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Progress Monitoring in Group Counseling

I previously wrote a whole blog post about group counseling data which you can find here, as well as a post about how to actually analyze group counseling data. You might want to check those out before or after reading this one on progress monitoring in group counseling!

For many years, pre and post-surveys were one of the primary ways to evaluate or assess group counseling. They’re absolutely still useful and I still recommend them. That said, you might want to consider progress monitoring in group counseling in addition to or as an alternative to the traditional pre/post-survey. One reason is that it aligns well with the MTSS model. Another is that it gives more information and gives it throughout the group vs. just the beginning and the end.

Because progress monitoring in group counseling (or individual counseling!) is still a newer idea, it’s not as well known or understood. If you want to give it a try, though, we’re sharing all the information you need in this short and sweet post!

Group Counseling Progress Monitoring Tools

There are some counselors who do progress monitoring through FASTBridge (an online platform many schools use for their academic screeners and progress monitoring). If you have access to a standardized social/emotional/behavioral progress monitoring tool, that’s awesome! If not, here are some ways to easily DIY it:

Using Pre/Post Surveys

One option is to use the pre/post-survey (or a condensed version of it) weekly/biweekly instead of just before and after the group. If you condense it, it might change throughout the group to be specific to whichever skills you’re focusing on in during that time chunk. For example, if you’re doing three sessions in March on conflict resolution, you would give a survey specific to those skills from maybe mid-March through mid-April. (You can find editable group surveys here!)

Point Sheets/Behavior Report Cards

Progress monitoring data in group counseling with behavior improvement objectives might look like the points charts used in a Check In/Check Out Intervention.

A chart like this provides you (and the student) with quick snapshots of how each day went, and is useful as a progress monitoring and self-monitoring tool even without the mentor and reinforcement components of CICO.

Scaling

Sometimes, the fastest and easiest option is the best option. Scaling is simple and straightforward. First, identify the problem to scale. It could be a specific behavior, a specific emotion, or an ongoing issue the students are facing. Each week, you will ask them to identify the frequency or intensity of the problem over the past week.

I recommend using this weather-themed wall-sized scale!

Progress Monitoring Forms

Similarly, you can create a progress monitoring form for the students and/or teachers to complete with a similar prompt – identifying the intensity, frequency, or impact of the presenting issue. Here’s some examples:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried did you feel today?
  • How many times today did this student use a coping skill (that you could see) to take care of their feelings?
  • Today, this student interacted positively with peers…all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, or rarely.

Other Things to Consider

💡At the tier 2 level, progress monitoring can be done weekly or biweekly. Your call!
💡With single prompt measures, consider having 4-5 response options. They will be more sensitive to change than if you’re asking a single question with only 2-3 answers. Sensitivity to change is important because change is exactly what we want to see and measure.
💡If you’re using teacher reports, consider drafting and scheduling emails to go out automatically with a link to the form (if you’re going digital). If hard copy, make all the copies you need ahead of time and mark in your planner when to stick them in mailboxes. A little work ahead of time will make your life easier.
💡Speaking of easy: The easiest option, if you’re using self-report, is to just incorporate this into the first couple minutes of group sessions. I know it’s hard to find the time to add something else into an already packed group agenda, but, if you think about how progress monitoring is also self-monitoring and review, your brain can view it as even more worthwhile.
💡My brain likes to focus on the positive for measures, so my default prompts tend to be about what skills the intervention is focused on developing. That is NOT how most validated measures are worded, however. They focus on the unwanted behaviors/symptomology with the goal of reducing the negative instead of increasing the positive. I’m still mulling this over and may adjust my own work to reflect this, and wanted to make mention of it here.
💡You can absolutely use school data (attendance, office discipline referrals, etc.) to progress monitor IF 1) you believe your intervention will directly impact the data and 2) the measure is sensitive enough to change (i.e. if they’re starting at 4 absences every two weeks vs. just 1 absence every two weeks).

Real World Suggestions

As valuable as I think progress monitoring can be for group counseling, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I also believe that for some of us, just consistently meeting with our groups is an achievement, and adding in all of these other elements isn’t feasible.

If I were starting a round of groups right now, I would personally use progress monitoring for a handful of groups in third grade and up. With those grades, I could feel more confident about the validity of self-report and not worry about adding something to those teachers’ plates., I would also use a weekly point sheet for some younger students in groups with externalizing behavior goals. In general, I would prioritize progress monitoring when: 1) the school team might need the data to inform a tier change or 2) I am not sure how effective the interventions are and I want to make sure I’m using my time wisely.

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and
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