader should also be ready to respond to confrontations and conflicts that will occur in the group at this stage. Combat veterans with PTSD are likely to be resistant to share emotions and memories. It is necessary to remember that conflicts are inevitable as the stage of storming is associated with the establishment of roles and seeking appropriate behavioral models as well as growing confidence and trust (Corey, 2015). Confrontations should not be avoided as they are a way to achieve consensus and establish trusting relationships within the group. However, the leader is likely to guide the process to avoid negative feelings, defensive positions, and the adverse impact on the development of the group.
Trust is the key to successful group counseling and the success of each participant. As far as people diagnosed with PTSD are concerned, they often lose trust and are reluctant to open up and interact with other people. It is noteworthy that different types of trust must be developed to achieve high results. Members should trust the leader, and there should be trusting relationships among the participants. People will trust the knowledgeable leader, in control of the process, and supportive.
One of the responsibilities of the leader is to facilitate the development of trusting relationships in the group. The creation of a supportive environment is crucial for achieving the necessary level of trust. As mentioned above, the leader should not push but wait until group members are ready to speak, share emotions, and take up certain roles (Corey, 2015). When negative feelings emerge, the leader should listen to the group members and respond in a non-defensive way. The same principles should be accepted and respected by the members of the group.
The level of trust within the group can fluctuate due to various reasons, and this situation is quite common. It is essential to respond to the changes, and when people are becoming less trusting, the leader should identify the reason for the trend and develop a strategy to overcome the issue. When the level of trust is high enough, it is possible to try new activities, new interventions, and passing to another stage of group development. It can be also important to reflect on the activities or situations that led to the establishment of this atmosphere in the group.
During the stage of storming, the leader will perform different roles depending on the goals, situations, and participants’ needs. One of these roles is being a model for the group members, which will be instrumental in creating the necessary environment, setting behavioral standards, and building trust. The leader will show the strategies to handle conflicts and confrontations by acting in a supportive and non-defensive way.
The leader should use verbal and nonverbal communication channels to share views and inflict certain values that will help achieve the goals of the group and participants. It can be necessary to focus on the ability to move forward and be positive and open. The leader can use self-disclosure as a method to encourage group members to be more confident, more willing to share, and less concerned about their past experiences. This role will also help the leader to establish a trust that is essential for the creation of the proper environment.
To sum up, it is possible to state that storming is an important phase of group development characterized by conflicts, confrontations, the search for roles, and developing trust. If the group is not managed properly at this stage, early dropouts and overall dissatisfaction with therapy are most likely. Therefore, the leader should make sure that the environment of trust, confidence, and supportiveness is established. One of the leader’s roles (vital for this stage) is becoming a role model, which will be instrumental in helping group members to identify and occupy their place in the group, become more confident, and be ready to open up. The leader should be able to handle conflicts, confrontations, or negative attitudes, which will ensure the group’s transition to the next stage.
Corey, G. (2015). Theory and practice of group counseling (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Lafair, S. (2010). Storming stage of team conflict. Web.
Project Arrive. (2019). The “STORMING” stage of group mentoring. Web.