New therapy group starting Exeter January 2016
Group members are very varied, diverse and no two groups are the same. When thinking about coming to group therapy, it is well worth spending some time thinking about what it entails and what you aim to achieve by being a member.
Maybe there is a need to relate differently to people in your life. Aspects of how we relate as humans is so important to our lives. There are few environments that allow us to be honest and to explore who we are, feeling our way with others who are also doing the same. It can be very challenging to give direct feedback and to listen to others returning feedback.
What is your experience in this group at any moment? You could be experiencing confusion, or finding there is a lack of support and direction that needs attention. There may be a desire to change, to act or behave in a different way, and the group provides an opportunity to practise a new way of relating or to discover how our relationships are formed or damaged.
Group members unfold and grow gradually. This is the process of the group. Safety, confidentiality and trust are most important. Participants are required to look after themselves, but facilitators and group members can support in this regard.
Each person coming to a group brings their total ‘field’. That is, everything that has made them the person they are today, be it past, present or future. It is well worth being yourself and checking on how you feel in the group here and now. It is imperative to use ‘I’ statements and talk about our own experiences and how these affect us today. Be honest, try to come without masks or veils, be prepared to show yourself and be prepared to protect yourself but also to take risks (safe emergency). Try not to have investment in outcomes or conclusions, understand that support will be there and feel able to give support. This can be a central feature of group work.
Very little learning takes place in our comfort zones. The learning edge is at the place where we challenge ourselves. Experiencing ourselves behaving differently can lead to a greater sense of our potential. That behaviour can then be integrated and utilised within the group and outside.
Groups can require a considerable amount of investment in time. Attendance is vital. You may well find yourself thinking about the group throughout your days. This can be productive and also useful. Ascertain what it is you need from the group and may not be getting. Evaluate how you feel in the group and be honest in taking these feelings to the group.
It is not the role of groups or Gestalt facilitators to instruct members in how to be, or to interpret behaviour. Each person has the freedom to decide for themselves how they proceed in the group or in their lives. However, actions will have consequences and these can become apparent in such a diverse environment.
Finally, groups should be fun as well as a place for creativity and awareness. Exercises will be used as and when necessary. These could include meditation, visualisations, body awareness, or working in pairs. Your time should be varied, stimulating and enjoyable.
About Richard Dennison
I am a Gestalt practitioner trained in leading groups, working with individuals and couples. I qualified in 1999 and have working in private practice and primary health care. I now work for a mental health charity. Groups will have a maximum of eight participants and could be open or closed depending upon the wishes of the group.