Screening potential group members is an important step in forming an effective therapy group. Identifying ideal members is a multi-step process that often begins by examining the characteristics of potential group members. Characteristics to consider may include gender, presenting problem, personality style, level of insight, reasons for coming to group, willingness to participate, and interpersonal skills. For example, a therapy group for survivors of sexual assault might limit its membership to women who have been sexually assaulted.
Once group characteristics have been identified, the group leader determines how qualified clients will be selected and how the therapy group will be marketed. Will internal referrals be used, such as the leader’s own clients? Will other counselors, mental health professionals, and medical facilities be willing to promote the group? Will ads be placed on social websites? These are some of the factors that must be considered as part of the therapy group development process.
A screening interview is typically used to determine if the therapy group is a good fit for the potential client, and vice versa. When more than one therapy group leader is involved, it is best if all group leaders are present to meet with a prospective therapy group member. During this meeting, the group leader can inquire about why the person wants to be in the therapy group, their knowledge of group therapy, and their goals. A risk assessment can be conducted at this time to inquire about any past or current suicidal or homicidal thoughts/intent. Some screening for Axis II traits can also be conducted, as, often times, Axis II individuals are not effective members of a therapy group due to their inability to relate to others. The screening interview can conclude by going over rules for the therapy group, expectations, confidentiality, fees/insurance, and the signing of informed consent. Ideally, when potential clients are not accepted into a therapy group, the therapist should assist them by providing referrals for alternative therapy options. This process particularly applies to outpatient therapy groups. Inpatient or intensive outpatient therapy groups might have a different format and might be less likely to decline prospective members.
For this Discussion, review the media titled “Audio Therapist: Screening Potential Clients.” Evaluate the four potential clients. Consider which clients you might accept into a general therapy group and which you might not. Finally, think about how the clients’ characteristics align with your own strengths and weaknesses as a group therapy leader.
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