|What would happen
if a group of people, as practice for life, related in full honesty
with one another? Would we argue? Defend ourselves? Project, or accuse,
or apologize? Would we learn to drop our walls and heal our patterns
enough to get truly close to one another? Would we learn to understand,
even to love, ourselves and others?
Encounter groups were popular in the 1970's when many were intrigued
with the possibilities in group process for remaking
what they saw as sterile interpersonal aspects within American middle
class culture. Variations of this phenomenon included T-groups,
sensitivity training, psychodrama, marathons and even attack approaches.
Irvin Yalom, existential psychiatrist, summarized many of the basic
findings about the possibilities and power of group process in his
book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.
Yalom explains in detail how most effectively to facilitate this,
describing the stages groups generally go through in the process
of developing, and how best to use both group and individual interventions
to create a powerful dynamic process.
Yalom's book is a mainstay for many therapists who lead groups,
explaining how, basically, less interference by the leader can be
more. Through subtle and noninvasive interventions, a skilled facilitator
using this model helps the group to create a culture of cohesion,
flow, and here-and-now interaction. A well-formed psychodynamic
group practically runs itself, with the interactions arising naturally,
the way they would in real life, except perhaps with greater intensity
and honesty. The power of this basically natural process as it unfolds
can be profound, often considerably more so than in groups which
utilize seemingly more elaborate and flashy techniques.
Whats the difference between a therapy group and an encounter
group? It has been said that therapy groups tend to involve sick
people wanting to get well, while encounter groups attract well
people wanting to get better. I add that they also attract well
people who are brave enough to learn about themselves in a truly
honest setting, which is fundamentally and deeply supportive while
providing a space for the bumps and edges of relationship to arise,
and be polished.
Hannah Zaiv is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Rapid Eye
Therapist practicing in Sellwood, S.E. Portland. Call for a free
interview/introductory screening if you would like to be in an Encounter