Putting together a therapy group is never easy, there are many concerns that need to be addressed and situations that need to be taken into account, and with children these are in even larger numbers.
This kind of group should never have more than 4 to 6 children and we must separate them by ages (usually, 6 to 9 and 9 to 12 years old, taking into account the maturity of some 9 year old children). Some authors recommend to separate the children by gender, due to the fact that some issues about sexuality may arise and they wouldn’t discuss it in front of one another.
The diagnosis is another important thing to keep in mind. It’s easier to deal with an homogeneous group, however, you should avoid a group of children who are excessively aggressive, who have some intellectual or social handicaps which wouldn’t allow them to interact with or follow along with their companions or those with hyperactivity caused by some organic issue and intense depressive symptoms. Group therapy just doesn’t really work on those children and they tend to bring down the rest of the group with them and harm or impede their development and progress.
For children younger than 6 years old, it’s recommendable, at least initially, to be inserted into family therapy instead, which also works as a source of information and understanding of many of the important dynamics in the child’s life.
This is a fundamental point when you’re working with children. There are two contracts that need to be done and neither of them can be forgotten or ignored.
The first one is the contract that you must do with the child’s parents. It’s important to give the parents some notions about therapeutic work, or they might boycott our action (some times, a couple’s therapy is very useful). And of course, all the practical matter, like honoraries, number of sessions, etc…
The next step is the contract with the children themselves. We should explain to them, the group dynamic, such as we do with an adult, but with appropriate language, according to their ages.