5 Steps and Stages of Group Counseling/Therapy

In order for group counseling sessions to be effective, conscious and strategic efforts have to be made both by the counselor who is the leader of the group, and all the members of the group. For these conscious and strategic efforts to be adequately implemented, all group counseling sessions must go through the five stages of group counseling.

The five stages of group counseling are an outline of the prescribed process group counseling sessions should follow from the very first session right to the last session; these stages were proposed by Turkman (1965).

5 Stages of Group Counseling 

1. Initiating or Initial Stage

The first stage of group counseling is the initial or initiating stage. This is where everything starts. There’s not so much work being done here than laying a foundation and setting the course of action for subsequent sessions.

Necessary activities in the initiating session of group counseling include:

  • introduction of all the members of the counseling group,
  • statement and exploration of the issues or concerns of each member of the group,
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  • setting counseling goals which will determine the approach and technique to be employed,
  • establishment of group roles and rules,
  • agreement on meeting days and times, and
  • exploration of the expectation of each member of the group during the counseling sessions.

This list of activities does not cover everything but counseling groups usually do these at the first stage, the initiating stage.

2. Conflict and Confrontation Stage

The second stage of group counseling is the conflict and confrontation stage. Although it is the desire of all members of the counseling group to have a peaceful relationship with each other, it usually will not happen without them first going through the conflict and confrontation stage. 

At this point the members of the counseling group begin to discover their character flaws and bad habits; they begin to notice differences in their personalities, orientation about life, and approach to things, especially during the group sessions.

Some individuals for instance will have the driving personality that is wholly focused on getting tasks completed and so just want everyone to focus on the main purpose for which the group was initiated.

These individuals will constantly be in conflict with those who are more inclined to make friends, have fun and pick on other minor things while moving towards the goal.

Then there will be some still who are completely uninvolved in what is being done in the group. These differences are what make for the second stage of group counseling, the conflict, and confrontation stage.

Related: 9 Challenges and Problems Involved in Group Counseling and Therapy

3. The Cohesiveness Stage

The third stage of group counseling is the cohesiveness stage. This stage is a direct build-up and proof of progress from the conflict and confrontation stage.

Through the effective leadership of the group leader or the counselor, all members of the group should have come to a point where they understand their differences, can tolerate each other and have made necessary adjustments for the sake of the counseling group.

Once this is done the group members begin to bond together, begin to work as a team, and make up for each other’s weaknesses while focusing on the goals set at the initial stage.

Any counseling group that does not progress to the cohesiveness stage despite all the efforts of the counselor should be reshuffled or disbanded because success cannot be achieved except when the group members unite and agree to work with each other despite their differences.

4. Productiveness stage

The fourth stage of group counseling is the productiveness stage. Ideally, this is the longest stage of group counseling. Here all members of the group are now focused on working towards the counseling goals before them.

All the techniques and approaches that have been defined and are now being employed and adjusted as the sessions progress and situations demand. More issues are being addressed as they come up and issues that looked huge but are now discovered to be inconsequential are pushed aside.

The success of the productiveness stage of group counseling is highly dependent on the counselor or group leader because their expertise will be demanded.

During the productiveness stage, the group leader is saddled with directing the course of action, bringing group activities back on course, maneuvering through uncertainties, encouraging members of the group, incorporating dynamism, and carrying every group member along.

The productiveness stage of group counseling will continue until every member of the group reaches a satisfactory level concerning the issues they came with to be addressed or the counselor deems necessary to be terminated (e.g due to lack of progress).

5. Termination stage

The last and final stage of group counseling is the termination stage. The termination stage is focused on evaluating how successful the group counseling session has been based on the goals that were set at the initial stage.

Parameters to be evaluated include the process (the interaction between the members of the group and their success in ensuring that all meetings were purposeful and organized) and the outcome (the changes and improvements that have been achieved in the lives of all group members).

If the group counseling is found to be successful, the group will be terminated and plans will be made for possible follow-up. On the other hand, if it is unsuccessful, that is the goals were not achieved, a new course of action will be planned, either restrategizing the same group or establishing a new group that can help members better.

Related: 8 Characteristics of Counseling Groups and Group Counseling


These are the five major stages of group counseling: the initiating stage, confrontation stage, cohesiveness stage, productiveness stage, and termination stage.

There are several other micro steps within each of the stages like problem identification, goal-setting, and so on, depending on each unique group, but all group counseling must go through these five stages.

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