Soon after the formation of a new therapy group, the alert leader will hear members make references to chairs as they enter the group room. "Where am I supposed to sit?" "We always sit in the same places... guess we're in a rut!" "Maybe I'll sit in the leader's chair tonight!" (nervous laughter). People quickly choose places and the topic of discussion is dismissed as settled. However, a group event has already taken place that is rich with meaning and learning potential. This intervention is designed to tap that potential.
Although it is clear that there is a need to set and maintain appropriate boundaries in group therapy (Schoener & Luepker, 1996), it may not be immediately evident that there is therapeutic value to the struggle around boundaries in the group. This struggle may represent similar conflicts and difficulties outside the group room, past and present. The therapist can use this replication to help members learn more about their internal and interpersonal conflicts related to boundary issues.
Taking it one step further, the therapist may create a conflict through a group experiential exercise as a vehicle for learning. According to Hornyak and Baker (1989, p. 3) experiential treatment techniques are based on psychological principles, and are used for "increasing clients' present awareness of feelings, perceptions, cognitions, and sen sations; that is, their in-the-moment experience. The method usually involves some degree of action on the clients' part, either physical or imagined."
In this intervention, the therapist asks group members to change chairs, and then discuss their reactions. The focus of the exercise is on interpersonal boundaries.
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