The group coordinator isn’t just the person who’s simply there to organize and decide who gets to speak and what each member will do. He or she also has a determinant role in the group’s development and success.
Thus, there are some important features that those who are, or want to be, therapists or coordinators in therapeutic groups, will have to pay attention to and try to embody or maintain.
Here’s a list of some of these features, according to Zimerman & Osorio (1997).
1. To Like and Believe In Groups
This is a fundamental feature, it will allow the coordinator to easily pick up on what’s going on within the group and deal with it in the best way possible.
2. Search For The Truth
The coordinator must constantly try to strive and search for the truth (without going so far as to become an obsession), so it’s really important that he or she learn quickly to distinguish the truths, the lies and the half-truths that will arise within the group.
The coordinator or therapist will have an educating role towards the other group members. He should practice this role with consistency and equality for all members, otherwise, he would be deceiving or harming his group.
4. Sense of Ethics
No one has the right to invade another person’s space, so the coordinator, as the maximum person responsible for the group must strive to keep the privacy and respect within said group.
The respect from the coordinator includes being able to look to the people who stand before him, beyond the labels which might have been given to them, helping these people, trying to understand them, as well as keeping a respectful distance and showing patience for their inhibitions and insecurities.
The coordinator should maintain an active posture, in an attempt of making all members contribute to the group and its success, although, he should do it carefully, respecting their time, in a way which earns their trust and giving them a contained environment for their insecurities and worries.
7. Being container
This can seem like a weird concept, but it’s just the ability that the coordinator or therapist has, to receive and contain the emotional needs and anguish of his group members, helping them to work on/through them appropriately.
8. Contention of his own anguishes
With all he sees and listens, it’s natural that a series of feelings arise in the coordinator, resulting in a certain anguish of his own. Many times, it may trigger some rage or incomprehension toward another member of the group or even about the group as a whole.
These and other feelings are natural and inevitable. It’s necessary, as a group therapist, to deal with a great amount of wear and tear, and the coordinator must know or learn to quickly control his own feelings.
9. Function of Auxiliary Ego
The coordinator must focus his attention and efforts on helping people deal with what they usually can’t deal with by themselves. Thus, he will serve as a auxiliary ego that helps and supports them in that function, until they learn how to do it on their own.
10. Thinking Role
The coordinator will help the group members think about their feelings, their ideas and positions, as these are being verbalized, leading them to face their own point of view, rather then other people’s. The individual must be liable and confronted by his own ideas and thus, dealing with all of this, the person will acquire the liberty to think for herself.
The ability to discern myself from the other, at all levels. Each member of the group will have a specific role and it’s left to the coordinator not to confuse them, nor to assume the responsibilities that aren’t his own.
This quality is specially important on the psychoanalytic group therapy, where the therapist will have the responsibility of interpreting everything that’s communicated within the group. I remind the readers that communication isn’t uniquely verbal and the subtleties of non-verbal communication can’t be neglected by the coordinator.
13. Individual Features
The better the coordinator knows himself, the easier it will be for him to know and deal with other group members.
14. Identification Model
No matter the group’s main goal, in the end every group will execute a psychotherapeutic function, due to the model provided by the coordinator, who will synthesize, integrate and give cohesion to the group.
The coordinator must establish an emotional connection with all members of the group, being able to put himself in each one’s place. It’s important to be able to distinguish the feelings that other participants might have, from his own feelings and emotions.
16. Synthesis and Integration
The coordinator or therapist should be able to extract a common denominator from the communications made by the other group members and turn that denominator into the priority task for said group. He will join every aspect of these communications and help the participants in learning from the emotional experiences that occur in the group’s interactions.
ZIMERMAN, David E., OSORIO, Luiz Carlos & Col. (1997). Como Trabalhamos com Grupos. (How to work with groups) Porto Alegre: Artes Médicas.