The group setting is the set of procedures that will organize and regulate the group. It’s very important to define this setting, so that the practical and everyday aspects of the group’s functioning become easier to manage and this group setting should also be maintained relatively constant (without being absurdly or exceedingly rigid).
Main Elements of the Group Setting
1. Homogeneous or Heterogeneous
You must define how similar the group members should be. It will depend on the presented pathologies and the general goal of the specific group.
2. Open or Closed
After the initial constitution of the group, will it be allowed to remain open so that other people may later join? Generally, in psychoanalysis, groups are left open but it exceptions can sometimes be made when needed.
3. Number of patients
This will most likely depend on the therapist. Usually, the group has six members, but this is not a rule. Although, it never should have less than 4, nor more than 9.
4. Gender and Age
This is a controversy point. A group with both genders seems to have more advantages for the patients, yet, some psychoanalysts contest this point of view due to (accordingly to them) a larger possibility of sexual involvement between the patients.
Regarding the age factor, the divergence in opinion is even bigger. Some therapists prefer all the patients within the same age group, others believe that a more ample, or wider sample of people when it comes to age difference, will allow the sharing of richer, or just overall greater number of, experiences.
5. Duration and number of sessions by week
The duration depends on the number of patients, but in average, each session will last close to 90 minutes. Some therapists prefer one much larger session a week, while other ones prefer 3 sessions, just like in individual therapy.
6. Time duration of the group
This largely depends on whether the group is open or closed. The time duration of a group may be limited (usually in closed institutions) in closed groups or unlimited in the open ones.
7. Observer, co-therapist or supervisor
The possible presence of each one of these aforementioned professionals should be previously defined and/or stated. A disclaimer of the possibility or certainty of the above situation not only commands respect but is also seen as full disclosure, which is very relevant to the group providing confidence.
Observer: The presence of an observer doesn’t directly interfere with the group, as he mostly takes notes and is nowadays usually limited to educational situations.
Co-therapist: This presence can be quite helpful with children, teenagers and families. However, a near perfect harmony between the two therapists is usually required for a good result.
Supervisor: It’s a mandatory presence for beginners, but it can also prove very useful later on, allowing the therapist to expand his horizons and prevent him from getting stuck in a certain, or stereotypical, way of working with a group, or groups.