Many counseling centers appoint a group coordinator to oversee the development and implementation of a group therapy program. I have had the pleasure of serving in such a role for eight years at my institution’s counseling center, where I’ve launched and maintained a thriving group program built from scratch. For years there have been workshops geared towards the work of group coordinators at the annual AGPA conference. Discussions at these workshops are flooded with questions related to typical responsibilities, required and desired resources, and strategies to mitigate challenges. Yet after several years of attending and then contributing to such presentations, I still found myself asking: what do we really know about group coordinators and how the work that they do impacts their group program?
As a result, I developed an exploratory survey of group coordinators to learn the typical demographics, responsibilities and resources of professionals occupying the group coordinator role to build on previous studies of group programming in the university counseling setting (i.e., Denton et al., 2017; 2020). Fifty-three group coordinators from the U.S. and Canada participated in the survey, representing a range of geographic regions and institutional types. The demographic profile of the sample was similar to counseling center provider data reported by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (2020) in regard to gender and racial identities, however the sample had a higher number of individuals with doctoral degrees and licensed providers. Only nine (17%) of the participants had achieved a group specialist credential, consistent with findings from Denton et al’s previous studies. The majority of the sample reported that their group coordinator role is a permanent assignment, however few coordinators reported receiving additional compensation for responsibilities above that of a staff counselor/psychologist. Further, less than half reported that their position is considered an administrative or leadership role in their center.
Coordinators reported managing responsibilities inclusive of administrative, clinical, supervisory, training, leadership and research functions. On average, participations reported 10.9 (SD= 3.8) responsibilities regularly attended to in their role, with administrative responsibilities being the most common. Generally, coordinators reported moderate satisfaction in their role and support from center leadership, however half of participants reported dissatisfaction with available resources. Many coordinators reported limitations in resources: more than half had no reduction in individual caseload, most had limited weekly administrative time, and the majority reported dissatisfaction with support from university administration.
Correlations were found between positive CC culture towards group and staff involvement, groups per semester, GC responsibilities, group program structures and GC role satisfaction. Paired independent t-tests were used to compare center group utilization and staff involvement in group (representing strength of positive culture towards group work) between group coordinators with and without adequate administrative time, administrative title and those that held a regular staff meeting about groups. The rates of group utilization were significantly higher for group coordinators with two or more administrative hours and for centers that held a weekly meeting about groups. Staff involvement in the groups program was significantly higher if the group coordinator position was considered to be an administrative role within the center.
The main findings of the study reinforce the importance of cultivating a strong group therapy culture and the essential collaboration between the group coordinator and counseling center leadership (Gross, 2018). Additionally, centers would be wise to support group coordinators in pursuing a group specialist credential since many of their reported responsibilities include supervision and training, in addition to group facilitation. New or aspiring group programs would benefit from assigning a group coordinator position as a member of the clinical leadership team and integrating resources such a consistent staff meeting devoted to group work and adequate administrative time for the group coordinator to carry out a variety of responsibilities. Existing group programs are encouraged to inventory their available resources and infrastructure to assess sustainability and possible enhancements to support program growth and longevity given these findings.
The article concludes with a comprehensive list of recommendations that build upon previous literature on group work in the university setting and inspire to inform best practices for the group coordinator role in the university counseling center setting. It is my hope that the results of this study can help others to advocate for appropriate group therapy program resources, and position group coordinators to make the most impact using their expertise in group work.