Therapeutic Social Groups for Teens

Thank you for supporting me through this year and teaching me a billion new social skills which I use every day!”

Group participant (Boy 15)

At Evolving Roles, we specialise in therapeutic social groups for teenagers who long to be more socially confident. This program is led by Jane Maher, Melbourne’s only Psychodramatist, Family Therapist & Mental Health Nurse focused on helping socially isolated teenagers, and a pioneer in this field.

Jane has helped more than 300 kids reduce their social anxieties, build their social skills, and renew their sense of belonging with her unique combination of experience, training and qualifications offering a dynamic, creative and effective approach to teen groups.

The value of therapeutic social groups for adolescents is well documented. As Irving Yalom writes:

Nothing seems to be of greater importance for the self-esteem and well-being of the adolescent… than to be included and accepted in some social group, and nothing is more devastating than exclusion.

Typically, over time, our kids also become more focused on their schoolwork and vocational pathways. Our parents say “….he looks forward to his group sessions“. They also report that their family relationships improve with time. As the child’s mood, confidence and social skills improve, family relationships and parent/child connections can also relax and strengthen.

Evolving Roles has a thriving teenage group program, with a number of well-established groups and new groups forming based on client needs.

Who can benefit from participating in teen groups?

Our groups are designed for socially isolated adolescents, including:

  • Kids who are shy, introverted or socially anxious
  • Kids who are sad or worried about their friendships
  • Kids who are on the Autism spectrum
  • Kids who have been bullied, excluded, or marginalised at school
  • Kids whose sensory or cognitive issues have compromised their friendships
  • Kids who have trouble making friends – who feel nervous, shy, self-conscious and worry about fitting in.

Participating in this group offers socially isolated adolescents a place to belong, to have a group to hang out with each week, to relax, have fun and get back on track with growing up.

How do Teenage Therapeutic Social Groups work?

Groups are made up of up to five teens (from 10 year olds and older) of similar ages, from Grade 6 to VCE and after. Most Secondary School-aged groups are mixed gender to help kids become comfortable with other genders, while older Primary School-aged groups tend to be single sex.  

Groups meet for one hour weekly or fortnightly during school terms. Some of our groups have been meeting regularly for several years. During school holidays, we often organise social outings with our groups.

In response to COVID-19, all our groups are currently meeting online via Zoom.  Kids are unsurprisingly comfortable with the online space though it changes what activities we can do. When life returns to ‘normal’ we will resume “In Person” groups and continue to offer online groups for kids who find it difficult to attend in person. In Person social activities are part of the program for online groups when they are possible.

“These groups are a judgement-free space…I can be myself here. I feel confident and like I belong.”

Group participant (14)

What do groups talk about?

Groups are respectful and inclusive. After easy introductory activities to create a safe and productive group culture, the structure of the groups is predominantly shaped by the personalities, interests and concerns in the group.

Group activities can be a simple as playing Uno, board games, art games, drama and other creative stuff. Kids quickly get the idea that they can suggest activities and that everyone can have a say in what is done. Kids can discuss the things of concern and interest to them, share ideas and views as well as their experiences. Some groups like to do role play and some don’t (and no-one has to do role plays!). Role play enables rehearsals for challenging situations.

The discussion is quietly guided by Jane, who encourages participation, social and self emotional and interactive awareness, time sharing, turn taking, curious enquiry, naturalistic commentary, mutual warmth, respect and concern as well as fun and spontaneous interaction. Jane holds boundaries so that everyone feels safe from judgement or exclusion, she mediates when any problems arise and assists the group when things like awkward silences happen. Jane works with each child’s goals in the group in the context of creating a cohesive and productive group culture.

The groups are accepting of ‘difference’, so everyone can relax, be themselves and feel more and more confident enough to explore who they are, theirs and others interests, ideas or worries. The groups are supportive and encouraging – everyone in the group has faced social isolation, so they understand how difficult not fitting in can be. The group offers a safe place to share experiences and discuss interests and concerns beyond social isolation. We discuss how to deal with all types of teen challenges and growing up in general.

Getting Started

You don’t need a referral from a professional to participate in our Teens Therapeutic Social Group program (although this is often how parents find us). To get started, give us a call or book an initial appointment with Jane Maher.

At the inital appointment, Jane will meet with you and your child, find out about the situation and talk with your child about what they would like to be different. Together we can work out if the group is the right approach and what to do and not do in the group. If we agree to trial the group we work out together what they would like to get from joining the group.

During this appointment, we work out the best match with an existing group or another approach to get the best ‘fit’ for your child. This may include starting a new group to suit your child’s needs. This meeting will take approximately one hour.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a crucial for building trust when treating young people. What is said in the group remains private and the business of the group. There is a strict ‘no-gossip’ rule. This is kept strong by ensuring there is only one student from any one school in a group at any one time. While belonging in the group, group members are expected not to be in contact outside the group ie no contact on social media platforms etc. This is so that no one gets excluded or left out of contact outside the group. When group members graduate from the group they are welcome to be in touch with each other.

Evolving Roles is aware of the ‘mature minor’ principle, a common law principle that says “an adolescent under the age of 18 years is capable of giving informed consent when he or she achieves a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed.” This means we only share information about what is discussed during group sessions with parents or other protective adults, where the adolescent has consented for the information to be shared, unless we think that the young person or another person’s life or wellbeing are at risk.

When required, support about difficult issues with parents or other protective adults is discussed first between Jane and the young person in private. Mandatory reporting is required when indicated and is usually done in discussion with teens and their parents.

Fees and Funding*

2020 Fees$AU ex GST*
Initial appointment (1 hour)$255 -277.50 (1.5 hour fee)
Group sessions (1 hour)$95 – 110 per session
Review sessions and reports for NDIS clients$170 – 185
Please enquire if these fees are prohibitive – our aim is to help.

Participation in teenage therapeutic social skills groups is not funded by Medicare or private health insurance. 

*Fees charged vary depending on funding and means. If your child is funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and has goals related to improved social skills, you can use the ‘Improved Daily Living’ funding in your plan. Check out our information for NDIS clients.