Sample Statement

The fee for a ninety-minute session is (amount). This fee is a payment for your place in the group and is due for all scheduled group sessions except for three planned absences per year, major national holidays, and any session cancelled by the therapist. Requests for exceptions must be made in advance during a group therapy session. At the first group session of each month, please bring a check for the previous month, made out in advance, and payable to (therapist's name).

The policy is a reflection of the agreement by group members to be responsible for fee payment. The therapist avoids unhealthy behav-

The Fee Payment Asan Aspect of Group Communication

iors such as enabling, coddling, harassing, reminding, and avoiding. Note that the therapist does not calculate or distribute a bill in advance. Doing so is not only unnecessary, but would also deprive the group of the chance to learn from conscious and unconscious decisions by members to deviate from the payment frame.

At the end of the first group session each month, the therapist collects a check from each group member. Before the next session, checks are reconciled against the therapist's calculation of each member's account. This gives the therapist time to identify discrepancies and nonpayments and to form hypotheses about the meaning of these phenomena.

At the beginning of the next session, the therapist informs the group of "overpayments" or "underpayments" and asks for checks from members who did not pay. The group is then invited to explore the meaning of these frame deviations. What is being communicated to the group therapist and to one another? In subsequent sessions, the therapist stays alert to members' behaviors related to correcting problems with the payment while continuing to encourage exploration and discussion.

The value of this intervention is found in proper interpretation of the meanings of behaviors related to payment of the fee. It is important to consider transference and countertransference, as well as the possibility of "no meaning." The therapist adopts a neutral, curious stance, encouraging free association and interpretation by the group members, and suggesting interpretations as needed. The therapist avoids judgmental statements that would compound feelings of shame that are often associated with money.

In the course of discussion, thoughts and feelings come to light that may have been demanding expression, but for some reason remain underground. Sometimes this is because of the members' reluctance to put them into words; often they are not in anyone's conscious awareness. Encouraging group free association to a payment discrepancy promotes the emergence of this important unconscious material.

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