Exploring-Storming Phase of Group Process


The commonly used framework of the group process, which, for example, is presented by Pessagno (2013), includes the storming (or exploring) stage as its second element. This stage (or phase) is difficult to navigate since it refers to the uncertainty period that is characterized by members experiencing conflicts in the process of exploring their relationships and positions within the group and discovering each other’s differences (Lafair, 2010; Project Arrive, 2019).

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The stage is an opportunity for progress that presupposes building cohesion and trust while helping the members in developing effective communication patterns (Project Arrive, 2019). Storming is extremely important for a group’s success, and even short-term groups are evidenced to go through it (Coco, Gullo Fratello, Giordano, & Kivlighan, 2016). Therefore, a brief cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) group for patients with mild-to-moderate depression will also need to have plans for it. Here, a discussion of the methods that will be employed by this group’s leader will be offered. The leader will guide the group through this stage and use it to build trust with the help of several critical tools and activities.

Leading This Phase

As pointed out by Lafair (2010), the aim of a leader throughout storming is to move the group past it, which is necessary for the next stages to take place and enable progress. Ideally, the phase should be completed within the first couple of sessions, and its outcomes are supposed to include increased cohesion and trust in the group. The activities of this stage are meant to become more advanced in terms of intensity, which may result in greater conflicts as the members learn more about each other (Mills & McBride, 2016; Project Arrive, 2019). The exercises that a leader can introduce during this stage are likely to incorporate team-building elements (Project Arrive, 2019).

Naturally, the leader needs to be supportive of individual members as well. The feeling of being supported and safe is essential for their progress (Coco et al., 2016), and the roots of the conflict of the storming phase are often connected to the participants’ need to express themselves and their individuality within the group (Project Arrive, 2019). However, this stage is predominantly concerned with the interactions within the group, which defines the leader’s focus throughout it.

The more specific activities, which can be used to lead this stage, incorporate conflict management, the facilitation of communication, the encouragement of positive behaviors, and the discouragement of negative ones (Project Arrive, 2019). In this context, positive behaviors are the ones that enable the functioning of the group, including, for example, respect and openness toward different perspectives. Negative behaviors might involve aggressiveness, disrespect, or withdrawal from the discussion. Furthermore, the leader needs to pass their communication-related skills and knowledge to the members (Corey, 2009; Mills & McBride, 2016; Project Arrive, 2019).

Some of the key assets include the ability to express one’s position assertively and to listen respectfully and carefully. This way, the leader will be able to help the members figure out their relationships within the group.

It should be mentioned that the leader is expected to allow the group some autonomy. It is reasonable to let the group handle a conflict that they appear to be managing well and to encourage individual members to guide the process if they demonstrate the ability to do so. Project Arrive (2019) also recommends instructing members to share their skills and teach other participants. This perspective is in line with the CBT focus on observation within the group; CBT members are examples to follow to the same extent as the group leader is (Corey, 2009).

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Therefore, this approach is also aligned with the proposed group’s methods, and it will allow the leader to demonstrate their trust in the members’ ability to resolve their problems and conflicts. To summarize, while the role of the leader of the proposed group is crucial, this leader remains a facilitator and guide who empowers the participants and respects their autonomy, thus leading them through the storming stage.

Facilitating Trust

The building of trust and positive relationships is the desired outcome of the storming stage. A crucial aspect of the process is the establishment of a safe environment (Mills & McBride, 2016). To be more precise, it is necessary to identify and emphasize negative patterns (for example, hostility and passive aggression) and conflicts and manage them with communication (Corey, 2009; Mills & McBride, 2016). The process of addressing such patterns needs to be respectful, and the leader should lead by example while instructing members to remain respectful toward each other as well (Mills & McBride, 2016). In general, the leader’s ability to demonstrate positive behaviors is crucial.

Finally, the process of establishing and facilitating open communication will assist in developing trust (Corey, 2009). The participants becoming less conflict-prone, more respectful, and more attentive to each other, as well as the group growing more cohesive, may indicate that the trust has been or is in the process of being established (Project Arrive, 2019). Thus, to build trust, the proposed group’s leader needs to keep the environment safe, remain sincere and honest, and facilitate communication.

Approaching the Role

The role of the leader throughout the storming stage is that of a communication facilitator, which will be predominantly expressed through conflict management and communication skill promotion. For the currently proposed group, the following recommendations on approaching and implementing the role are made. First, the leader has to lead by example; when encouraging respectful attitudes or openness to different perspectives, the leader needs to demonstrate these behaviors. This approach will help the participants to trust the leader as well.

Furthermore, there are multiple tools that a leader can use to facilitate communication; their application will help in implementing the leader’s role. Self-reflection is one of the tools (Mills & McBride, 2016); the ability of a leader to reflect on their personal experiences and emotions is necessary for conflict management. Another tool is knowledge; for example, the understanding of the specifics of storming will help to recognize it and address its difficulties (Mills & McBride, 2016).

The awareness of diversity and diversity-related conflicts is also important (Corey, 2009). In addition, the leader will need to employ the interpersonal and analytical skills that are required for managing conflicts (Project Arrive, 2019). Finally, the rules of the group are also a tool, and the leader needs to be sufficiently firm and assertive in ensuring that they are followed, especially the ones that are related to respect and civility. Thus, to approach the role of communication facilitator, the leader needs to consider the available tools and employ them to implement this role successfully.


The storming or exploration phase of the described group is anticipated as a challenging period, during which the role of the leader will become particularly crucial. The leader will be expected to demonstrate the knowledge and skills that are necessary to help the members explore their relationships within the group. Furthermore, the leader will initiate team-building activities and teach the participants the basics of effective communication. The building of trust through the maintenance of open communication and a safe environment will be a requirement for the stage to be completed successfully.

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Coco, G., Gullo, S., Fratello, C., Giordano, C., & Kivlighan, D. (2016). Group relationships in early and late sessions and improvement in interpersonal problems. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(4), 419-428. Web.

Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of group counseling (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Lafair, S. (2010). Storming stage of team conflict (2:43 minutes) [Video file]. Web.

Mills, B., & McBride, D. L. (2016). What is group process? Integrating process work into psychoeducational groups. Georgia School Counselors Association Journal, 23, 16-24. Web.

Pessagno, R. (2013). Group therapy. In K. Wheeler (Ed.), Psychotherapy for the Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse (pp. 407-420). New York, NY: Springer.

Project Arrive. (2019). The “STORMING” stage of group mentoring. Web.

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