Therapeutic groups deal with the conscious and unconscious factors of its members, and the way they evolve will depend on how the potential of the multiples vectors which are part of the group field (disruptive and cohesive, harmonious and inharmonious…) is worked on and how efficiently.
Every human being has an innate tendency for wanting to know who he is and the role he plays in the groups to which he belongs, and it’s based on that notion that the therapist should try to make the group evolve.
Let’s now discuss some important aspects concerning therapeutic groups.
The setting is more than a normative need or requirement, it will have a therapeutic action on group members, creating a space or a hierarchy and promoting group cohesion. It will act as a “container” function for all anguishes and needs.
The group must receive and contain its members’ anguishes, helping them to structure their psyche and adapt themselves, in a proper way, to all situations.
The group therapist will stand as a model, allowing other members of the group to identify with him and work on their anguishes and fears, based on the way that the therapist receives and deals with this material.
The group will work as a “hall of mirrors”, resulting from an identification and projection game, that occurs within the same. It will act as an important therapeutic action, allowing each member to recognize himself while also allowing all members to be recognized by everyone else, thus helping them develop their social abilities.
This is a fundamental difference in regards to individual therapy. The therapeutic group gives the individuals the appropriate conditions to interact and develop their ability to relate to others. They will feel as if they’re better “understood” by the other members, since they share the same language.
In many cases, as in couple therapy for example, this is a severe problem. In a therapy group, the communication part is easier due to the fact that every member within it shares a common language. It’s also important to work in the non-verbal communication and help all group members acquire insight.
What kind of interventions can (and should) the therapist make inside the group? It depends on the group’s objectives, the therapeutic approach and, of course, the therapist himself and the way he or she works, but, in general, the therapist should ask questions (in a non interrogative way), give some subtle directives and nudge the group into the original subject every time he or she sees it as necessary. He should keep in mind his own interpretation, always taking into consideration the opposites permanently presented in the group. He should also verbalize his emerging impulses and emotions as it will help the group to work on the meaning of some important facts that will emerge within it. And, the most important of all, common sense and professionalism in everything he or she does.
The roles assigned within the group will be of main importance for its interaction as a whole, and should be carefully observed by the therapist. It’s quite important to realize if they have been altered over time, or if they have remained equal. What changed? Why, or why not? Was it beneficial for the group? The therapist should ask himself these and other questions and impartially evaluate the development of all group elements.
Group therapy gives the patient an unique opportunity to help other people. This will be important for him in order to recognize his own abilities and worth, as well as allowing him to partake in an important damage repair exercise. However, it can also enable the rise of an aggressive posture inside of the group, which should be contained and crafted by the therapist.
Personality’s Psychoanalytic Function
This isn’t more than a healthy curiosity in a search for truth, which is, many times, numbed by intrapsychic conflicts and pathological organizations of personality. An individual must distinguish reality from fantasy and be able to elaborate on his own insights about the first one. Ideally, he should be able to keep doing this, even after the end of therapy.
The therapist must have the conscience that he’s an important identification model for the other group members. He is fundamental for the development of the group and his attitudes towards it will define the way the group will evolve.