ERIC Identifier: ED404588
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Borgen, William A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
A Model for Group Employment Counseling. ERIC Digest.
The model of group counseling presented in this paper is based on several
studies by Borgen and Amundson regarding people's psychological reaction to
unemployment (Amundson & Borgen, 1987; Borgen & Amundson, 1987).
THE EXPERIENCE OF UNEMPLOYMENT
Within the current economic
context of rapidly changing labor market opportunities and structural
unemployment (Herr, 1993), many people are faced with the prospect of not simply
losing a job, but a way of life. The loss affects the core of being and can
result in a series of emotional reactions that approximate loss reactions
(Kubler-Ross, 1969), namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and
acceptance. Coupled with loss is confusion of setting a new career direction and
stress associated with job search. The end result can be an emotional roller
coaster which is difficult for the person, the family, and for professionals
trying to offer assistance.
COPING WITH UNEMPLOYMENT
Amundson & Borgen (1987)
identified several factors that helped or hindered during unemployment.
Facilitating factors included support from family and friends, positive
thinking, career changes and retraining, part-time or temporary work, job search
support groups, vocational counseling, initial job search activities, making job
contacts, and physical activity. Hindering factors were job rejections,
financial pressures, contacts with government agencies, unknown or negative
future, ineffective job search activities, negative thinking, and spouse or
family problems. The hindering factors reflect the stress of job search, the
re-definition of self associated with unemployment, and strained relationships.
The facilitating factors focus on relationships and meaningful activities.
THE IMPACT OF GROUP EMPLOYMENT COUNSELING
these factors pointed to the potential of group employment counseling. In a
group context there are opportunities for support and meaningful exchange with
others. In order to examine this further, (Amundson & Borgen, 1988)
investigated the experiences of people who had been involved in a variety of
group employment counseling programs. Participants were contacted 3-5 months
after the groups had finished. Group employment counseling resulted in a
dramatic upswing that in some cases led to a job (48 %) and in other cases to
sustained, independent job search activity (52 %). Timing of the group
experience seemed particularly important. Some people tended to emotionally
drift slowly downward after 2 months of being unemployed, while others
maintained a positive outlook for up to 6 months, but then experienced rapid
emotional decline. Participation in the group around 8-9 months after job loss
seemed to produce an "emotional rebound" where people were able to maintain a
more positive outlook whether or not a job was found.
When participants described their group involvement, they emphasized what
they had learned, the support that they had received, and the ways in which
their self-esteem had been enhanced. They appreciated the structured learning
activity which was meaningful and enabled them to meet others facing similar
experiences. For most people, their main regret was that they had not joined a
A GROUP EMPLOYMENT COUNSELING MODEL
Based on the
information that task (i.e., structured learning activities) and social support
aspects of groups were about equally helpful, a group employment counseling
model was developed. The model has two emphases: acquisition of relevant skills
and information (the "educative" element), and the development and maintenance
of a constructive attitude (often impeded by emotions which must be recognized:
anxiety, fear and depression).
The group counseling model (Borgen, Pollard, Amundson, & Westwood, 1989)
focuses on the development of knowledge, skills, and personal awareness. These
three elements are important regardless of the purpose of the group: career
exploration, career decision-making, job search, or coping with unemployment.
Within the approach, participants have the opportunity to acquire relevant
information, practice skills needed to be successful, and address any barriers
that they may be facing.
The model, depicted in Figure 1 [not available here], has five core elements:
1. The "group goals and activities" define the purpose of the group.
2. "Member needs and roles" develop from two sources: (a) needs related to
the career challenges of members, and (b) needs related to being a group member:
inclusion, control, and trust (Schutz, 1958).
3. The "group processes" influence the functioning of the group and include:
communication, norm setting, decision making, confrontation of the problem,
problem solving, and conflict management.
4. "Leader approaches and skills" include personal qualities necessary for
group leadership, approaches (directing, influencing, assisting, and delegating)
that promote effective group leadership, and particular skills (reaction,
interaction, and action) necessary to respond to the needs of group members at
various stages of group development.
5. "Group design" focuses on sequencing group activities to be congruent with
group purpose and stage of group development.
The stages of group development provide a second dimension to the model and
are consistent with Tuckman's (1963) overview of group development.
1. The "planning stage" provides a foundation for the group. Initial referral
and screening are important to ensure member needs match group goals.
2. When group members first come together ("initial stage"), there is a need
for members to feel part of the group (inclusion). In this stage it is important
to focus on the integration of individual and group goals and the establishment
of group norms.
3. As members become more aware of the needs of each other and the leader,
the issue of control can become more central. This leads to a "transition stage"
in which there is greater potential for reluctance and conflict.
4. Following this period of potential unrest, group members move into the
"working stage," characterized by greater trust and an emphasis on commitment
and productivity. The group functions with greater autonomy, and there is less
reliance on the leader for support and direction.
5. As the group approaches the "termination stage" there is an opportunity to
integrate what has been learned and plan for reaching goals. Emotionally, there
may be feelings of loss which need to be acknowledged by the leader.
6. The "post-group" stage involves meeting after the group has finished to
provide continued support and encouragement.
The model is fluid and dynamic. The five components of group development
influence and are influenced by each other. They require the group leaders to be
aware of group member needs and to modify activities and leadership approaches
accordingly. In addition, the stages of group development do not proceed in a
linear fashion. Members often return to earlier stages in their general
progression through the group and leaders need to be aware of which stages group
members may be in at any particular time and tailor their approach and skills
Within the current context of structural change
in the labor market, groups that are offered to assist people in developing or
changing career directions are particularly important. The goal of these groups
is to help people: (a) develop communication and other skills needed to gain
personally relevant information related to their fields of interest, (b) gain
information about the current economic climate and labor market opportunities,
and (c) development of self-confidence sufficient to be more self-sustaining in
maneuvering towards their goals.
Amundson, N. E., & Borgen, W. A. (1987).
"Coping with unemployment: What helps and hinders." Journal of Employment
Counseling, 24, 97-106.
Amundson, N. E., & Borgen, W. A. (1988). "Factors that help and hinder in
group employment counseling." Journal of Employment Counseling. 25, 104-114.
Borgen, W. A., & Amundson, N. E. (1987). "The dynamics of unemployment."
Journal of Counseling & Development, 66, 180-184.
Borgen, W. A., Pollard, D. E., Amundson, N. E., & Westwood, M. J. (1989).
"Employment groups: The counselling connection." Toronto, ON: Lugus.
Herr, E. (1993). "Contacts and influences on the need for personal
flexibility for the 21st century, part II." Canadian Journal of Counselling, 27,
Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). "On Death and Dying." New York: Macmillan.
Schutz, W. C. (1958). "Firo: A three dimensional theory of interpersonal
behavior." New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Tuckman, B. (1963). "Developmental sequence in small groups." Psychological
Bulletin, 23, 384-399.