Magdalena Berg


Many adolescent mothers fail to complete their high school or college diploma. In response to their academic challenges, Human Services student Magdalena Berg, offers a transformative solution through an academically-based support group. Her central thesis is well-developed and follows a logical structure. She identifies problem areas and structures group sessions using a proven, therapeutic approach based on Reality Therapy by William Glasser. Magdalena identifies practical, problem-solving skills and a teaching methodology that would appeal to her students. Her well-written paper shows how theory and application can be used effectively.

– Cynthia Trumbo

Adolescent Motherhood and Academic Success

The purpose of this educational/support group is to help pregnant high school girls rediscover the value of education and encourage them to pursue further education once they graduate from high school. Studies show that girls having a baby as teenagers are more likely to face poverty, inadequate education, and engage in risky behavior often leading to repeated teen pregnancies and substance abuse. Poor education leads to fewer employment opportunities, lower earnings throughout their lives, and dependence on welfare (Akella & Jordan, 2011). Many students come from environments where teenage pregnancy is an accepted social norm causing minimal disruption in their lives. With ample government assistance available to them many see dropping out as a convenient option. It is easier for them to raise a baby than to finish school.

Since the target of this group is school success rather than addressing various aspects of pregnancy the group will focus on goal setting with the emphasis of helping the girls “grasp the correlation between the academic success and attainment of life goals” (Capuzzi, 2003, p.101).

Recent studies reaffirm that goal setting activities enhance adolescent brain development and in case management intervention for pregnant adolescents’, goal setting on various levels proved to be an effective method of addressing and encouraging positive life changes (Scarborough, Lewis & Kulkarni, 2010). Members of the group will work on setting personal, attainable, short and long-term goals.

Reality Therapy, a method of counseling created and developed by William Glasser (1965) provides a framework for understanding human behavior and motivation. It is easy to understand and helpful in relating the importance of goal setting and accepting responsibility for one’s actions (Corey, 2008). Individuals have options to choose from so the power to change a situation lies within them. WDEP model based on the theory will help students identify and evaluate their goals, create a plan to attain them, as well as identify their strengths and areas in which they are already succeeding. The goal is for them to emerge as confident young women taking charge of their future (Capuzzi, 2003).


This is a closed group consisting of six to ten members. The group will meet once a week for seven weeks. The sessions will last 1.5 hours. The proposed basic rules include attendance, participation in activities, respect for fellow members and confidentiality. Members have the right to pass on an exercise if they so choose. Upon entering the room all phones will be silenced and left in a designated area to minimize interruptions. Each teen will need to turn in a signed consent form from their parents prior to the first session.


Each session will include group activities, discussion, and time for personal reflection. Members will be given handouts on the various topics and ideas being discussed. Homework questions will help set the tone for the next session. Members will be given five minutes of journaling time to write their comments, complains, and questions at the end of session. Journals will be left for the leader to read after each session.


Purpose: The purpose of the initial meeting is for members to get to know each other, as well as to discuss the purpose and norms of the group.

Theme: “Getting to know you”

Activity: “My Favorite Things” Toss a miniature soccer ball with a general question on each section. The person catching the ball answers the question from the top section: What is your favorite board game/fast food restaurant/season? Give each member a chance to answer a few questions. The questions are simple, the point is for the members to warm up to each other.

Discussion: Basic group rules: attendance, respect, participation, confidentiality, no phones or electronic devices during meetings. Each member will receive a journal for reactions/comments, and a binder for handouts. Explain the purpose of journals and encourage honestly.

Homework: Survey about group expectations.


Purpose: The purpose of the second meeting is to discuss various environments the members come from and the influence of family and social groups on their decision making process.

Theme: “My world”

Activity: Art – draw your family tree.

Discussion: Who are the most important people in your life? What values are important to you? How does it impact your behavior? How closely do you follow in the footsteps of your parents and/or siblings? Do you base your decisions on what you want, or what others expect from you?

Homework: If I could change one thing about me what would it be?


Purpose: Introduce The Five Basic Needs: Survival, Love & Belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun. Needs motivate your behavior. How do you meet your needs?

Theme: “My needs”

Activity: My needs poster – a wall chart with five columns for each of the basic needs. All the members take turns writing down their needs, or at least one need, in appropriate spaces.

Activity: Work with a partner. Pick one of the five needs. Discuss how education/lack of it plays a role in fulfilling that particular need? How much does it affect the outcome today? How much do you think it will affect it five, ten, or twenty years from now?

Discussion: Everyone shares their conclusions with the group. During discussion the leader will emphasize how decisions students make today about school have a detrimental impact on their future well-being, as well as that of their child. Leader will ask for volunteers to share answers to the homework questions. Why would you change that particular thing?

Homework: When you were little who did you want to be when you grow up?


Purpose: The purpose of this session is to discuss Choice Theory. What do you want? How do you get it? How do you get to where you want to be?

Theme: “Making better choices”

Activity: Rounds – Finish the sentence. Everyone picks a sentence stem, “I’m happiest when…” “I worry about…” Leader will encourage members to share deeper things if they are comfortable.

Discussion: How do you get to where you want to be? The leader will introduce Choice Theory and WDEP model (Want/Desire/Evaluate/Plan). A volunteer will give an example of a school related situation and try to apply WDEP concept to it. What is the want in the example, what can be done to fulfill the want? Is the course of action chosen helpful in reaching the goal?

Homework questions from the last meeting. Does pregnancy have a big impact on how you think about your future? Do you feel limited in your options now that you are going to be a mother?

Homework: WDEP Model handout: Each student will pick one educational goal and write them out in a form of Want/Desire/Evaluate/Plan to the best of their ability.


Purpose: The purpose of this meeting is to identify attainable goals and a workable plan to reach them. How do you break up long-term goals into short-term manageable steps? Introduce SMART goal model and the basics of goal setting, creating goals that are realistic, attainable and time specific. The leader will remind everyone that there is only one session left before the closing meeting.

Theme: “I am SMART”

Activity: Everyone will take out their WDEP homework sheet. Everyone will receive a set of five SMART cards Specific/Measurable/Attainable/Realistic/Timely. Members will take a few minutes to think about the educational goal on their worksheet. Is the goal specific – if so place “Specific” card down on the goal. Is the goal realistic? Are the students able to put all the cards down? What cards are left in their hands?

Discussion: Realistic versus unrealistic. Goals should be relevant to your situation. The leader will discourage students from setting goals that are too easy and do not require any work on their part. The easiest solution is not always the best. Change takes time.

Homework: Only one session left before closing of the group. How do you feel about it? Members may be concerned, worried, or anxious about the group ending. This is their chance to express their issues and mention anything else they would like to see covered during a session.


Purpose: The purpose of this session is to talk about overcoming obstacles. Difficulties are a part of life. Some things are simply outside of our control. The only thing we can control is our behavior. How do you react to problems?

Theme: “I can do it”

Activity: Round – one word – “When things don’t go according to my plan I….”

Discussion: The leader will review WDEP model and discuss adjusting goals and adapting them to current situation. We may not always be able to make as much progress as we would like to. Problems can change the way we go about meeting goals, but not the goals themselves.

Activity: Positive mirror – members get a sheet of cardstock with a picture of their face in the middle. The leader will distribute a variety of speech bubbles with positive self-talk intended to build self-esteem. Members pick speech bubbles they find personally helpful and encouraging and glue them as a frame around their picture.

Homework: Members will write on index cards what they liked most about other members, what they learned from them and/or what they admire them for, and name at least one quality/strength that person has. Each member will write one card for each of the other members in the group.


Purpose: Time for celebration. The girls will celebrate the completion of their group with cupcakes and milkshakes, share what they learned in the group and say goodbye to their fellow group members.

Theme: “Celebrate Success”

Activity: First Round – what did I learn in the group. How am I going to use it in the future? How is it going to help me fill my needs and propel me forward?

Second round – The leader will distribute the cards members have written about each other. Everyone will pick one card and read out loud what was said about them.

Discussion: How does it feel to be able to learn what your peers think about you? Did anyone mention a strength you were not aware you had? Did more than one person name the same quality about you?

Activity: Cupcakes and celebration time!

Closing: Final evaluation of the group and the leader. The leader will remind the members to contact their current school counselors if they feel they need continued assistance with their academic progress.  Each member will leave the meeting with a folder of handouts from all the previous sessions to help them review techniques learned during the group.


This group has been designed for pregnant high school girls with the purpose of helping them rediscover the importance of education and teach them how to set attainable educational goals based on the framework of Reality Therapy and WDEP model. Topics addressed during the group included: impact of good education on success in life, self-esteem, and overcoming obstacles. Effective goal setting is an important developmental exercise and the open design of WDEP makes is applicable for various situations and individuals. Although this group focuses on academic success the universal skills learned in the group can be utilized by anyone seeking to engage in goal-setting and achievement process.



Akella, D. Jordan, M. (2015). Impact of social and cultural factors on teen pregnancy. Journal of health disparities research and practice. 8(1), pp.41-62.

Capuzzi, D. (2003). Approaches to group work: a handbook for practitioners. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Corey, G. (2008). Theory & practice of group counseling. Belmont (7th ed.). CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

Gladding, S. T. (2003). Group Work: A Counseling Specialty (4th ed., 113, 469-472). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Glasser, William (1965). Reality therapy. A new approach to psychiatry. New York: Harper & Row.

Jacobs, E., Masson, B., Harvill, R., & Schimmel, C. (2012) Group Counseling: Strategies and Skills, Seventh Edition. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Scarborough, M. K., Lewis, C. M., & Kulkarni, S. (2010). Enhancing adolescent brain development through goal-setting activities. Social Work, 55(3), 276–278.

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