The Intervention

Margie was a new member who had entered the group three sessions prior to the intervention. She was taking the place vacated by a very beloved member, Tina, who had terminated successfully after being a vital and passionate member of the group since its inception. Margie, like Tina, was an attractive, vivacious, and energizing woman. She was experiencing warmth, encouragement, and acceptance from the group members, with the exception of Doug, who was treating her

Creative Use of the Group Contract in Long-Term Psychotherapy Groups 355

with cool disdain. No matter how often Margie attempted to make genuine contact with Doug, she was rebuffed. During this particular session, Doug became especially hostile and finally shouted, "Who needs another beautiful woman in this group? I've written to Tina and I know she will e-mail back. All this group has ever done for me is keep me from experiencing love."

Doug had been sitting on his feelings of love and attraction for Tina throughout their shared time in the group. His inability to share •them in real time with her had him acting out and unable to open himself to the possibility of another intensely sexual or loving relationship in the group. Much like the bitterness he carried forward from his fairly recent divorce, he was unable to love, but unable to let go. As the therapist, I was struck by the opportunity in the moment to help Doug and the rest of the group appreciate the difficulty and benefit in expressing the very real love that can be experienced safely in the group.

I had to think quickly through my intervention options. I could have quoted the contract and pointed out the "rule violation" and reinforced the need to put feelings into words and not actions. I could have made an interpretation for Doug relating to his life and relationships and hoped that others would pick up on it and generalize, but I decide to use the group contract to make this a group as a whole issue instead.

Questions for the Group

• Having a new member in the group is always a great time to think about how we are all using this group. This is an interesting situation.

• What do you all think about a relationship between Doug and Tina? Can anyone remember having a wish or fantasy to break the rules and talk or even get together with another group member outside of group?

The invitation for everyone to share their fantasies of a different kind of connection with group members led to a lively discussion of many of the group members' unspoken wishes to be Tina's lover or friend but with an awareness of the "contractual agreement" not to act on the feelings. Some members felt betrayed by Doug for breaking the boundary and contacting Tina, while others related his anger at the restrictions that group placed on the ability to have "real" relationships with one another.

I then posed the following question.

• It seems like there were many possible suitors for Tina in this group. Could there be any current cases of undisclosed love or wishes for friendship between members of this group today?

This was the impetus needed for the group to start discussing wishes for pairings to play golf, go on a dinner date, watch a movie, vacation together, and even become lovers.

The final piece of my intervention:

• All of those ideas sound wonderful and exciting, but I wonder if anyone can explore what they might all have in common?

After a period of silence, it was Doug who responded, "We all want to love each other." Margie finally joined in saying, "It sounds like you already do." The group followed this path to finally accept that, even with the limitations of "real contact" or maybe because of the limitations, they were free to experience true feelings toward one another.

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