Resistance is an important phenomenon in general psychoanalysis and it cannot be ignored in group therapy. By resistance, we mean everything which is in direct opposition to being able to access the unconscious. However, there are two types of resistances, the ones which are totally obstructive to the therapy development and the natural ones, which are a way in which the individual defends himself from his anguishes and needs.
How do we recognize them?
These resistances might manifest in a lot of different ways, all of which the therapist should try and pay attention to. The patient can be late often or even miss most of the sessions or just try to change the setting and conditions. During a session, the therapist may notice the individual involved in intense talking, many times with excessive intellectuality regarding the explored subjects or, otherwise, just a complete silence.
It’s possible for an individual to be excessively focused on reporting the outside reality or make some hypochondriac complaints. He might refuse to approach unconscious matters and keep too many secrets locked away.
Sometimes, there are leaders who arise within a group, with a saboteur role, trying to expel any new element and they tend to promote impasses and negative therapeutic reactions.
Why do they appear?
The main cause of resistances is fear: fear of the unknown (common in paranoid anxiety, for example), fear of the depression, fear of regression or progression, fear of being humiliated… Furthermore, there are patients who may be excessively attached to an illusion, or the ones who experience excessive envy. And, of course, there are the normal resistances to therapy, as a healthy answer to any inadequacies on the part of the therapist.
When do they deserve our attention?
If you’re a therapist, there are some types of patient resistances where you must pay special attention to the patients themselves:
The silent – You need to be patient and stimulate the individual, while, however, trying to avoid putting too much pressure on him.
The monopolist – This kind of patient has the necessity of being seen, he fears becoming anonymous, insignificant or marginalized.
The one who avoid the subject – When he or she realizes there is a risk of someone coming up with an anxiogenic subject, the patient changes the subject.
Acting – This kind is really important, the individual displays actions as a substitute for his desires and tends to conflict verbalization, all while avoiding having to think about the emotional experiences.
Saboteur – This patient will try to prevent growth and change within the group.
Ambiguous – Although he’s, apparently, fully integrated in the group, this one will present you with constant contradictions, as he deals with the problems in a pathological way.
What should we do?
First of all, as a therapist, you must distinguish the obstructive resistances, from the ones that actually reveal the way an individual protects himself and manages to function in real life. It’s also important to know if the resistance comes from the whole group, a fraction of it or even from a single individual, as well as the exact point of the resistance (What is being resisted, by whom and how or why). And finally, the therapist should know his or her role according to the resistance and make sure that he or she does not become allied with it.