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Group Leadership Skills

Group Leadership Skills
Interpersonal Process in Group Counseling and Therapy

Second Edition

November 2017 | 608 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Group Leadership Skills provides a road map and a practical toolkit for users to lead all types of groups effectively. Drawing on extensive teaching and clinical experience, authors Mei-whei Chen and Christopher Rybak give readers numerous skills, techniques, insights, and case illustrations demonstrating how to tap into the heart of group therapy: the interpersonal processes. The text covers group processes from beginning to end, including setting up a group, running the first session, facilitating the opening and closing of each session, working with tension and conflict, and using advanced skills and intervention techniques to facilitate member change. The Second Edition expands on group leadership skills to include methods of running mandate groups, semi-structured groups, basic level unstructured groups, and advanced level here-and-now focused groups, as well as using psychodrama techniques to heal unresolved grief and loss.

About the Authors
Chapter 1. Theories and Assumptions
Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory

Experiential Theory

Object Relations Theory

Family Systems Theory

Brief Therapy

Strength-Based Therapy

Interpersonal Neurobiology

Underlying Assumptions

Keys to Success in Leading Today’s Groups


Chapter 2. On Becoming a Group Leader
The Development of a Leader

Ideal Qualities of an Effective Group Leader

The Five Phases of Group Leader Development

Three Models of Co-Leadership Practice

Seven Principles of Co-Leadership Practice

Cultivating Your Inner Leader

Starting a Journey to Your Own Inner Peace


Chapter 3. Types of Groups and How to Start One From Scratch
Ethical and Professional Guidelines

Types of Groups Not Facilitated by Credentialed Professionals

Types of Groups Led by Credentialed Professionals

Starting a Group From Scratch (I): Program Planning

Starting a Group From Scratch (II): Pregroup Orientation

Starting a Group From Scratch (III): Criteria for Member Selection

Starting a Group From Scratch (IV): Screening Interview

Cases in Point: Screening Interview Notes


Chapter 4. Fundamental Skills for Group Facilitation and Intervention
Group Facilitation and Intervention

Leader as Observer-Participant

Basic Principles of Facilitation and Intervention

Basic Facilitation Skills (I): How to Open a Group Session

Basic Facilitation Skills (II): How to Increase Group Mutual Engagement

Basic Intervention Techniques (I): Blocking and Redirecting

Basic Intervention Techniques (II): Refocusing and Correcting

Basic Facilitation Skills (III): Closing a Group Session


Chapter 5. The First Session and the Forming Stage
Leadership and the Forming Stage

Leadership Skills for the First Session

Special Considerations for the First Session

Reflections on the First Session

An Overview of the Flow and Time Frame of the First Session


Chapter 6. Leading Structured Group Sessions
Mandated Groups: How to Make Them Work

I. Structured Exercises for Mandated Groups

II. Structured Exercises for Psychoeducational Groups

III. Structured Exercises for Counseling Groups

Misuse of Structured Exercises

How to Conduct Structured Exercises

How to Process After Structured Exercises

Other Considerations During Processing

Various Examples of Structured Communication Exercises

Cases in Point: Participant Reflections on Structured Exercises

An Overview of the Flow and Time Frame of a Structured Session


Chapter 7. Leading Semistructured Groups: Working on Agenda Items
Features of Semistructured Groups

Getting Agenda Contracts

Toward a More Personal Level of Self-Disclosure

Facilitating a Safe and Supportive Group Interaction

Facilitating Giving There-and-Then Feedback

Intervention Techniques

Cases in Point

An Overview of the Session Flow and Time Frame of a Semistructured Group Session


Chapter 8. Unstructured Groups—Basic Level
Features of Unstructured Groups

Leadership Principles of Unstructured Groups

Easing Members Into Self-Disclosure by Working on Multiple Member Concerns

Methods of Working on Multiple Member Concerns Simultaneously

Low-Intensity Here-and-Now Disclosure

Baby Steps Toward Here-And-Now Feedback

Making Meanings Out of Difficult Life Experiences

Intervention Techniques for Unstructured Groups—Basic Level

A Case In Point

An Overview of the Flow and Time Frame of a Basic Level Unstructured Session


Chapter 9. Working With Unspoken Tension and Open Conflict
The Transition Stage and Member Dissatisfaction

Culture/Diversity Factors and Unspoken Tension

Options for Managing Unspoken Tension

Member Negative Transference to the Leader

Methods of Handling Negative Member Transference

Leaders’ Own Countertransference and How to Handle It

Guidelines for Leader Self-Disclosure

The Paradox of Open Conflicts

Seven Steps of Conflict Resolution

The Group Leader’s Self-Care

Cases in Point


Chapter 10. Taking Risks in Communication
The Norming Stage of the Group

Intimacy, Cohesiveness, and High-Quality Communication

Self-Disclosure and How to Deepen It

Feedback-Giving and How to Maximize Its Power

Intermediate Steps Toward the Here-and-Now

Leader Participation in Here-and-Now Feedback and Impact Disclosure

Seven Principles of Constructive Confrontation

How to Deal With Poor Confrontation

Group Members’ Reflection on Confrontation

Coaching Members to Request and Receive Feedback

Cases in Point


Chapter 11. Advanced Steps Into the Here-and-Now
The Working Stage and Unstructured Groups—Advanced Level

The Here-and-Now Method and the Process Level of Communication

The Here-and-Now Method: The Two Tiers

Key to the Here-And-Now Method: Zigzagging the Hot Seat

The Principles of Engaging the First Tier: Stimulating Group Affects

Behavioral Markers for Group Affect Stimulation

(I) Medium-Intensity Stimulation: Members Setting Here-and-Now Session Goals

(II) High-Intensity Stimulation: Revealing In-Group Perceptions

(III) Even Higher-Intensity Stimulation: Hypothetical Role Enactment

(IV) Highest-Intensity Stimulation: Hypothetical Grading

An Overview of an Unstructured Session With a Here-and-Now Focus


Chapter 12. Process Illumination
Process Illumination and Change

Ways to Recognize Group Processes

Tips for Process Illumination

The Five Components of Process Illumination: The Leader’s Course of Action

Process Illumination Technique (I): Go After Reactivity Markers

Process Illumination Technique (II): Uncovering Hidden Meanings

Process Illumination Technique (III): Make the Invisible Visible

Process Illumination Technique (IV): Explore the Meanings of Behaviors Engaged by “Dyads, “Triads,” or “the Group as a Whole”

Process Illumination Technique (V): Link Here-and- Now to There-and-Then

A Case in Point


Chapter 13. Using Psychodrama for Unresolved Pain
The Power of Psychodrama in Therapy

Basic Concepts of Psychodrama Applicable to Group Practice

Maximizing the Group’s Healing Power With Psychodrama Techniques

A Detailed Case


Chapter 14. Skills of Termination: Completing the Cycle
Dealing With Uncommon Termination

The Termination Stage of a Typical Group

Seven Principles of Termination

Skills for Ending the Group

Evaluation of the Group Experience

Examples of Looking-Back Letters


Chapter 15. Writing as a Reflective Practice in Group Counseling
Leaders’ Reflective Practice

Member’s Reflective Practice

Applying Reflective Journaling in Group Counseling

Leaders’ Narrative Session Notes

Using Therapeutic Language in Narrative Session Notes

Appendix A: A Sample of the Group Proposal

Appendix B: Pregroup Orientation Handouts

Appendix C: Examples of Interpersonal Skills for Member to Practice in the Session

Appendix D: Examples of Brief Relaxation Exercises for Opening the Group


“Chen and Rybak’s updated edition provides a valuable resource for students struggling to master the complexities of group work. The text’s examples, scenarios, and prompts for reflection will provide much-needed opportunities for applying group work concepts to practice, and encourage readers to engage in life-long professional development as group practitioners.”

Tracy A. Marschall
University of Indianapolis

“The first edition of Chen and Rybak was invaluable for my master’s level counseling students, and given the great attention that the authors have paid to suggestions for revisions, I am confident that students and faculty of group counseling will find the second edition even more valuable in moving students comfortably into working with groups.”

Charles Timothy Dickey
Creighton University

“The authors of this textbook provide both a comprehensive and practical understanding of the group counseling process for both entry level group leaders and seasoned group leaders. Special attention is used to describe the various types of challenges one face with working with individuals in a group setting.  Most impressively, the authors provide an opportunity for entry level counselors to consider their role as the group leader and assessment of personal and professional growth.”

Tracey M. Dunca
New Jersey City University

“This text revision expands on previous available materials, is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students, and has practical examples to illuminate the concepts.”

Jack Flight
Dominican University

“In Group Leadership Skills, Chen and Rybak provide a thoughtful, nuanced, and honest look into the interpersonal relationship world of group counseling and therapy. They weave the skills new group leaders need in order to be successful throughout very real situations that occur in group work. Group work teachers who create, or want to create, inter- and intrapersonal learning within their classrooms and in their students will find this book a delight. The writing style and the content foster the responsibility of the group leader to be the healthy professional there to guide members to healthy change. This book will challenge students not only to work on their skills as leaders and their understanding of group work, but also on their personal growth and ‘self as instrument.’”

Karin Lindstrom Bremer
Minnesota State University, Mankato

“A deep dive into facilitating group process that helps guide leaders into how to create meaningful change through group interaction.”

Susan Larimer
Indiana University

“Excellent information and application for upper-level group courses.”

Susan Claxton
Georgia Highlands College
Key features


  • New research, concepts, and cases give the text a more modern, straightforward, and relevant approach to learning group leadership skills.
  • Leadership skills from several theoretical foundations include solution-focused therapy, strength-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal neurobiology.
  • “Here-and-now” leadership skills over four chapters suit varying stages of member readiness and includes the first, intermediate, and most advanced steps.


  • Unique coverage includes practical “how to” guidance, including how to lead structured groups, unstructured or process groups, psychoeducational groups, and mandated groups.
  • In-depth case studies, examples of leader responses, and group member journal entries provide insider views of internal processes and dynamics.
  • A road map and useful toolkit help readers at different levels run various types of groups.
  • Coverage of advanced techniques help those more experienced reach their highest potential with conflict resolutions skills, psychodrama techniques, and more.
  • Chapters reflect the natural progression of a group and can be used alongside an experiential group component.

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