faq

Asking questions reflects an interest in the world and those around you.

Frequently asked questions

When do groups meet? How often? For how long?
How long are kids generally in group?
What is your group composition like?
What makes your groups different from other groups?
How are your groups actually structured?
Will negative behavior of other kids in group have a potentially harmful impact on my child?
What could a group offer to my child that individual therapy might not?
What is the purpose of parent group?

When do groups meet? How often? For how long?

Groups meet weekly either before or after school depending on a child’s age/grade. Most of the groups meet in the late afternoon to early evening though we always have several  groups – generally for younger children – running before school  in the morning which can be a very convenient time for families. Group sessions are 55 minutes in length. Groups meet weekly during the school year and break over the summer because attendance is generally not consistent enough to do the kind of work we do.  Most groups will resume the following year with some returning members and some new members added in. Groups get older together so that a group that is composed of 4th- and 5th-graders one year would be composed of 5th- and 6th-graders the next. The relationships that develop in the group provide an environment in which group members become familiar with each other and a core ethic develops over time which provides depth while being welcoming of the richness that comes as some new members join the group each year.

How long are kids generally in group?

We have kids who are in group just for one school year and it is our expectation that kids who start in group a given year will be there for the year in order to have the chance to accomplish anything of real significance and have it internalize so it can be carried out of group into the world.  Some kids finish group after one year but the largest number are in group for 2 school year cycles of the group. Some kids are in group for a longer period of time as a result of the particular issues they are working on. We do not tend to see our groups as a short-term solution if change is to become internalized and more fully a part of who a child is, and how they see the world and relate to it.  It is this process that we expect to allow changes made in therapy to be carried out into the world where there is less structure and protection and a higher demand level.

What is your group composition like?

Groups generally have 6-8 children in them and are co-led by two therapists.  Initial composition is done based on grade and age with groups limited to two grades to insure a basic level of developmental similarity and reflect the peer world they are in. Our groups are generally heterogenous  so as to approximate the variety of kids in the world. We expect that this will help the children we work with learn to get along with others that they like easily as well as with others toward whom they might not as naturally gravitate.  The main prerequisite for being in one of our groups is some level of interest in developing relationships with others, an ability to communicate with others, and the capacity to receive feedback with active support to do so .   The type of group work we do does not work as well for children who are on a more severely conduct-disordered or anti-social developmental path, as well as those who are more severely autistic due to the nature of their behavioral and/or relationship difficulties.

What makes your groups different from other groups?

First of all, our groups are not social skills training groups but more relationship development therapy groups. Our goal is to help children work on their own personal development in the context of developing the capacity to be in relationships with other people.

In a social skills training model the work is primarily cognitively based with pre-planned lessons and goals. Pre-chosen skills are taught in any given session generally through a process of role-paying those issues thought to be relevant to general social development. Our groups are structured to function differently for a variety of reasons. One is that we don’t see this type of cognitive role-playing process as primarily the way in which children learn about relationships.  We want our model to more closely approximate real-world learning and real-world situations with the expectation this will help gains made over time to generalize more effectively out into the world which is where they really matter.  Often, kids – and adults –  possess many of the skills needed in a given situation but the capacity to use them is short-circuited by the level of stimulation they have to deal with and/or their own level of emotional activation when in real-life situations that involve tension, conflict, etc. We work in our groups in an environment where the learning of skills and how to use them goes on as much as possible in the context of interpersonal activities and developing relationships that are real, carry emotional weight, and encourage each child’s particular areas of challenge to become present so that we can work with them.

How are your groups actually structured?

The basic structure of the groups is fairly simple. Group begins with “Check-in”. This is a talking time during which the kids are expected to think about what is going on in their lives and find things that are of meaning to them in their lives to talk about. These could be on-going issues or something that has happened during the past week. They could be positive experiences in their lives or challenges they have faced.  Our primary goal is to help them pay attention to what is going on in their lives fully, to think about what matters to them, and to learn how to communicate about their lives effectively so that others can come to know them.  Those children that are not checking in at a given time are working on their capacity to find and sustain interest in others, and to learn how to engage in communication both verbal and non-verbal that reflects this interest in others.  While this process of communication in relationships is central to our model, discussion and support  around common content issues is on-going.

After check-in is done, the members of the group choose whether to move on to having a snack together or doing an activity together.  Both are part of the group but the children decide which they will do next.  If they choose to have snack, they will then work together to decide how to divide the snack and share it. Once they have done that they will serve it to one another. Our model is one in which the importance of balancing how you get your own needs  met with an awareness of the needs of the people around you is central and both the choosing and the serving of snack is one of the concrete ways that is worked at. Over snack the kids can have more social conversation (including about tv shows, video games, movies, etc) and practice a different type of engagement than is asked of them during check-in while still working on how to be involved and share the time and space effectively.

After the snack is done the kids clean up and then have the opportunity to choose an activity to do together.  We do not impose decisions about what the activity will be. There are a variety of diffident things they can choose and make use of in our group space. But our initial goal is for them to learn to work out which each other what the choices will be. During the activities we typically work on issues of sharing of resources, competition, winning and losing, conflicts and differences of opinions about rules, outcomes, and decisions that come up while they are playing.  Our work in this context is to help the kids in group learn to communicate and work out issues with each other in a manner that does not involve either chronic giving-in or the need to perpetually have things go one’s own way.

Our expectation is that the different issues that are challenging for each child in the group will come up repeatedly over time in the group setting.  We expect that this will provide us with the opportunity to help them work on those issues, understand them and recognize how they do and don’t work out, and practice alternatives. That this happens with real people they are developing relationships with, in a situation that has an emotional reality to it is what we expect will facilitate these changes generalizing over time into the broader world.

At the end of group, the kids clean up and have a few minutes to pick snack for the following week.  It is our goal for the kids in group to make as many decisions themselves as possible.  All of  these decisions are made by consensus so they have to work together to find solutions that are acceptable to everyone while maintaining the right to say no to anything that is really not ok to any individual child in the group.  The work to develop an understanding of what is ‘good enough’ and develop a sense of reciprocity and fairness over time around choices made in relationships is essential to learning how to balance one’s own needs with the needs of others.  The ability to do this is crucial in order to be able to have successful, healthy relationships and is a challenge at times for all of us.

Will negative behavior of other kids in group have a potentially harmful impact on my child?

Our groups have a very powerful norm based on balancing the importance of one’s own needs and the needs of others, developing a respectful approach to dealing with people, and accepting and appreciating difference.  The result is a group culture that involves acceptance and proper treatment of one another.  Although there can be a high degree of intensity in the groups, there is very little negative treatment of one another.  Difficult behavior does arise in group – if it did not then we would not be able to help the group members work on the issues of importance to their development.  However, the fact that everyone in the group is working on their own issues is clearly and directly acknowledged and problematic behaviors are actively discussed in a manner which minimizes both scapegoating and the modeling of negative behavior.

What could a group offer to my child that individual therapy might not?

The ability to share time, space and resources with others is an essential aspect of personal and relationship development  that is a challenge for many children that group therapy can approach directly.  Some children struggle with the need to always have things go their way and need help to learn how to feel their needs are getting met without having to be the constant center of attention.  Other children may constantly defer their needs in order to avoid conflict or anticipated rejection. Secondly, the process of getting feedback and input one on one from an adult therapist no matter how talented can be augmented in a setting in which feedback from peers is also available and in which vicarious learning occurs as you watch your peers work on their own issues in your presence.  Groups can provide a unique opportunity for direct work on social-emotional and developmental issues that doesn’t happen one on one with an adult.  The group setting allows us to work hands-on with many of the issues that arise for children when they are facing the unique pressures involved in dealing with their peers.  Finally, the process of being in a group and witnessing other children working on their own issues and difficulties can be extremely powerful in helping a child to not feel alone, damaged, or different because they are having difficulties.  To feel part of a community of people working to make their lives better and to experience acceptance of who you are as an imperfect but valuable human being by a group of your peers can be a wonderful and powerful process to watch develop in a good group.

What is the purpose of parent group?

Parents are the single most powerful influence in the lives of their children. We don’t work with kids in group or individually without working with their parents. The likelihood of being able to successfully facilitate change for the children we work with is infinitely higher if we are working as a team with parents on these changes.  Parent group provides the opportunity for mutual feedback on how children are doing both in group and in their lives, provides a forum for discussing child guidance and parenting challenges, and offers a unique opportunity for parents to support one another in the difficult task of raising children.