Pregroup Intervention

The pre-group meeting is an opportunity for group leader and candidate to discuss the benefits and scopes of the group. During this meeting, the candidate should be given the opportunity to interview the group leader and ask questions, allowing the candidate to form a judgment and make an informed decision about the group. A pre-group meeting can also be considered a type of mini-group experience to assess how well the candidate may interact in the group setting. It is recommended that the following information is conveyed in both written and verbal formats to provide repeated reinforcement of norms. Verbal interventions are put forth in the next section, followed by written comments that can be incorporated into a handout adapted for a particular-clinical setting.

The following examples of initial introductory comments can be presented by clinicians that describe the group therapy experience to potential members.

• In group, you can go a step further than talking about the way you relate to others; you can actually practice changing the way you relate to others.

• Group has been shown to be an effective treatment of choice for your specific issues—people like you do well in group.

• An individual therapist is often unable to observe your interpersonal style that you feel is not working for you; in group, these dynamics can become clear to you as others observe you.

• One of the nice things about groups is that you may work through a problem merely by listening to another group member struggle with your issue. Without speaking at all, you may gain insight and healing. You do not have to do all the work by yourself.

• Your problems are similar to those of other clients in group counseling; although your situation may be unique, your underlying feelings will be remarkably similar to other group members. People often describe feeling less alone and isolated once beginning group therapy with others who understand difficulty.

• You may feel nervous about the first group session. As you hear others disclose and you begin the process of letting people get to know you by revealing yourself, you may be surprised at how quickly you feel more comfortable. The people who are able to share things in group often get the most benefit.

Written handouts with information specific to therapy groups can greatly benefit clients' understanding of the group process. Such handouts and can be utilized to clearly communicate group norms and help create a healthy group climate. These handouts may be given prior to the pre-group meeting to help prospective members begin to absorb the concepts.

The following statements are easily incorporated into a written format for handouts:

• You are encouraged to talk about your feelings and experiences, particularly in areas that are emotionally uncomfortable or risky for you. You will make the most progress if you allow yourself to experience and discuss your true feelings and reactions to others.

• It is normal to feel some anxiety as you talk about your personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences with others. Share these dif ficulties or concerns at a pace that is comfortable for you rather than forcing yourself to disclose too quickly in group. You will be challenged to relate to one another without superficial conversation, social amenities, and other forms of social distancing in order to be as direct, frank, and spontaneous with your thoughts as possible. Questions should be rare, but the thoughts and feelings behind your question will be important to explore.

Confidentiality is mandatory; it is extremely important to help you feel safe in discussing personal issues in group. You may talk about your own feelings and growth experiences with someone outside of the group but you may not discuss other people or reveal the identity of any group members. Please do not use Internet forums such as Facebook or MySpace to discuss your therapy group experience or reveal the identities of other group members.

When you have reactions to something another member says, it is helpful to share those feelings in group directly with the person. A good way to do this is to use "I" statements, such as "1 can relate to what you are saying because I also feel afraid when. . . ," etc. Giving advice, labeling someone, or criticizing are generally not productive in group.

We make every effort to begin and end group on time. Please be on time for the group sessions, and if you have to be late or miss a session due to an emergency, please call and leave a message ahead of time for one of the leaders.

We ask that you not have social relationships outside the group with other group members. All members are encouraged to let the group know if you have had a significant conversation outside of group. This helps to keep the group relationships therapeutic.

Attendance is mandatory in order to keep the group feeling cohesive and safe.

If you decide you need to leave before the ending of the group, please inform the group and give a minimum of two weeks notice.

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