The Inter Vention

The overriding goal for my psychotherapy groups is for the participants to view themselves less as targets of others' "ill will," a result of poor parenting, or as individuals who are innately "bad" in a world of good people. By working toward conscious awareness, each participant has the opportunity to rewrite his or her own view of their world. It is in this rewrite that he or she is able to take responsibility when needed and forgive when necessary. The work for the therapist in this intervention is to avoid blame, whether toward client or others while delicately reminiscing.

The first example is the retelling of an individual's story to a group participant. The reason for the sharing of this story was to identify a recurring pattern in this client's mode of relating to immediate family members and to open up the client and the group to the exploration of how she has changed that pattern of behaving. The secondary reason for the intervention at this juncture was to intentionally and gently alter the material the group was empathically reinforcing.

A woman in group was sacl and angry. She was feeling as though she had not "moved much" and was "still where she was ten years ago ... without anything real or of her own." She had lost faith in her abil ity to continue to follow her dream to finish her education in the medical profession.

As the group joined her sadness "over her lost dream," I intervene with the individual rather than the group as a whole.

TH: "Yes, I remember when you decided to go back to school. It was during the time you volunteered to have your mom convalesce at your home. I still have the picture in my mind of the two of you lying in bed every morning talking while she waited for her meds to take effect."

GROUP MEMBER: "Wow, I had totally forgotten that. Yeah, that time was something else, we became so close ... finally, and I realized I was good, really good at this stuff!"

This type of intervention promotes self-reflection among the group members and the group as a whole. It also opens the discussion for group members to process what was happening in the room as prior to this intervention.

The second example is the retelling of a group member's "entrance into group." The reason for sharing this story was to gently interpret the difficult process for a newer member to join an ongoing group. This intervention could be made at a time that the group may be stuck due to a newer client's apprehension.

As material keeps emerging during the group that speaks to trust issues, and "how to enter the group" I turn to a group member and ask her "What do you think may be going on (with the other newer group member) tonight? As I listen, it sounds as if in this group session you have decided to 'let us all have it' as you said."

Newer Group Member: "What did she say?" The group chuckles, and I ask the group member for permission to recount that evening. She affirms my request. I quickly recount that night "she told us all [that] she would never want to know us, could never trust us." At this point the group member whose story I began jumps in and talks about that evening and how she had to feel angry to join. That anger was how she lived in the world. The rest of the group begins to share their entry points.

This particular intervention, recalling events and recounting stories, offers the group and its members the opportunity to observe changes in development and meaning of the events. Group members also discover that their own affective response changes with each retelling of a story, allowing for new, consciously scripted meaning to emerge.

The process brings cohesiveness to the group by retaining the history of the group as a whole, thus new members feel they are part of something solid and established.

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