Group Participants

This is a time-limited, psychoeducational group (twenty weeks) that has agreed to work around the transmission of gender roles by exploring family role models. The use of art material (colors, crayons, collage, etc.) is effectively applied to help accelerate latent unconscious material, which may not be elicited through mere cognition.

The group consists of eight women in their forties. Each is highly educated, socioeconomically comfortable, and is or has been profes sionally active in her career. Of the eight members, four are professionally active, two have taken early retirement, having left high-paid positions, and two are young mothers. Most are married with children, two divorced, one is single. Six members have had long-term group experiences and two are new to the group therapy experience. All members have gone or are continuing individual therapy, at the same time as their group experience. Thus psychological insight and maturity is expected.

INTERVENTION DESCRIPTION A Four-Stage Approach

This intervention is introduced once cohesion and trust is sufficiently built in the group (more or less in the eighth week) to contain increased affect and allow for deeper emotional sharing.

Stage 1

Each participant has to represent her mother in a painting or collage. Various art materials are available in the room (papers, crayons, colors, collage material, etc). Thirty minutes are given to work personally on the subject. Each painting or work bears the name of the Mother that is represented.

Stage 2

When finished, each participant is asked to present her mother to the group. Who is this woman? What kind of a life did she have? How was she when younger? What was her childhood? How was she as a person, a wife or partner?

It is suggested that all the participants speak in the first person, stating the Mother's name, as if the speaker were her own mother. For example, "My name is ... . (Mother's name) I am sixty-five-years old. My life has been ... when I was a young girl " It was not uncommon for a few participants to speak in the third person and the therapist did not interfere. Yet the resistance was registered for further introspection.

Stage 3

Group interaction is encouraged, such as questions, requests for clarification, remarks, and feedback.

Stage 4

When each and all participants have completed this exercise the group reflects on the experience which it has shared. The therapist inquires, "What did we learn? Which parallels did you perceive between yourselves and your own mothers? Which similarities? Which differences? How do those realizations affect you in your personal lives at this time?"

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