Getting on Board with Small Groups in High School Counseling [Episode 113]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Do you have mixed feelings about counseling small groups? Today’s episode will pique your interest and get you thinking about incorporating them into your high school counseling. There is so much power in using small groups in the high school setting!
It’s time for high school counselors to replace your dreaded non-counseling duties with actual counseling duties, like the forgotten tier-two intervention of small groups. Small groups are a way to support your students in a much bigger way and do the things that made you want to be a school counselor in the first place!
In today’s episode, I am sharing all the details of the five done-for-you small group resources I have available, how to incorporate counseling small groups into your high school counseling program, and how each of these small groups will impact you and your students.

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • The benefits of running small groups in the high school setting
  • The five different types of small group resources done for you
  • How to start small groups with zero experience
  • The power of student collaboration within counseling small groups
  • The sense of pride and fulfillment from facilitating small groups

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

You are listening to Episode 113 of High School Counseling Conversations and we’re about to dig into small groups. I’m guessing you may have mixed feelings on small groups, but I’m hoping this episode will rope you in and get you thinking about how you could incorporate them into your high school counseling world.

I have lots of past episodes and blog posts convincing you about the benefits of running small groups, of overcoming the roadblocks to getting them going and of convincing students and admin to buy into what you’re doing. Especially if it’s unfamiliar your school or high school settings all together for you.

It’s definitely going to take a culture shift to happen in your school to get them going, if that’s where you’re finding yourself right now, or if your school counseling department is kind of against them or has never run them before. I’ll link to my favorite resources to combat those things in the show notes for you.

In today’s episode, I’m going to break down the small groups that I have resources for and help you figure out how to run them and incorporate them into your high school counseling program. I’ll let you know what’s inside and what you can expect when running them with your students. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students lives, but you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list. I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can invite you into my Counselor Clique where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle, your High School Counseling hype girl, here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job.

There are five small groups I’m going to be talking about in this episode on the following topics, stress management, career exploration, leadership, first generation college going and coping skills. I’d love for you to listen to each of these groups and dream big about how they could be incorporated into your school’s DNA each semester or year after year.

One of the best parts of running small groups is that you can rinse and repeat the same small group lessons with the same materials over and over again. You get better at facilitating them each time, but they never get boring, because the students in your group are different each time. You get to impact more students each time you run one and your students takeaways will be different from each other every single time.

Each time you do a needs assessment with your students, you could include these groups as options for them to say that they’re interested in or if you have your own group curriculum or you’re willing to make some of your own, then of course, you could add those in as options too.

The time of year that you’re going to want to run groups will vary, depending on a lot of different things. But you really can’t go wrong. You can block off six to eight weeks on your calendar to run one and commit to get it going.

With these pre made groups, you won’t have to think twice about what you’re going to be doing in the group. You just got to get your headspace right to get motivated to start somewhere. And I promise once you start and once you get through one, you’re gonna want to keep doing them.

When high school counselors complain about having too much paperwork or too many non counseling duties, they need to replace those things with actual counseling duties. And I’m talking about the forgotten tier two intervention, small groups.

So let’s talk about what you’re going to do in these small groups and who these particular ones are perfect for. First up, The Stress Management Small Group. This is my most popular small group in my TPT shop and for good reason. It was the group we ran the most at my former high school, it can hit such a broad range of students from high achieving students to your lesser motivated students.

So many are dealing with stress, but they don’t know how to cope appropriately. This one is good for all high school grade levels and I think you can feel the freedom to mix grade levels in with this one too.

Like it doesn’t only have to work to put all 10th graders together or all 12th graders together, you can definitely mix it up here. I’m gonna guess that this one is going to be a popular one though. So feel free to make the groups as homogenous or as mixed as you want. I know you’ll find success either way.

This seven session group is a great one for you, if you feel a little green with experience in leading small groups, it’s fun, it’s low pressure and it’s high impact. From the beginning, I give you everything you need to get this thing off the ground, including invitation letters and passes to get your students to your physical space to start the group.

You’ll lay the foundation of what a small group is, remember, I said this one was easy to do even if it’s been a hot minute since you’ve run a small group, and how each group is going to flow including setting expectations for how to act and how to respond in group. Then, you’ll get into the actual skills to reinforce stress management.

Every group includes counseling mindsets and behaviors and a hands on activity of sorts. This group in particular addresses topics like self care, stresses implications on the human body, gratitude as a response to stress, coping skills when stress comes on, mindfulness and a final reflection on the student’s growth with meaningful conversation starters.

I found that students love this group because they have a genuine interest in learning about something that they’ve likely dealt with for a while. And it’s reassuring to find themselves side by side with other students going through the same thing, which is one of the big reasons for running a group in the first place right? Shared experiences inside and outside of the group.

I’ll link the Stress Management Small Group in the show notes and I hope you jump in and start this group at your school. It’ll be one that you’ll do over and over again for semesters to come.

Next up, the Career Exploration Small Group. This small group proves that not all tier two interventions need to be focused on social emotional learning. Career Exploration is a huge chunk of what we’re helping students with in the high school setting.

They’re dreaming about or panicking about what comes next after high school and a small group that digs deeper into career aspirations could be the perfect solution for your students who just need some more hand holding in this arena.

It’s a great way to carve out space for those who are curious but need some dedicated time to make big moves and see some progress happening. As with the stress management group, you get editable invitation letters and fillable passes to make setting up and getting the students there for your group as easy as possible.

This can get so complicated in the high school setting, so I’m trying to minimize those roadblocks for you. Every one of the seven sessions comes with a lesson plan that guides you through the setup, the materials you need and what your session with students will look like the day of.

Students can be at any point in their career exploration journey when they start this group. They’ll do a pretest to see where they see themselves as you’re kicking this off. I personally love the activities in each of these sessions, they’re creative, and they inspire personal research.

Students will be doing the same things like the same activity, but they’ll have completely different outcomes to share with the group from what they’ve learned and discovered about themselves. From career readinessm to career exploration, to soft skills and education needed for the jobs they’re gravitating towards.

Your students will get a realistic picture of what it takes to get to where they want to go. And I think that’s important for students to hear in high school. Because let’s be real sometimes their heads can be in the clouds about the actual steps that it takes to get to where they want to go. This group will help them identify the end goal and then mark out the steps to get there.

As with stress management, use this career exploration group with any of your high school grade levels, whether they’re 9th 10th, 11th, or 12th. There’s something in here for all of your students to learn, benefit and grow from. I’m excited to hear about how this career exploration small group goes in your school.

Is it a goal of yours to get some small groups up and running at your high school? Are small groups thetask but just keep getting pushed down on your to do list and never make it to your actual calendar and then out into the world? I want you to check out my curated podcast playlist just for small group counseling.

The episodes featured cover topics like overall benefits of small groups, partner buy inm student buy, in facilitation tips and more. Head to to put this playlist in your Spotify lineup and get inspired to run some small groups this year. That’s

Now let’s get back to the episode. Third on our docket today, the Leadership Small Group. I often pair this with a growing student ambassadors group on my school’s campus. But the great thing about this one is that it doesn’t have to be paired with that, you can run a leadership group completely independent of a student ambassadors program.

I love that you really have a freedom to grow leaders, just like in general in your school, or seek out specific students for a purpose and help them grow as leaders. This group is eight sessions long, one session extra compared to the stress management and career exploration groups that I’ve just mentioned to you. It’s not overwhelmingly longer or anything, just worth mentioning, because it’s different.

I loved creating this one because I really felt like I got to address the gaps that I was seeing with students before they launched from high school. So we cover topics like public speaking, written communication, job interview skills, digital citizenship, etiquette, a small bit of career exploration and self awareness.

It’s like the stuff you wish students knew, but none of them seem to have mastered by the time they’re seniors. You know, when you get an email written entirely in the subject line, or student leaves you a voicemail because they need you to mail a transcript, but they forget to tell you their name or where they want the transcript sent.

We cover all of those type of things and skills that will help combat those things. I know you could think of 100 more examples of stuff like that. I feel like students come out of this leadership group with more confidence in who they are and how to communicate that with other peers and adults.

It’s so encouraging to see them grow into humans who are ready to launch into their next season with the appropriate skill sets in all of these areas. Enjoy this real world group alongside your students. You’ll love seeing how they adapt and change because of the skills that you get to teach them and nurture within them, you’re gonna be so proud of them when this group is done.

Okay, the next group is the First Generation College Going Group. This group is extremely impactful and was always the most moving for me as a counselor. In episode 71 of this podcast, I interviewed my former high school principal, Eric Williams. And he even mentioned this group, it was memorable for him too. And he heard all the success stories even though he had nothing to do with the facilitation of the group.

It was something I was so excited about, that I couldn’t help telling him about it and sharing results from the group with him. He loved hearing those success stories of growth and ambition and unity that he heard from students in the group and then he heard from me.

As a facilitator, I was overwhelmed with pride and joy at the growth that I saw from students in terms of their vulnerability with each other and their ability to make huge strides in their post secondary planning journey, just with the help of a counselor and with peers who are in similar situations as them.

Because being first generation is considered an invisible identity, like you don’t know whose first gen. When you are the counselor, you can get these students together in one room or one small group, and they can share an experience and gain so much from your council around college knowledge.

The college transition is monumental and it’s hard for any young adult but especially for one who doesn’t have anyone else to show them the ropes, we’re starting a conversation about what’s coming down the pipeline for them. If you’re looking for a rewarding group to run with your juniors or seniors, this First Gen Group is it.

Last but not least, I’d love to tell you about the newest small group in the Counselor Clique Toolkit, The Coping Skills Small Group. This group starts with a general introduction of coping skills and what the group members can expect for the full eight sessions.

For the next group, they move into discussing big feelings and what that can mean even as a teenager because we all too often forget that big feelings don’t just disappear after the toddler years. In session three, we talked about managing self control and holding ourselves accountable to our words and our actions.

We move on to practice school skills like organization and study skills, we are really covering it all here. Then, we work on seeing different perspectives from others with a board game to better understand conflict resolution and general misunderstandings in relationships. This is real stuff that even we deal with as adults, right?

In session six, we practice what it means to build relationships. Because if no one teaches you how to discern healthy from unhealthy relationships and what to do with those, you can end up with a whole lot of toxic hardships in your life that just feel heavy all around.

The last core group of coping skills content is all about finding your circle of your people with your network, by sorting through what it means to be a leader, even as you approach risky situations, or you’re faced with peer pressure. So at the end, students reflect with a post test and share how they’ve grown and what they’re taking away from the coping skills group. It’s a good one.

So there you have it, a deep dive into five done for you options for small groups that really cover a variety of bases in terms of topics out there. If you’re wondering a bit more about the how of implementing them, and not just the what, be sure to grab that small group counseling playlist that you heard about in this episode by going to

It will be extremely helpful for you to pair with any of these small group resources, to put the how into practice with the what of these groups. It’ll be linked in the show notes if you want to get there quickly and easily. We’ll be back next week talking about data collection as it pertains to your small groups. I’ll see you then.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of High School Counseling Conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM at counselorclique. That’s CLIQUE. I’ll see you next week.

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Cheers + Happy Listening!

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