As you probably already know, group counseling is my jam. I love running all kinds of groups, but this hasn’t always been the case! I used to be terrified of running girls groups because let’s face it: girl drama isn’t fun. But after many attempts and learning alongside students, I have 4 tips for you for running a successful girls group!
4 Tips for Running a Successful Girls Group
Set the Tone
As with any group, set the tone by letting your group members know you really believe they can make positive changes. The tone should not be, “You’re here because you are a problem,” but rather, “You’re here because you can be part of the solution.”
As you screen group members before group, identify strengths in each member and verbalize these in front of others. Something I always teach in girls group is that we should be complimenting girls in front of other people! This is the perfect opportunity to model that. This could sounds like, “I’m so glad every one of you is here because I know you can help make a difference. Jana, you have amazing leadership skills. People really listen to you. I’m really excited to see how you’ll be able to spread our group’s positive message to others.” Simply highlighting strengths and making note of how students’ strengths will benefit the group is a great way to set the tone!
Like any group counseling program, ownership is key for success. The girls in your group need to feel a sense of ownership over the process, the goals, and the outcome that they are working toward. Let them take the lead on setting group rules and also identifying problems they want to address. In my group, we focus on building a strong, empowering girl community. To foster ownership, I have group members identify the breakdowns that are currently happening in the girl community and then think of ways they specifically will address them. Giving them space to acknowledge the problems and then generate their own solutions gives ownership a chance to organically bloom!
Focus on Positive Alternatives
It’s easy to get into a pattern of pointing out negative girl behaviors (Stop talking bad about her! Don’t spread rumors!) As your group defines goals and outcomes, of course there will be mention of these negative things. After all, to generate solutions, we first have to label a problem. But don’t get hung up on the problem! Give girls space to state the problem and how they have been affected by it, but find an appropriate transition to the problem-solving stage. There’s no need to spend an entire session talking about the ills of rumors. Instead, focus on actionable steps that group members can take to address the problem. Showing them how to be part of the solution is incredibly empowering!
Oftentimes, students will need to be explicitly taught how to reframe their mindset to identify positive alternatives or perspectives. I use this “reframe app” activity to this. Students review common statements that I hear amongst girls and then try to think of a different way to view the situation. For example, “Everyone likes her so much. Why is she so popular?” can be reframed to, “What traits or characteristics does she have that draws people toward her?” Get girls thinking about ways they can turn negative thoughts or ideas into problem solving positive alternatives.
Make it Special
A few years ago, I had an amazing opportunity to run a girls group with a veteran counselor. She did such an amazing job of making the girls feel special. On top of fostering a sense of ownership and creating a place where the girls felt valued, she brought treats and activities for them that were special to the group. Instead of using plain folders for group materials, she and I spent an afternoon bedazzling folders with rhinestones and glitter. The girls giggled when they saw them but they LOVED the folders. Several of them even asked if they could come by after school and bedazzle their other notebooks. In another girls group, I had 3 girls gasp when they saw me pull out the watercolors and card stock paper. If it fits with your group, allow the members to create a special opening or closing mantra. These are such simple things that really make the girls feel so special. So go ahead: let them use the flair pens! Buy the cute folders! Break out the best art supplies!
When I first stepped foot in a middle school as a counselor, I was honestly nervous about how I would help to change the girl community for the better. But thanks to an amazing veteran co-counselor and female students who really embraced their roles in group, I left absolutely loving the girls group process! In my favorite girls group, we focus on positive, actionable steps that girls can take to build or repair the girl community. It’s all about empowering girls to empower girls. You can click the picture below to check out the curriculum!
What other tips do you have for running a successful girls group? Let me know in the comments!