Intervention Rationale

The goal of encouraging strong feelings or highly charged emotional material, in a group, can elicit multifaceted resistance, of which the group therapist must be consistently aware.

This resistance may take a variety of forms. Frequently, the entire group will go dead silent. At other times there will be a frenzied attempt to fix or take care of the person experiencing the deep feelings of shame. Indeed both of these reactions can occur at the same time with part of the group going quiet, while other group members rush to help or rescue the individual who disclosed those feelings of shame.

When these polar reactions to shame persist, I take this as a signal that an intervention is appropriate (Rutan & Stone, 1993). Both the silence and the frenzied help can defeat the goals of a psychotherapy group. This can lead to the avoidance of further feeling through rationalizations (offering help and advice) or the shutting down of "here and now" emotional experience (silence).

For the member who had disclosed his or her feelings, silent or frenzied resistances (acting out) will likely be a reenactment of the original shame-inducing behavior. In the manifestation of the strong feelings of shame presented, other participants may behave in ways to avoid connecting either with the bearer or to their own emotional experience of shame. Exploration of each of these phenomena in the "here and now" can help to lessen the resistance and provide a "corrective emotional experience."

My goal is to continuously monitor my attunement (Rowe and Mac Isaac, 1991) to each member in the group as well as my own moment-to-moment thoughts and feelings, while at the same time remaining aware of the group process.

The following is a step-by-step example of how I have intervened to help the group members move out of their resistance. When this is accomplished the group can proceed toward a goal of increased self-awareness and a loosening of unhelpful patterns in their interpersonal relationships. The repetition of this type of interpersonal communication between members will increase group cohesion and safety to move deeper into emotional material.

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