Process Groups for Counsellors: How do they Function?
I recently introduced the concept of process groups for counsellors. In this blog, I explain how process groups function.
The unfolding patterns of relationships among and between group members, and how these impact each participant, including the development and nature of the group itself, is the primary business of such groups. This is different from clinical supervision, or other forms of therapy groups, though it may share elements of the latter.
Trust and Confidentiality
The first few sessions of a process group typically involve the facilitator and group members addressing the issue of trust, and how important it is in situations where personal exploration and openness are encouraged. To enhance honesty and openness, confidentiality pertaining to what happens in the group is also addressed. Facilitators typically inform trainees – and will ask them to talk about the issue – not to share personal information about one another that emerges in the group with others outside the group. Should this happen – and at times it does – participants are encouraged to bring the issue back to the group. This is so that the experiences sparked by the occurrence can be contained, and dealt with, inside the group (Counseling and Testing Center, 2014).
The deliberately unstructured nature of process groups allows participants to determine what gets talked about in every session. There are no pre-determined topics participants are obliged to discuss. Facilitators generally do not dictate topics or themes; participants take responsibility for talking about the things that are troubling them, which may include issues that emerge as a consequence of current group interaction, or may relate to the outside world. Group facilitators keep an eye on, and protect, the “work-oriented boundaries of the group so that members experience it as a safe container with an internal space in which psychological work can occur” (Mongia, 2014).
Support and Feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is fundamental to process groups; through feedback, group members learn about how they affect one another and how they are perceived by others. Feedback is also how members gain insight into their own psyches. The reactions a trainee provokes from group members becomes a source of self-awareness, learning and understanding that can be applied both inside and outside the group.
Over time, as trust develops among group members, and feedback, encouragement and support become regular features of the sessions, typical, long-standing, personal patterns of behaving and relating become increasingly evident to participants. They not only become conscious of habitual negative or unhelpful ways of relating, but the group also provide each one the opprtinity to try out new styles of relating in the safe confines of the immediate environment. The feedback group members receive forms a type of springboard or testing ground to try out something new, and witness and experience its impact before trying it out on the outside world.
Counseling and Testing Center. Process Groups. [Online] Available from: http://counseling.uoregon.edu/dnn/Programs/GroupCounseling/ProcessGroups/tabid/318/Default.aspx [Accessed 22nd January 2014]
Mongia, S (Marriage and Family Therapist). MFT Intern, Trainee, Student Process Group. Counseling and Therapy Blog. Weblog [Online] Available from: http://shalinimongia.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/mft-intern-trainee-student-process-group/ [Accessed 27th January 2014]