Book Review

Book Review: The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling

The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling

Edited by Robert Conyne

Reviewed by Ed Jacobs, Ph.D.

Coordinator of master’s counseling program at West Virginia University

Fellow in ASGW


Robert Conyne’s edited book, The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling, truly lives up to the title. The chapters are written by some of the leading group educators. Each chapter is comprehensive and filled with rich information about the literature regarding the chapter’s focus on some specific aspect of group counseling. In the introductory chapter, Robert Conyne gives an excellent overview of what’s to come and also briefly discusses important concepts related to group counseling. In Part II, the various authors do a first-rate job giving the history and definition of groups along with describing the role of social justice and diversity in regards to group work. Lynn Rapin’s chapter on ethics is thorough and thought provoking. Janice Delucia-Waack provides an excellent discussion regarding diversity in groups.

Conyne gives Part III the title of Key Change Processes and has different authors write about therapeutic forces, cohesion, group climate, and group development. Each of these chapters gives the reader an in-depth look at the literature and development of these constructs as they relate to group counseling. This book is excellent for the reader who wants to delve into the research on aspects of group counseling. The chapter on group development is the most thorough discussion I have ever read on the various models of stages of groups. Part IV is titled Research but actually the whole book is filled with research. In this section, there are chapters on evidenced based practice, general research models, assessing groups, and qualitative research approaches to group counseling.

In Part V (Leadership), Conye includes six chapters. Two chapters are about the personhood of the leader and the style and function of the leader. Both of these chapters go deep into the literature regarding various aspects of the leader as a person. Also in this section is a chapter titled “Group Techniques” which more appropriately should be titled “Group Exercises.” In his chapter, Sam Gladding urges leaders to be more creative. Gladding also offers some specific ways to use creativity in group sessions. The chapter on teaching and training group leaders gives an excellent account of the different ways educators approach the task of training students to be group leaders. Nina Brown discusses many of the pros and cons of the different forms of experiential learning when it comes to teaching.

Part VI covers many aspects of the applications of groups in different settings and different formats. Groups in the military, schools, across the life span, sexual minorities and international groups are presented. One of the drawbacks of the book is that it is somewhat dated since the copyright is 2010. With that said, the reader will still find every chapter valuable in regards to the literature on the given subject of the chapter through 2009.The chapter on group work internationally is well done and gives an overview of group work in numerous countries. The Online Groups chapter is filled with excellent resources regarding the history and development of online groups; however, anyone researching this subject would need to review the literature from 2010 to the present since so much has occurred with socials media since 2010.

Conyne’s finishes this book with a very interesting chapter that he titles; Group Counseling: 50 Basic Premises and the Need for Mainstreaming. The chapter causes the reader to reflect on all the main issues pertaining to group work based on the writings found in the book. Overall I think anyone interested in the study of group counseling will find this book to be a valuable book to read.