As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating Men’s groups, Women’s groups, co-ed groups, Sports Psychology groups, and groups for therapists and life coaches looking to support each other in learning new ways to facilitate growth in their clients. Along the way, I’ve discovered that great groups don’t just come together by chance. Instead, great groups have a balance of both structure and flexibility in them. In addition, I use my family therapy skills to incorporate rituals, metaphors, transformational vocabulary, experiential exercises, and interactive group exercises to bring group members together and create a strong rapport among them.
In addition, I strongly encourage group participants to be mindful of how important it is to create a feeling of safety within the group container that we’re co-creating together. With this in mind, shaming, judging, blaming, and attacking others have no place in a group therapy setting. Instead, group members are encouraged to actively listen to one another, deeply see one another, and be as emotionally attuned to one another as humanly possible. They’re also asked to validate one another, empathize with one another, offer each other words of affirmation, and be respectful of one another’s different temperaments, belief systems, values, etc. It’s also important that group members allow for moments of silence, which often allows someone to process or integrate a new learning more deeply.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that vulnerability is the birthplace of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness. Therefore, I encourage my clients to be courageous enough to tell the story of who they are, warts and all. I also encourage them to be compassionate towards one another, patient, flexible, open-minded,sensitive, curious, and fully present. In addition, I encourage each group participant to be authentic, to be accountable for their actions, to be in integrity with their word, to own their projections onto others, to own their shadows, and to own their gold. Group members are also encouraged to be resourceful, creative, and imaginative. I believe that everyone is full of wisdom, so I also encourage each group member to share their wisdom with their peers. If someone has something to say to another group member that he or she believes will be helpful, I remind that person to ask first if the other group member is open to receiving feedback. I remind them that it’s always important to honor and respect another person’s autonomy, and asking permission to share an observation or thought-provoking question does just that.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often encountered group members who seem more focused on fixing other group members or calling them out on their stuff than on working on themselves. This is often a way of feeding one’s ego and hiding from oneself at the same time. In addition to all of the other aforementioned ingredients that lead to successful group therapy experiences, it’s very important that each group member understand that first and foremost they’ve elected to participate in a group setting to work on themselves!! By doing so, they will be stretching outside of their comfort zones and stepping into the light, and this is where the greatest growth occurs.
If this article has piqued your interest in participating in one of my groups, please call e-mail me or call me at (619)280-8099 and let me know. In my experience, group therapy settings become sanctuaries inside which personal growth and transformation inevitably take place.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article on groups!!
Your Marriage and Family Therapist,
John Boesky, LMFT