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Group Counseling Plan: Black Women and Intimate Partner Violence

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Introduction

Black women who are survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and have relocated or sought shelter to prevent abuse are among a subgroup of women who are victims of several forms of abuse including: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and/or psychological aggression. Black women, in particular, are a marginalized population that not only seek help with dealing with the trauma related to the abuse but also with the cultural factors that influence their escape and course of treatment.

Is this topic more appropriate for small or large group? Highlight why individual counseling wasn’t chosen.

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The Black Women IPV group will conduct small group sessions with a minimum of five participants and a maximum of eight participants. The rationale for this group size is based on the assertion that “Ideally, personal growth, support, and counseling/therapy groups have from 5 to 8 members” (Jacobs, Schimmel, Masson, & Harvill, 2016). This size is optimal for allowing group members to openly participate and share out without restrictions. Given the scope and gravity of the issues discussed this group size will also minimize the likelihood of members feeling uncomfortable or unsafe talking to a large group.

Small group facilitation is recommended over individual counseling because it will promote healthy connections between members and build a network of “safe persons” for all involved. Hearing from others in a small group setting will also help foster a sense of consolation and empowerment in group members that is unattainable in individual counseling.

What is your specific population of focus for this group?

For this group, participants must identify as a Black woman who has endured intimate partner violence and has relocated or sought shelter to prevent abuse. The women must identify as a victim and not a perpetuator of IPV.

Characteristics of Group Leaders

a. What group leader characteristics are necessary for successful group facilitation?

Group leaders for this population shall possess knowledge of intimate partner violence and be able to define and differentiate between types of abuse. They should be aware of any local and federal legalities surrounding intimate partner violence and be aware of victim rights in addition to client rights. In addition to this awareness, the group leader genuinely show support for the group members and their cause. Per Corey (2016), “Support is appropriate when people are facing a crisis, when they are facing frightening experiences, when they attempt constructive changes and yet feel uncertain about these changes, and when they are struggling to overcome old patterns that are limiting”. These are all concerns for Black women who are survivors of IPV and have relocated or sought shelter to prevent abuse who comprise the group.

Group leaders should also be empathetic and comfortable with group members deciding to share or remain silent on certain aspects of their experiences. Additionally, since these women have fled from unsafe environments, it will be imperative for the group leader to build rapport and trust within the group in order to establish the therapy group as a safe place.

How does the type and formulation of the group impact your group leader selection and facilitation?

Group leaders will be selected based on the extent of intimate partner violence knowledge, experience with this population, and leadership qualities. The ability to show support, empathy, and build relationships will be imperative. The group leader should be willing to carry out and facilitate the the counseling plan with fidelity to enhance therapeutic outcomes for group members.

Culturally Relevant Strategies for Designing and Facilitating Groups

How do cultural and diversity factors impact development and facilitation of your group?

Though all persons are susceptible to intimate partner violence, there are special considerations that should be taken into account with Black women. West (2014) highlights that “living at the intersection of race, class, and gender oppression, and other forms of oppression, such as homophobia, converge to shape Black women’s experiences with violence.” Willingness to understand the complexities of intersectionality in relationship to IPV will be important as group development and facilitation is examined. While it may be relevant to view the Black women’s experience as a collective, individual differences shall also be recognized and accepted in the group. Each members’ unique experiences and varying cultural and diversity factors that impact their adjustment to relocation could include differences in family values, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, health status, access to community support and more. The group counselor should acknowledge these differences in a culturally responsive manner and be prepared to help the group members recognize these factors if they are unaware. Encouraging and leveraging each group member to share their individual story will be key during the counseling process.

What steps have you taken to ensure these strategies are in place?

Before therapy begins, group leaders shall present proof of cultural competency training and deliberately create counseling plans that take into consideration the aforementioned cultural factors. Proper care should be taken while making the counseling plans to ensure that the steps are culturally relevant and applicable to the population. Group leaders shall also demonstrate understanding of counseling plans before coordinating a group session. Group leaders will assist in making sure group members are a good fit for group therapy and fit the criteria for the group.

During group therapy sessions to ensure culturally relevant strategies are being used the group leader should allot time for all group members to share what they are willing about their background and story with the group. The group leader may choose to self-disclose, if applicable. Norms will always be set and restated at the beginning of counseling sessions to safeguard against any unnecessary discomfort or tension in the group.

Research

What does the research suggest as effective interventions for this population?

Eckhardt et al. (2013) identify culturally informed group interventions for African American women, supportive group counseling, crisis-oriented group intervention, and interpersonal therapy as effective interventions for IPV survivors. These interventions were effective at treating a range of negative effects of IPV including depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, psychological distress, anxiety symptoms, and PTSD symptoms (Eckhardt et al., 2013). There is also evidence that points to cognitive-behavioral therapy as being an effective intervention for decreasing symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress in interpersonal trauma survivors (Iverson et al., 2011). Chang et al. (2005) also reported in a study that women found informational interventions that include being provided with hotline numbers and information regarding how to seek protection orders, divorce and separations, and legal steps regarding custody and support for children were helpful.

What does the research show was ineffective for working with this population?

Brief interventions and single-episode interventions were not effective for working with this population (Eckhardt et al., 2013). More success can be found when extended interventions and multi-contact interventions are used.

Group Counseling Plan

Session One: Informative Session

Objectives: Provide group members with information regarding group counseling and intimate partner violence to lessen any resistance surrounding seeking counseling

Materials Needed: handbooks on intimate partner violence, housing information and pamphlets on seeking legal representation, homework slip, writing utensils

These questions will be provided to and posed to the group:

Why did you decide to join group therapy? What do you hope to gain from this experience?

What forms of IPV have you experienced?

Step-By-Step Directions:

Group leaders and group members start by introducing themselves to the group. Everyone is entitled to share what they would like but encouraged to avoid discussing their personal IPV at this time.

The group leader will educate group members on the purpose of group counseling and about the topic of IPV with emphasis on the prevalence, risk factors, and potential effect on Black women. Different forms of intimate partner violence will be discussed and group members will be asked to reflect on their own experiences.

Additional resources will be available including handbooks on intimate partner violence, housing information and pamphlets on seeking legal representation.

Group members will receive a homework slip with the question, “What are three goals I would like to accomplish before this counseling group is terminated?”

Session Two: Speaking and Accepting Your Truth

Objectives: The objective of this meeting will be for all group members to be heard while speaking and accepting their individual truth without being silenced as by may have been by their abuser and others. This is time for them to express themselves and connect with one another.

Materials Needed:

These questions will be provided to and posed to the group:

Describe your personal IPV experience in 3-5 sentences.

In what ways were you affected by IPV? (physically, mentally, socially, etc.)

Step-By-Step Directions:

Group norms will be restated and group members will agree to continue abiding by the norms.

Group members will be prompted with guiding questions to share their experience with intimate partner violence and relocation.

Describe your personal IPV experience in 3-5 sentences.

In what ways were you affected by IPV? (physically, mentally, socially, etc.)

Group members will be encouraged to provide support and motivate one another as they share out.

Session Three: Managing Emotions

Objectives: Sharing experiences regarding intimate partner violence can be difficult to process and make some people uneasy. In this session, time will be devoted to examining those feelings that were felt during the last session.

Materials Needed: A word cloud of emotions experienced during last group session, writing utensils

These questions will be provided to and posed to the group:

How have you dealt with the emotions surrounding your IPV experience?

Would you consider the methods you used to deal with emotions adaptive or maladaptive? Why?

Step-By-Step Directions:

Group members honestly share any positive or negative emotions they experienced at the last group session.

The group leader will facilitate conversations regarding any unresolved emotions related to the IPV. Group members will be allowed to direct these conversations.

Strategies will be discussed with the group that can be used to process and reduce some of the negative emotions experienced.

Find an constructive activity to engage in

Use meditation and relaxation strategies

Practice Forgiveness

Replace negative emotions with positive emotions

Session Four: Embracing Change

Objectives: The change associated with relocating due to IPV can be difficult to adjust to. In this meeting, conversations and practical suggestions will be shared with the group as to how to embrace change. Emphasis will be on sharing positive effects of the change.

Materials Needed:

These questions will be provided to and posed to the group:

What changes have you experienced due to IPV?

How have these changes impacted you?

How could you embrace these changes in a positive light?

Step-By-Step Directions:

Identify changes: Group members will be asked to respond to the question What changes have you experienced due to IPV? It may involve locating shelter, seeking new employment, getting accustomed to live away from their abuser and/or adapting to living with others.

Recognize how these changes have impacted their experience: Group members will engage in conversation about how the changes they experienced have affected them in a positive or negative way.

Embrace changes in a positive light: Group members will reflect on ways in which change can be embraced. The group leader will provide ideas and suggestions for group members, as well.

Look at the situation from a new perspective

Consider change as an opportunity for growth

Session Five: Break Ground, New Beginnings

Objectives: The objective of this session will be to establish an action plan outlining next steps. Given this time to reflect on past experiences and future endeavors will foster a sense of comfort and preparedness as they begin to think about navigating life after termination of therapy.

Materials Needed: Action plan template, writing utensils

Step-By-Step Directions:

Group leader and group members will brainstorm potential next steps for group members as they move past the trauma. This can include, finding permanent housing, reuniting with loved ones, finding new employment, finding childcare, creating a plan to stay away from abuser, and more.

Group members will then independently complete the action plan template with future steps that align with their personal goals.

Next, group members will share whole group their action plan steps and provide feedback to one another.

Group members will edit their action plans as needed and asked to start working on the first step.

Session Six: Accepting Closure and Non-Closure

Objectives: Group members will reflect on their experience and

Materials Needed: homework slip from session one

These questions will be provided to and posed to the group:

In what ways have you positively changed or grown since session one?

What strategies have you learned during therapy that you will commit to using after termination?

Do you have any incomplete goals or unresolved issues that need to be addressed before group therapy is terminated?

Step-By-Step Directions:

Group members will begin to discuss where they started at the beginning of therapy and where they are now. Ask them to recap any sessions they found most important during their therapy process.

Group members share any strategies they learned during therapy that they will continue to carry on after termination.

Group members will review their homework slip from session one what asked the question, “What are three goals I would like to accomplish before this counseling group is terminated?” and decide if they achieved their goals.

Incomplete goals and unresolved issues will be addressed at this time by the group leader with support of group members.

Group members will be advised to accept closure and non-closure as they move forward.

For members with continued needs, referrals and recommendations will be made.

Recommendations

a. In addition to the group, what (if anything) should the counselor do to ensure that the client’s needs are met in this topic area?

Ensuring client safety will be pertinent during this process. The group leader shall be sure to provide client education as a preventative means and also conduct ongoing checkups with the group members outside of meeting times. The counselor should take on a role as an advocate for the group members.

What would you recommend to counselors planning to lead this group?

I would recommend the counselors planning to lead this group to remain optimistic and flexible during the therapy process. The group members may be hesitant to open up and may take longer to become comfortable in the group than expected. Building rapport and establishing relationships with the group members will be important to deter these unwanted effects.

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