The Intervention

Some time in the middle of the group, after members have had some time to establish their "place" in the group, but well before the group ends, to leave time for discussion, a session should be dedicated to the experiential exercise of changing chairs. It is important not to give clues about the activity in advance, or its effectiveness will be destroyed. The session title may include a reference to boundaries or limit setting, but the content of the session should be left up to the imagination.

• Listen closely to comments about seating and chairs as members enter the room, during all sessions leading up to this exer-

Experiential Exercise for Exploration of Interpersonal Boundaries 469

cise. These will be useful for discussion. Take extra time allowing people to get seated, with their drinks, coats, etc., stashed in their favorite places. Be sure that latecomers have had time to arrive. Promote small talk and settling in.

• Carefully note where each person is sitting. Form a plan to reseat each individual in a chair that is most unlike the one he or she chose. Those who sit close to you, will be moved far away. Those who like to sit on the couch, will be moved to individual chairs. Plan to fill the couch completely with people who chose individual chairs.

• Once everyone is settled in, announce that the activity planned for this session will require a new seating arrangement. This matter-of-fact approach makes it seem as if the rearrangement is an insignificant detail. This will prevent members from trying to second guess your intent, which would keep the experience from being spontaneous and characteristic of their usual behaviors.

• Ask each member by name to move to his or her new chair. Take note of the many comments, questions, and reactions that your intervention will engender for later discussion, but encourage everyone to postpone discussion until later. After group members have taken their reassigned places, ask the group to close their eyes, relax, and think about their answers to the following questions, leaving time in between for members to reflect.

• Ask: How do you feel about your new chair? Do you prefer having someone next to you, or do you like having your own space? How did you feel when I moved you? Where would you most like to sit? What would you need to do now to get the chair that you want? How hard would it be for you to do that?

• Ask the group members to open their eyes. Before they have a chance to talk, say "Now I would like you to go and get the chair that you want, without touching anybody." Again, pay close attention to all the ensuing interactions, verbal and nonverbal.

• As soon as it appears that there will be no more change, ask the group members to report on their experience of the exercise, drawing on the questions that you asked while their eyes were closed. Use the rest of the group time to process their thoughts, feelings, and nonverbal experiences, taking the opportunity to use what they say to teach what you want them to know about interpersonal boundaries. It is likely that they will learn as much or more from one another than from you in this process, so encourage discussion and feedback among the group members. It can be particularly helpful to ask members if they have similar experiences outside of the group or in their families of origin.

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