What is Group Therapy?
People ask this over the phone, thinking Group might be for them. They ask at parties and networking events. Sometimes group members themselves ask.
What do you think it is? I ask them.
Well, like a support group?
The main difference in the groups that I run is that they are process groups.
What is a Process Group?
A Process Group is a space where members are invited to express their immediate, here-and-now thoughts and feelings towards and about other members. If your first reaction to this is “why would anyone subject themselves to such an environment?” you are not alone.
In a process group, members are encouraged to abandon many of the social norms of polite discourse.
Group members are asked to put into words any and all reactions they have including anger, sexual attraction, fear, hurt, and affection. As group progresses, members learn to express their sentiments in a way that focuses on their own experience:
- “I feel frustrated and angry when you yawn while I’m speaking.”
- “I feel hurt and scared when you yell at me and call me that.”
- “I feel very attracted to you.”
- “I feel a lot of affection for you and I’m angry because I think you’re making a bad decision.”
- “I want to say something but I’m anxious that you will judge me.”
This feedback about members’ effect on other people is hard to come by.
Friends, family and acquaintances are rarely so direct, preferring either to avoid unpleasant conversations, or relying on unhelpful habits of criticism and blame.
Even individual therapists may struggle with sharing a perspective that is difficult and uncomfortable for their clients to hear.
Process Group members learn to access and express their own emotions and to comprehend and respond to the emotions of other people.
They discover how they might sabotage relationships and explore how to create and sustain intimacy, to ask for what they need and to receive it.