Groups are complex social systems present in virtually all contexts of our existence. The group behavior can be used as a tool with different purposes of intervention. We are social beings and people are part of groups that satisfy our primary needs (sense of belonging, identity …) and serve as a source of feedback on our behavior.
Groups as a tool for psychological intervention can be therapeutic (psychodrama, gestalt, transactional analysis, psychoanalysis, systemic family, cognitive-behavioral, bioenergetic …) or learning (discussion, tutoring, seminars …) in which A group coordinator or professional therapist directs a group activity directly with a specific therapeutic goal. The coordinator has the role of director. A third type of groups are the so-called expressive groups.
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What are expressive groups?
Unlike in the therapeutic and learning groups, in the expressive groups the activity coordinator takes on a facilitator profile of the same, fomenting the encounter between equal people. The expressive groups pretend that the emotional expression and of the own experiences are the axis of the activity in order to reach the objective of the intervention. The most common expressive groups are humanist meeting groups and self-help groups.
The encounter groups, by Carl Rogers.
The greatest reference of this type of groups is the one that reflects Carl Rogers in his book On Encounter Groups published in the year 1970. In this work, Rogers explains how in the groups of humanist encounter the conception of the therapist like expert happens to a roll of Facilitator of a process based on the group’s own growth strength.
As Rogers puts it in his book “the facilitator of a group that meets intensively can develop a psychological climate of security, where freedom of expression is gradually generated and defensive attitudes are diminished.” In this way a climate is created that allows the expression of immediate feelings of the members of the group both towards themselves and towards the others. Emotional freedom is generated to express all kinds of feelings, whether positive, negative or neutral, providing a climate of mutual trust. The members of the group end up being accepted emotionally, physically and mentally as they are.
Phases of meeting groups.
The best way to explain the functioning of the meeting groups is to formulate the 15 phases that follow each other throughout the group process:
- Initial confusion. The leader (remember that only plays a facilitative, non-managerial role) explains to those present that the sessions will have very little structure and that each will be responsible for their reactions in the group.
- Resistance to personal expression. As most people do, group subjects tend to avoid sharing their feelings and emotions. It is a defensive system to avoid feeling vulnerable to other people.
- Description of the emotions experienced in the past. Normally one of the people, and if not the facilitator will help you, will take the initiative to speak, but most likely will do so from past situations and with little emotional or affective value.
- Expression of negative emotions. The first expression of present experiences is produced, usually directed to the facilitator or to the other participants and without excessive emotional load yet.
- Expression and exploration of important personal material. Once it is perceived that expressing negative emotions does not produce anything strange or bad, people feel a sense of belonging to the larger group and begin to risk sharing personal situations of greater value.
- Expression of interpersonal emotions. The spontaneity of the participants arises, they begin to express themselves without previous meditation.
- Development of healing capacity in the group. It increases the group cohesion, which allows to feel supported and protected by the rest of participants.
- Self-acceptance and beginning of the road towards the change of attitudes. As the confidence increases, the person begins to behave and express himself more in accordance with his present real feelings.
- Collapse of the image. The people who make up the group begin to feel the way they are, without restrictions or censors.
- Feedback. Participants begin to perceive the feedback of the rest of their peers before their expression and behavior. Feedback is received and feedback is provided to the rest of the group.
- Confrontation. More negative emotions and attitudes arise more frequently and more easily.
- Therapeutic relationship outside the group. Emotional opening to other people often generates interpersonal ties, sharing important experiences that work as a link to meet outside the group in other places.
- Meeting between the participants. It ends up developing an emotional closeness and an expressive relationship of the feelings of each participant.
- Expression of positive feelings and closeness. Not only is it spoken of bad things, but also of good things. This will further increase the sense of belonging to the group and reinforce positive attitudes.
- Modification of behaviors in the group. Finally, the group, created for the purpose of personal improvement of some quality, or personal problem begins to see the results of the session or group sessions with the modification of the initial problem behavior.
They are based on exploring the affective territory of the people with the aim of exposing themselves to the other participants by risking to share personal things and talk about themselves with the other people that make up the group.
This method is used in psychology and coaching for the development of people, non-directive education, improvement of self-concept or training in personal and social values.
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Rogers, Carl. (1970). On Encounter Groups. New York: Harrow Books, Harper and Row, ISBN 0-06-087045-1