An Adolescent Popula Tion

This group activity is ideal for adolescents because they have an intrinsic understanding of Shakespeare's idea that "All the world's a stage. . ." as proposed by (Elkind, 1967) because of their egocentric perception of the world that is magnified through the lens of an imag-

inary audience. The premise of the exercise is easy for adolescents to comprehend and they readily examine the roles they play in their lives. This author has also used this exercise in substance abuse and anger management groups.

THE INTERVENTION

Materials

No materials are needed, although it is helpful to present a picture of the "tragicomedy" mask for reference. The picture then serves as an introduction to the concept of "the mask." Other materials that can be used with this exercise include paper and markers to draw masks.

Introduction

The group starts with a brief discussion of the masks and what they represent. Usually I will introduce the idea of how the masks were used in ancient Greek theater to distinguish between different characters. An actor would change his or her mask to represent characters that were either tragic (sad or pained expressions on the mask) or comic (smiling or leering). I then use the quote, "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players," (Shakespeare's As You Like It [II, vii, 139-143]) to begin the discussion of how each of us plays different roles depending on our "audience." How we act and talk with our friends is different than how we speak to authority figures and how we act in different social settings.

Initial Discussion

I ask the participants to think about different roles they play in their lives. Going around the room, I ask participants to share how they act and talk when out with friends versus how they act when they are with their parents. I finish this segment by asking the participants to discuss how these different roles are helpful to them and to think about in which ways they may be destructive.

The Masks We Wear

Central Discussion

Now that the participants are comfortable with the concept of the persona, (the roles we adapt to interact with people in different situations), I present the traditional idea of the mask: something used to hide one's identity. I now ask the group to think about one mask they use as a way of hiding their identity from the world. At this point, participants can draw their "mask" and present it to the group, act out their mask or simply describe it to the group. If the group is in the later stages of development, this is where the facilitator can lead a process discussion between group members about how they "present" to each other. Finally, I ask the group to discuss how their mask has prevented them from getting close to others in the past.

Closing Remarks

I find it helpful to end the session by wrapping up with the idea that masks can be useful for us in dealing with society and its pressures or that they can be counterproductive by preventing us from getting close to others. I use the participants' own words to describe this duality and I finish by asking the members to consider "putting down their mask" next time, instead of automatically reaching for it when they do not want to share their real feelings.

CLIENT RESPONSES

It has always been my experience that given the opportunity, adolescents love to talk about themselves. A therapist that approaches them with unconditional positive regard, but who is also able to challenge their assumptions will not find it difficult to work with adolescents. Most adolescents readily participate in this exercise and intrinsically understand the concept of the mask. Often, insights discovered in group are often brought up in subsequent groups ("You're wearing your angry mask again"), and serve as a relational tool in individual sessions. A group of clients in recovery from substance abuse related the mask to the role they play as addicts and the addictive behaviors that led to relapse. This was fertile ground for introspection and at the end of the session, most participants claim they are ready to begin to "put down their masks," and start relating to people in more intimate ways.

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