Short And Longterm Group Populations

The intervention of using mindfulness in group psychotherapy is effective with most patients both in short-term and longer-term groups. In a short-term group, this intervention is best limited to building mindfulness of feelings and bodily sensations which are already close to awareness. In a long-term group this intervention can be used to teach them to be mindful of feelings and bodily sensations which are less congruent with how they want to perceive themselves.

This intervention is best used with patients who fall within the normal range of intelligence and who have the ability to step back from themselves and observe their feelings and their behaviors. It is also most effective with patients who are able to receive feedback from others without being unduly hurt. It is least effective with those patients who tend to be overly concrete and who lack the ability to suspend projection of their own mental contents onto others.

This intervention can be used by therapists from different theoretical orientations including psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioral. The psychodynamically oriented therapist can also use this interven tion in terms of the patient being mindful of transference issues with the therapist, each group member, and the group as a whole. The cognitively oriented therapist can use this intervention while perhaps focusing more on the patient's thoughts and schemas. The behaviorally oriented therapist would tend to focus more on mindfulness as a behavior rather than as a mental process.


The key to promoting mindfulness in group is based upon helping the individual to become more in touch with what he or she is feeling and thinking in the moment. These interventions can be applied to the group as a whole, such as asking all group members to try the technique. They can also be directed at individual group members who may need assistance with becoming more in touch with the moment. The group therapist can also use this intervention to enhance his or her own personal mindfulness in group.

Identification of Body Language

Using this technique, the individual group member is instructed to become aware of both his or her own body language and that of other group members and also how they feel in regard to the body language. Examples of this include how one is sitting, one's gestures, and one's facial expressions. By looking at one's own body language one can become more in touch with how one is feeling. Likewise, looking at another individual's body language can help put the patient in touch with how he or she may be feeling.

Mindfulness Toward Behavior

Our behavior in group tells us a great deal about how we are feeling and what we are thinking, even at an unconscious level. Examples of things group members can try to be aware of are where one sits (near the therapist, near the door, near the restroom, etc.), whom one sits next to, how one dresses, whether one arrives early, on time, or late for group, whom one chats with before and after group, etc.

Closing Our Eyes

The therapist can ask one group member or the whole group to close their eyes while they listen to the other group members speak. This simple but powerful intervention gets one past the superficial exterior and more in touch with how one feels about the other and how the other speaks. This helps people to focus more on tone of voice and affect, that is, how one is saying things, rather than the actual words. Many group members have been surprised how doing this can help to immediately put them in touch with feelings about the speaker that they were not aware of. This is also an effective intervention for the seasoned clinician to help get in touch with his or her feelings about a specific group member or the group as a whole.

Mindfulness of Physical Sensations

There are many physical sensations therapists and group members have that can help us get in touch with the moment and our feelings. Being aware of one's heart rate, respirations, perspiration level, and level of muscle tension helps one to be more mindful of feelings and even reactions on a subconscious level. For example, because the body reacts so quickly in the fight-or-flight mechanism, one might start to get hot, perspire, or feel his or her heart start to pound before becoming aware of feeling anxious or scared.

Mindfulness of Thoughts in the Moment

Often, a group member might have passing, fleeting thoughts that flash in and out of his or her mind, might have a quick mental or visual association, or may have a verse from a song pop in and out of his or her head. These are all short events that, if one is trying to be mindful, will help an individual become more in touch with what he or she is feeling and thinking in the moment.


When group members apply self-motivated interventions into their personal experiences to help with mindfulness they are surprised at how well and how quickly the intervention works toward becoming more aware. These are not interventions that require a lot of practice and training, and individuals trying them for the first time can have great success, which ultimately reinforces its continued application. Individuals become astonished sometimes at how much nonverbal communication occurs in a group or at how much of their own thoughts and feelings they were not aware of before practicing mindfulness in their daily living.

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