The initial stages of a group are perhaps the most stressful and most crucial to the group process. Here, the groundwork is being laid for all future group meetings, as members are getting to know one another, feel each other out as how open they can be, rules and guidelines are addressed, as well as hopefully getting a strong start so people have a desire to return. These initial stages give a foundation for the group to build upon for the rest of the meetings. Corey et al. (2014) provides several examples of methods they used to get their group going in the beginning, including asking members to silently look around the room, considering others in the group and ultimately making assumptions about these people either intentionally or not (p. 14). Some other tasks they work to accomplish in the initial stages are introductions of group members, setting goals, and beginning to address conflict among members (Corey et al., 2014, p. 16-24). There is a lot done in the first couple sessions of a group, but it all is important in order for the group to continue and to meet therapeutic goals.
While a person could lead a group on just about anything, I have a vested interest in children and families in crisis. I have helped to facilitate bereavement support groups for children in the past, and find those groups challenging but also rewarding. I feel that while setting rules for adult groups is important, it is even more so for children. These rules ensure there are clear guidelines for participation as well as helping the children to understand what to expect in coming sessions. While the facilitator can help get the children started on creating a list of rules for the group, it would be great to get them involved by allowing them to suggest rules as well. Children are also capable of introducing themselves and why they are in the group, and this can be made into a fun activity to encourage the children’s participation. Conflict will also inevitably arise with children’s groups, and the facilitator needs to be ready to handle this and have ideas for redirection as the situation calls for. In some ways children can be easier than adults, as they tend to be more open and honest, easy to engage in activities if they appear fun, and can be less likely to hold a grudge than do adults. Any group has challenges and difficulties, but having strong initial sessions can help ensure the group progresses to where it needs to be.