Introduction

As therapists, we usually have a preconceived idea of what we hope our group participants will learn, and how they will grow and change through their group experience with us. The difficulty, which arises and probably daunts most dedicated therapists, is how to ensure that our clients receive what we hope will be of greatest benefit for them. As suggested by Fielding (1983) and by Chickering and Gamson (1987), the more actively involved the members are in a group the greater the chance for true learning to occur. Subsumed under this belief is that the group leaders steer the ship in the most positive and effective direction for the learning, growth, and change to occur.

The group that led me to use the task I describe here is considered to be a psycho-educational/experiential life skills group (Powell, Illovsky, O'Leary, & Gazda, 1988). We were working on interpersonal skills (Finch & Wallace, 1977), and in the sessions preceding the one in which we used the task; we approached the concept of as-sertiveness (Zappe, 1987). The next topic we were about to introduce was negotiation skills (Mueser, Levine, Bellack, & Douglas, 1990). Our previous session tipped the scale toward "educational" and we were looking for ways to move back to an effectively more "experiential" group process and create greater interpersonal and interactive experiences between the group members.

The task we devised and initiated was an idea suggested by my cotherapist (A. Stern, personal communication, March 15, 2007). Group members were asked to rank, in an agreed-upon manner, a set of meaningful stimuli, which in this case were elements effectively leading to recovery. There were no further instructions or guidelines given after what we requested them to do. This task promotes debate, requires negotiation, and provides, for the client and the therapist, insight into which group members are more passive and active in these kinds of interactions. Depending on the topic chosen for the task, it may be used to shed light on various aspects that can contribute to the group process.

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