In dyads, group members utilize this question as part of talking about their life experience as an initial level of self-disclosure in group. This avoids stereotyped methods of self-presentation and can be combined with other beginning introductory questions. When utilizing this question at the beginning of a group, it is likely that the examples will be less powerful than later on, yet it can still be very useful.
Example: Client reports that he was shy in high school, less so now, and this has taught him that shy people are waiting to be discovered so he tries to reach out to them.
Client discloses experience in life that was problematic for him or her, ended in censure or punishment, and the client talks about self-awareness that includes this event (or repeated events) as a resource that is positive in his or her life and/or how they have used the event as a source now. If client does not notice this capacity in life currently, either you and/or another member can report your knowledge of this skill, awareness, resource. Polster (1992) notes that when heroism is exercised by women, it is often under conditions of daily life or in the collective, and thus may not be seen either by the client or others because our narratives privilege the "lone hero." This may also be true for different cultural populations, as well. After there is sufficient support regarding the original trouble (which can range from acknowledgment to much fuller exploration), therapists can underline this important awareness of "benefit" as one of the inherent dualities of life, and ask the client to respond more if she or he wishes to. Then, bridge to other members of group and ask if they had similar awarenesses.
Example: In the working phase of group for survivors of abuse and molestation, a client talks about her fierce determination to play piano at age five even though her brother would hit her on the head when he would walk by, abuse of sufficient severity to cause partial deafness. The client describes her drive to succeed despite the brutality in the family and notices that she uses that skill in the dynamics of her very competitive graduate school. Group expresses rage at brother and anger at lack of parental protection, with high level of affect including tears. This is followed by statements of respect for client, noticing numerous behaviorally specific examples of her ability to focus and persevere in the midst of adversity and her support of others in the group. Other members, with some leader support, find parallel events in their own lives.
Many groups utilize a go-round as a way of beginning each group. This exercise can be utilized as an alternative, evocative way to start a group process, including after a break in the group due to vacation or holiday. When used at the first meeting of a group, the question tends to interrupt stereotyped styles of self-presentation, and may allow parts of self perhaps not yet visible to group to emerge.
Example: Client returns from visit home and reports that a sibling had thanked her for the care she had given him/her when they were growing up. Client acknowledges sacrifice and stress, and talks about what she had learned from making this choice.
Within a group that combines content and process, clients may be taught a "vocabulary of resiliencies" or be presented with a model like the "Resiliency Mandala" before they explore how they fit into this schema (see Wolin, S.J.& Wolin, S., 1993 and/or Web site for Project Resilience)
Example: After presentation of the model, a client in ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) group recognizes resiliencies developed in childhood that were useful growing up in a home with alcoholic parents who were episodically neglectful and deficient role models. He realizes that he was not only "parentified" but acted with planning and initiative on principles of moral choice. He is able to identify how he continues to do so in his new family, while expressing sadness that he was unable to receive what he gives his children. He discusses how he has created positive rituals for holidays, which were often ruined by alcoholism in his childhood home, that are now sources of joy and pleasure for himself and his family.
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