In this issue

The making of an introduction to group video for a digital age

The central mission of the video as a resource was to provide images of students engaging in group therapy that would create an image that is intuitively appealing

By Martyn Whittingham and Darius Campinha-Bacote

The creation of a free resource for university counseling center group leaders

The literature and research supporting the benefitsof pre-group preparation is compelling. Best practice guidelines (AGPA, 2007) suggest it has a particularly strong effect on retention and attendance, two factors particularly relevant to university counseling centers that typically have great difficulty with groups both failing to launch and failing to thrive. Authors (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005; Burlingame et al., 2002) suggest that pregroup preparation should perform several tasks: early progress on the working alliance, reduction in client anxiety and client misconceptions, and provision of information to aid in informed consent.

The form pre-group preparation can take includes active and passive methods. Active methods include group screenings and pre-group group “taster” experiences, while passive methods might involve use of leaflets, information on websites, and audiovisual material. Yalom and Lescz (2005) suggest a combination of methods produces the most effective results.

Acosta, Yamamoto, Evans and Skilbeck (2006) con-curred with the much earlier findings of Strupp and Bluxom (1973) that the best method to prepare clients for group was an audiovisual aid. However, despite clear evidence suggesting the benefitsof pregroup preparation, and video introductions in particular, colleges and universities seldom supplement their pregroup preparation with audiovisual material. One reason for this has been the relative lack of high-quality, low-cost and contemporary video resources available. This project attempted to redress this specificgap in the resources by creating a free video to assist in the pregroup preparation process the video was designed with university counseling centers as the targeted client population, since this group is (a) well-suited to group therapy as a treatment due to a wide range of social/interpersonal issues at this stage of their development, (b) quite reluctant to consider group therapy as a treatment of choice (Boldt & Paul, 2011) and (c) highly technologically minded.

The video was designed to be transportable across colleges and universities with widely different group therapy offerings. This proved quite challenging since groups can be quite heterogeneous in their mission, groups served, and structure. However, the solution was to restrict video content to broad strokes of content, confidentialit, and images. The phrase “for further information, please talk to your therapist” is also widely used to allow for differences between center offerings, structure and procedures.

The central mission of the video as a resource was to provide images of students engaging in group therapy that would create an image, as suggested by Boldt & Paul (2011), that is intuitively appealing. This was born from the belief that many students (a) do not know what other group members might look like, (b) are unsure whether they will be liked or disliked and (c) are unsure whether groups are characterized by intense conflict.Thus, images of students who appear to be interacting with each other in a friendly and nonthreatening manner became a key concept in scripting this video. The aim of this was to reduce potential client anxiety and thereby increase the likelihood of a successful referral. Moreover, by providing images of students engaging in a group, who represented a broad range of diverse backgrounds, the intent was also to show groups can be relatively diverse and representative, thereby providing opportuni-ties for all members to imagine themselves in the group. Other content was created by drawing on recommendations by Bowman and Delucia (1993), who suggested that basic ground rules be laid out, including adherence to the attendance policy, starting and ending on time, and issues such as confidentiality.

There was also some question as to whom should narrate the video. There were questions regarding gender, ethnicity, professional actor or actual therapist. The main author of the video, Darius Campinha-Bacote, was chosen for several reasons. First, his presence as narrator is ambiguous. His age, friendliness, and delivery suggest he could be either a therapist or a client peer. Thus, he allows clients to see his narration as coming from a trusted friend/peer rather than an authority figure,or from an expert. Moreover, his friendliness provides a welcoming introduction that invites rather than “talks at.” The actors used to play clients were also relatively diverse with regards to ethnicity and gender (although not disability and age) and were seen interacting with each other in appropriate ways. Thus, an initial expectation of a welcoming group of students who may be easy to relate to is created.

The most effective length of video was also based on extant research. Research by Oehrli, Piacentine, Peters and Nanamaker (2011) found that 3 to 4 minutes was an optimal timeframe to keep students’ attention while also communicating essential information. Further, in this digital age, students are used to video content with extremely high production values. We were fortunate to have time donated by a professional producer of corporate videos who spent extensive time with us to get the details and overall feel, sharp and contemporary. Student actors are filmedin a series of illustrative vignettes that demonstrate group principles being modeled. For example, students are seen entering together “on time” as the narrator discusses the importance of attendance and promptness, while this clip also serves to introduce the notion that group members might actually enjoy seeing each other! Thus, the video meets the high production standards expected by today’s technology-savvy student.

The video is available on YouTube or by accessing Wright State University’s Counseling and Wellness Services website where it can be downloaded and embedded in your website. Please note, this resource is provided to anyone who wishes to download or use it, at no cost. While other types of group therapy provider may feel free to use it, the only hindrance would be that the actors used tend to fall within a university setting age range. However, for centers with client populations broadly falling in the late teens to early twenties age range, this video remains appropriate.

When citing this video, please use the following:

Campinha-Bacote, D., Whittingham, M., Rando, R., Moss, J. (Producers), & Sluder, J. (Director). (2010). Pre-group preparation in college counseling centers. United States: Wright State University Counseling and Wellness Center.

We are tracking usage, however, so should you choose to use it, please let us know by emailing us. Equally, feel free to pass this on to others who may wish to use it. However, please let them know to email us if and when they adopt it. So far, universities from as far afield as Las Vegas, Maryland and Kentucky have adopted this video and use it in waiting rooms on a loop, with clients in screening, or embedded in their websites. We look forward to others finding this useful!


  • Acosta, F. X., Yamamoto, J., Evans, L. A., Skilbeck, W. M. (2006). Preparing low- income Hispanic, Black and White patients for psychotherapy: Evaluation of a new orientation program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39(6), 872-877.

  • American Group Psychotherapy Association. (2007). Practice guidelines for group psychotherapy. New York: American Group Psychotherapy Association.

  • Boldt, R. W. & Paul, S. (2011). Building a creative-arts therapy group at a university counseling center. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 25(1) 39-52.

  • Bowman, V. E., & Delucia, J. L. (1993). Preparation for group therapy: The effects of preparer and modality on group process and individual functioning. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 18(2), 67-79.

  • Burlingame, G. M., Fuhriman, A., & Johnson, J. E. (2002). Cohesion in group psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross (Ed.), Psychotherapy relationships that work: Therapist contributions and responsiveness to patients (pp. 71-88). New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Oehrli, J. A., Piacentine, J., Peters, A., & Nanamaker, B. (2011). Do screencasts really work? Assessing student learning through instructional screencasts. Philadelphia, PA: Association of College and Research Libraries.

  • Strupp, H. H., & Bloxom, A. L. (1973). Preparing lower-class patients for group psychotherapy: Development of a role induction film. Journal of Consultation in Clinical Psychology, 41, 373-384.

  • Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.