Group psychotherapy as a significant tool in psychological issues treatment is of great use for patients of diverse age ranges and mental health characteristics. When applied to children and adolescents, group therapy involves tools and measures to enhance the effectiveness of work with the issues specific problems minors might experience. This paper will address how a group leader might facilitate the treatment for children, the identification of a focus of group work, and the similarities and differences between group work for children and adults. The psychotherapy in a group requires interactive activities, playful attitudes, encouraging, and educational interventions to meet the particularities of human development at a young age.
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Facilitating the Group for Children
The organization of group work for minors requires specific approaches concerning the psychological and biological particularities of human development at different stages. Choosing a closed homogenous group with the participants within the same age range would amplify the efficacy of the psychotherapeutic group. According to Corey (2015), effective group counseling is based on the ability of a therapist to create a friendly, trusting, and stable environment to ensure each patient’s safety and confidence throughout the treatment process.
This idea is especially applicable to group therapy for children and adolescents who need extra encouragement in participation in group activities (Steen & Bauman, 2018). It is essential to minimize the stresses that children are exposed to in their everyday life and create a non-traditional therapeutic setting that would be interesting and stimulating for the minors (MacLennan, 2000). The approach that minimizes mere discussions and applies interactive practices would be the most effective with a group of children.
The particular features of human development at the stage of childhood should be a central point for a therapist’s activities choice. Children at a young age are exposed to the challenges of self-learning, understanding responsibility, and dealing with their feelings and emotions. Thus, a therapist might meet each participant before the first session and have individual conversations to clarify the expectations and common rules (Steen & Bauman, 2018). The expression of feelings is a core of therapy for this age range; however, a group leader needs to be “reflective but not directive” when coordinating the participants (Reid & Kolvin, 1993, p. 244).
Playing games and initiating activities of an interactive and entertaining character would enhance children’s inclusion and will lead to the overall positive therapeutic effect. Despite the playful nature of therapeutic interventions, they still should aim at patients’ relationship establishment by recognizing other members of a group as individuals with their issues and identities (Reid & Kolvin, 1993). Such an attitude will ensure interpersonal learning that is vital for psychological treatment in a group.
Focus Identification for the Group
When choosing the theme of therapy with children, it is essential to identify the approach and the relevance of the issues to the specific features of the age range group. For my work with a therapy group for children, I would use a psychodynamic approach as the one that helps children in their “deeper understanding of their behavior” (Reid & Kolvin, 1993, p. 244). The choice of focus for group work for children is caused by the relevant issues the individuals of this age range might experience. It would be appropriate to concentrate on the work with children whose parents are going through a divorce as the leading theme in psychotherapy with children aged 8-11 (Scheidlinger, 2004). This problem is a wide-spread one and complicated from the psychological point of view.
According to MacLennan (2000), the statistic says that “one in two marriages will fail and many parents will remarry creating complicated reconstituted families” (p. 69). Such family restructuring might cause diverse problems in communication between children and parents, role confusion from a child’s side, and anxiety or anger that might be experienced by a child during and after a divorce. The issues that remain unresolved at this stage and under such circumstances in the life of a young person might cause multiple adverse consequences resulting in school drop-out, substance abuse, or criminal activity. Thus, it is one of the vital issues that need to be addressed in group psychotherapy to ensure child welfare and safe development to learn skills for dealing with obstacles and feelings.
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Similarities and Differences between the Groups for Children and Adults
The group work with children and adults have multiple differences due to the diversity in the issues specific to the age and activities these individuals are involved in. On the one hand, children need therapy of a more educational character because they lack knowledge and skills not only in dealing with their feelings but also in understanding their nature. On the other hand, adults do not need an explicitly educational approach due to their richer life experience.
Time is another issue that is different in children’s and adults’ group work. It is less time-consuming to lead sessions with the patients who realize the need for the interventions and do the activities voluntarily, which is possibly in the adult group. However, when working with children, a therapist has to spend time encouraging and make an effort involving children in the activities.
The duration of sessions is different due to the specific features of human development at different ages. Children are more exposed to being tired and lose concentration while adults might remain attentive for a more extended period. Thus, the recommended duration of therapy meetings for children could be approximately one hour, and for adults, the time of a session could be extended to an hour and a half or so (Reid & Kolvin, 1993, p. 247).
Also, adults show effective results in treatment that is conducted with the help of extensive discussions, when “young children could reveal themselves better in play and activity than in discussion” (Reid & Kolvin, 1993, p. 244). Thus, many particularities need to be met when identifying the age range for the participants in a group.
Despite many differences, there are some similar features including the overall aim of dealing with emotions and feelings. To succeed at this task, a therapist might apply similar approaches, for example, a psychodynamic group, to facilitate collective discussions and inclusion in the sessions’ activities. Also, both adults and children groups go through the same stages of group development that expose the patients to similar challenges. They both will experience conflicts, roles establishment, cohesion, and interpersonal learning.
In summary, the psychotherapeutic group for children needs to be formed following the age particularities and meet the needs of children regarding their developmental stage. To facilitate the group, it is important to create a trusting environment and introduce playful activities that would encourage minors to participate in therapeutic interventions. Identifying the focus for group work will eliminate unnecessary practices and will help concentrate on the most effective activities aimed at the resolution of the detected issues. A therapist who clearly understands the differences between the group work with children and adults will be able to deliver the best results.
Corey, G. (2015). Theory and practice of group counseling (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
MacLennan, B. W. (2000). The future of adolescent psychotherapy groups in the new millennium. Journal of Child and Adolescent Group Therapy, 10(2), 67-75.
Reid, S., & Kolvin, I. (1993). Group psychotherapy for children and adolescents. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 69(2), 244-250.
Scheidlinger, S. (2004). Module 2: Group interventions for the treatment of trauma in children. American Group Psychotherapy Association. Web.
Steen, S., & Bauman, S. (2018). Group therapy with children: A multicultural approach. Web.