Creating Norms For Group Members

There is strong consensus that pre-group preparation can be profoundly beneficial, not only for prospective members but also for the group as a whole (Rutan & Stone, 2001; Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Group norms such as confidentiality, attendance, punctuality, socializing with other group members, and contact between group sessions should be repeated often and reinforced frequently throughout the life of the group. Norms for therapy groups can be infused by the leaders at almost every moment, starting with a pre-group meeting between prospective member and group leader(s). The initial meeting also develops member expectations for group, which may help the entire group stay focused on treatment goals.

Group members who are prepared prior to entering group therapy may experience greater group cohesion, deviate less from tasks and goals, be more committed to attend meetings, have less anxiety, better understand their roles and behaviors in the group, and show an increased amount of faith in the group as a whole (Bednar & Kaul, 1994; Piper & Ogrodniczuk, 2004; Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). There are three primary methods used to prepare members for the group experience: cognitive learning, vicarious experiencing, and behavioral practice. It has been found that a combination of modalities (e.g., verbal, written, experiential, audiovisual) is most effective (Piper & Perrault, 1989). This chapter will emphasize the first two methods of pre-group preparation interventions to assist leaders in creating high functioning therapy groups. There are also numerous recent examples of written preparation materials that leaders can access in the CORE Battery-R (Burlingame et al., 2006), the American Group Psychotherapy Association Ethics Curriculum (MacNair-Semands, 2005), and various journal articles (MacKenzie, 1997; Rutan & Alonso, 1999).

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