Group Services

Group Services

Participants in Next Step Counseling Services groups have shown:

  • An increase in the frequency of constructive, pro-social behaviors.
  • To rate significantly superior at in-community functioning.
  • Enhanced levels of moral reasoning.
  • Significant increases in overall interpersonal skill competence.
  • Improved anger control.
  • Considerable decreases in the frequency and intensity of acting-out behaviors.
  • Substantial reduction in office referrals at school.
  • An improvement in impulse control.
  • Progress in the area of key cognitive distortions.

Listed below are the counseling and therapy groups offered by Next Step Counseling Services. Groups run throughout the calendar year at different locations in Des Moines and surrounding areas. Please contact Scott Willsey at (515) 255-2500 about the possibility of joining or starting a group in your area.


This intervention program entitled Interpersonal and Social Skills (iPASS) is designed to teach adolescents to understand and replace aggression and inappropriate behavior with positive alternatives. The program is based on the Aggression Replacement Training curriculum, an evidence-based program that is based on a cognitive-behavioral approach to self-directed change.

The program’s three-part approach includes training in Pro-social Skills (Skillstreaming), Anger Control Training and Social Decision Making. The purpose of the training is to improve participants’ ability to function socially and reduce anger. This program is based upon a social learning process, and activities include modeling, role-playing, and performance feedback.


Skillstreaming (the behavioral component) is designed to teach the young person effective social skills aimed at displacing inappropriate behavior and what to do in threatening or stressful situations.

Anger Control Training

Anger Control Training (the emotional component) teaches students self-control in dealing with their anger. The goal is to empower students through positive anger control methods. This enables them to have a variety of options in dealing with a problem rather than the single option of aggression.

Social Decision Making

Social Decision Making (the cognitive/values component) exposes participants to a series of scripted moral dilemmas in a discussion-group context. This component is designed to help correct the youth’s thinking errors and lead him or her to see there are other ways of acting in different situations. Throughout the group discussion, youth are exposed to the different perspectives of other group members. The purpose of the discussion is to facilitate mature reasoning in order for the youth to make more mature decisions in social situations. The group does not teach values.


Upon successful completion of iPASS, youth are able to continue on with iPASS+. This program is based on the PREPARE curriculum and takes the skills learned in the pre requisite program and expands to Problem Solving, Empathy Training and Social Perception Training. Group exercises include games, role plays, reading and writing, drawing, brainstorming, group discussion, relaxation, and other hands-on activities. iPASS+ can be taught in its entirety, by single sections or any combination of sections, depending on the needs of the identified group population.

Problem Solving Training

The focus of this component is a sequence of such graduated problem solving skills such as reflection, problem identification, information gathering, perspective taking, identification of alternatives, consideration of consequences, and decision-making.

The goal is that the participant would gain knowledge of appropriate goals for social interaction, knowledge of appropriate strategies for reaching a social goal, and knowledge of the contexts in which specific strategies may be appropriately applied.

Empathy Training

Expression of empathic understanding, it seems, can simultaneously serve as an inhibitor of negative interactions and a facilitator of positive ones. In this component the skills taught include a process of identifying the perception of emotional cues, affective reverberation of the emotions perceived, cognitive labeling and communication training.

Social Perception Training

When youth are taught social skills, they are armed with the interpersonal skills necessary to respond prosocially to others. However, the youngster may still fail to behave prosocially because he or she “misreads” the context in which the behavior is to occur. This component will help participants gain the ability to accurately ‘read’ the social environment, determine the particular norms and conventions operating at the moment, and to understand the messages being sent.

SST Program

Social Skill Training is a 50 skill curriculum, organized into six groupings:

  1. Beginning Social Skills, e.g., “Starting a Conversation”, “Introducing Yourself”, “Giving a Compliment”
  2. Advanced Social Skills, e.g., “Giving Instructions”, Apologizing”, “Convincing Others’
  3. Skills for Dealing with Feelings, e.g., “Dealing with Someone Else’s Anger”, “Expressing Affection”, “Dealing with Fear”
  4. Skill Alternatives to Aggression, e.g., “Responding to Teasing”, “Keeping Out of Fights”, “Helping Others”
  5. Skills for Dealing with Stress, e.g., “Dealing with Being Left Out”, “Responding to Failure”, “Dealing with an Accusation”
  6. Planning Skills, e.g., “Setting a Goal”, Arranging Problems by Importance”, “Deciding What Caused a Problem”

SST can be taught in its entirety, by single sections or any combination of sections, depending on the needs of the identified group population.


Success With Interpersonal Communication is 70 of the skills that most commonly cause difficulty for individuals with social-communication issues. This has also been found to be affective for those with comorbid mental health diagnosis and autism spectrum disorders.

Each skill is presented with a reproducible skill handout, as well as activity sheets listing ways teachers and parents can demonstrate, practice and reinforce the skill in the classroom and at home.

Topics covered include: how maintain eye contact; how to shift topics; how to say no to peer pressure; or dealing with sensitive topic. This program can be presented in its entirety or with a selection of skills that would meet the group’s needs.

Stress Management

Individuals may possess an array of prosocial skills in their repertoires, but not employ them in particularly challenging or difficult situations because of stress or anxiety. Unsatisfying behavior due to stress may be especially prevalent in the high peer-conscious adolescent years.

A series of self-managed procedures exist by means of which stress may be substantially reduced. Participating youngsters will be taught systematic deep muscular relaxation, meditation techniques, environmental restructuring, exercise and related means for the management, control and reduction of anxiety.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a powerful venue for growth and change. Not only do group members receive tremendous understanding, support, and encouragement from others facing similar issues, but they also gain different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints on those issues. It is a safe environment in which members work to establish a level of trust that allows them to talk personally and honestly. Groups are established around a particular mental health diagnosis or a common theme.