These are original excerpts taken from the group-psychotherapy (g-p) discussion list, with permission from the authors.
Subject: [G-P] Welcome
Response Sent: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 08:12
Thanks for the welcome and the engagement with what I wrote. And yes, Haim, I think group climate is important as well and in my enthusiasm to make the point of intrapsychic influences I probably understated my sense of that. To take my own example, while the length of my message reflected my personal warm-up style, it also reflected my sense of the welcoming atmosphere that you have nurtured here.
The fact is I would not put myself out there with just any group. And yes, it is not lost on me the part played by how the leader deals with criticism… thank you for a gracious response…
Sent: Fri, 25 Aug 2006 01:01
Hi J. (and all who are following this most interesting discussion – Welcome to this most interesting G-P.
I have been posting only occasionally this summer – perhaps that is specifically why your comments caught my attention. While I believe safety or lack thereof (perceived and/or real) plays an important part in why members do or do not post here, I also assert that many of us who feel quite comfortable with the risk and exposure of posting often are just too busy with the rest of our lives to post as frequently as we might like to.
I have been fortunate to be away three times over the last two months. When I am away from my computer for more than 24 hours, on my return I am greeted by volumes of email (in addition to the snail mail, phone messages and laundry that I need to deal with!). So, while I have managed to read every posting here, I have just not had the time and energy to respond to everything that interests me. I think it is important that we recognize, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!
Meanwhile, I welcome you here. I have been a member for about 6 years (wow!) and have learned a great deal from the other members of this forum as well as from my own participation (or choice not to participate) in discussions. I hope you continue to join in here and contribute!
Sent: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 11:32
I felt a pang of sadness when I read this paragraph. I’m afraid the cigarwouldn’t go out once lit, which is unusual; they generally don’t burn formore than a few puffs, in my experience, before you have to relight the damnthings.
The sadness is to do with the need to rationalise the consequences ofabsence and distraction, and connects in my mind, with C.’s dream. If acigar is to be ‘just a cigar’, then separation may be ‘just separation’ andan inevitable fact it may be. But no matter how hard we try to assimilatethis fact of separation it always haunts us – because the different partiesto separation always experience it differently – and we shall never know.
The busy mother wants to say – it’s not that I’m not interested – whereasfor the child the discovery that the world is full of busy people is notnecessarily a comfort. One resolution, for the child, is to become a busyperson oneself; but then there is the attendant guilt that flows fromsensing that one has always left something behind.
My context for this is that my family have gone away to X and I caughtmyself wishing that I was working this morning. I got busy writing this,instead, and I have partially cured myself of what ailed me. Now I must goan make a phone call.
Subject: [G-P] Group depression
Response Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2007 02:41 PM
I owe the list an abject apology. For quite some time I have not even been lurking, I have not even opened most postings.
This is the result of my outrage and deep concern about the condition of my nation, which has led me to submerge all my free time in politics.Because of abuses such as the active efforts to distort science, which may have pushed the world into irreversible climate change, the erosion of our constitutional rights, the intentional placement of enemies of important government programs in charge of those programs, use of misinformation to embroil us in shameful activities, including senseless wars, and the loss of respect of our neighbors, I felt required that I take action.
In several of my groups, a severe atmosphere of hopelessness and helplessness developed regarding these situations. Of course, one of my first concerns was that I might somehow be imposing my feelings on those groups, but it really seemed that the emotions were arising spontaneously from the group members, and it wasn¹t happening in other groups. My next concern was keeping the groups effective as treatment. At first, I tried to limit the focusing on the outside political situation, but realized that I was interfering with the expression of deep emotions in the group.
I attempted to deal with the problem in two ways. One was the sharing of my view of U. S. history. I mentioned that I have lived long enough to have experienced some very frightening periods in American history, when large portions of the public didn¹t seem to understand the problem (e.g.,the McCarthy era, the Viet Nam war), and that eventually, albeit slowly, the great majority of the public caught on and righted the wrongs.
My second, and I believe more important intervention was the re-iteration of my strong belief that action is an antidote to depression.
Eventually, as group members became more active (starting blogs, working on Youtube videos, joining political campaigns) the depressive atmosphere cleared and the groups were able to focus on other areas of their internal
As you can see I tend to be more active than some of you, and I¹d be interested in any reactions you may have.
And once more, my apologies,
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2007 19:54 PM
my first reaction is that you are a wonderful explorer. I’m delighted that I am home and turned on my computer. with best wishes for an action-oriented New Year,
Sent: Mon, 31 Dec 2007 01:36
I am so delighted that your voice is back on the list (albeit that there is much more work to do in the world to make sure that we get some significant change, so understand your presence may not be constant). I am particularly delighted to read ab your group intervention.
I suspect that the larger system effects are sometimes missed in the focus on the immediacy of group interaction or intrapsychic phenomena, and I have found that these all levels get energized when action begins to be considered and taken as all are interconnected. Of course, caution needs to be taken (as you carefully explored), but the same is true of any intervention.
Have you thought ab presenting on this group after you experience how the intervention more thoroughly gets worked thru? I hope so.
To a 2008 with joys and adventure of mind & spirit –
Subject: [G-P] safety in therapy
Date: Friday, April 17, 2009, 4:14 AM
I am a last years student art therapy in the Netherlands. At the moment I am working on my thesis. The central subject is SAFETY IN
THERAPY. This is a big and diverse subject, but so important. That is what drew my attention.
The conclusion that a client is feeling unsafe is (usually) based on the clients behavior. At the moment I struggle with the question: in what observance/ what leads to the conclusion that a client is feeling unsafe? Is, for example, the fear, or the insecurity the client is showing a sign of unsafety or maybe caused by something else. How can I exclude other composers of certain behavior?
I hope you understand my question, and have the time to respond. Over the past few years I have neglected my English, so I hope that you understand it.
Thank you in advance,
Date: Saturday, April 18, 2009 3:22 pm
Subject: Re: [G-P] safety in therapy
I have read the numerous helpful and clearly-articulated responses to your question. This is truly an impressive group! I’d like to add a few “cents” to the discussion, too, from an art therapist’s perspective.
First, I wonder what attracted you to the question of safety, in particular safety in an art therapy session. Are you going to focus on the issue specific to art therapy? I ask this because there are some really confounding variables, such as the therapist’s providing supplies and asking for an image (in a sense a gift) from the client, the existence of the resulting image, the client’s response, the therapist’s response, and, if you are working in a group, the manner in which the group processes the images.
The issue of being visible, which L. has raised in her very interesting proposed workshop, is heightened in art therapy practice, and, because people are often uncomfortable feeling visible, or exposed, there is some sense by patients and even some clinicians that art therapy has the potential to be “unsafe”. I believe that, properly used, art therapy provides grounding and containment of the unbidden or less conscious “self”, and a visible means for retaining what might be fleeting and/or not-ready-for-prime-time awareness. It offers a way to create a bridge between the two types of hemispheric processing and a means to integrate experience at ucs and cs levels.
When I worked in a psychiatric hospital setting, patients often referred to their experience of group work, including art therapy groups, as being “unsafe”. This used to grate on my last nerve, as it was such a loose, non-descriptive word that had so many assumptions about what constitutes “proper” material/content, process, leadership and participation for group work. I would ask them to please define the term “safe” or “unsafe” operationally. (I did ask them more softly, such as asking them to come up with different words to elaborate on the experience of “unsafeness”.) Besides feelings of being vulnerable, sometimes (often) the issue of safety was a transferential one that needed to be explored, with the leader/conductor being open to the possibility that some way in which she was responding (or initiating activities) could be modified, too.
It has been my experience that most clients who are not ready to understand or accept into consciousness aspects of their (defended) lives, thoughts, and/or feelings, will tend not to understand or accept into consciousness the figurative representations of those thoughts and feelings. So the art therapist has to maintain a memory for those images and processes that were avoided in the work without necessarily pushing for consciousness in the client. The artwork itself can serve as a bridge to consciousness when the client is ready.
I agree that having a group and/or therapist project meaning onto newly created imagery is not especially “safe”; it does not promote a climate in which the patient can “own” her own imagery and allow it to manifest itself into meaning as she is able to tolerate. But there are ways a group can “confront” by wondering or asking about areas of the image that puzzle them. Or, if the therapist believes this would be useful for the group, to invite participants to role reverse with each others’ images and make “I” statements from the image. That way the ownership of the projections is more explicit, while allowing for the potential for empathic connectiveness. In the end, though, it is the creator of the image who needs to claim what s/he can of it and no matter how explicit the denial is, it is up to the therapist to resist “telling” the creator what s/he missed in his or her own image!
I agree that it is important to carefully focus your question so that you thesis can be completed in a timely way. I think that if you operationalize the terms “safe” and “unsafe”, as so many are already doing for you as they define what they mean by safety in groups, and then focus on some element of therapy (individual sessions, group sessions, group art therapy, etc.) and look at the specific elements in which safe and unsafe might be experienced, it will help you.
All the best,
Subject: [G-P] Countertransference revisited
Response Sent: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 22:27
Awhile back I wrote about a 24 member training group that I would be conducting around the topic of “advances in the utilization of CT). Those process groups took place exactly one month ago and I still haven’t figured out how to write about it. I can tell ya’ll that
everyone took a percentage of the total talking time during all 5 process groups, and that they all worked hard to make everyone else a better group analyst. In my forty years of being in this field I can truly say that this was one of the deepest emotional experiences I have seen occurring as well as one of the most mature and cooperative groups. It seemed to be enriching for everyone involved. It was truly enriching for me. It was also very emotionally difficult for me at times as private information came into play in the public arena. Three members (friends) from different parts of the country had dinner one evening and one asked “how is N.’s wife doing?” One answered, “she died last year”. After much crying that night, she came into the group the next morning (8am) and wanted to know why she had been left out from having this knowledge. An analyst whose wife died in December after a long illness said he didn’t know either and was glad b/c he would not have been able to say all that he had said during the last year and a half that he had been in treatment with me. He would have been inhibited. Another therapist, who also works with me, stated that she too had no idea and had not recovered from the loss of her loved one so many years ago and wondered if this would inhibit her. Simultaneously, a person who had many losses (and who I only know from workshops over the years) started to scream and had a mini psychotic
episode lasting about 4 or 5 minutes around the pain she was feeling for me which included some severe breathing problems. Thank goodness it was such a talented and mature group of professionals that could handle all sorts of things. All but three (who are committed to teaching and running their own workshops) should be returning in October when we will be studying “Unconscious and Symbolic Communications in Group”. I suspect that topic might be easier for me. Didn’t think I would write this much – I happy to give some feedback since many of you offered me your ideas and happy to get some of this off my chest.
Thanks for “listening”
Subject: [G-P] Meeting in Kuala Lumpur
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2006 09:35
Hello members of the g-p list,
These are Z. and Haim writing together from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Haim is here for the World Congress of Psychotherapy. After 6 years of being on the list, finally we met face to face. It is a good experience. Haim imagined Z. to be much older and with a very serious expression. Z. have seen already pictures of Haim from the AGPA dinner, and he looks exactly as she imagined. She imagined that Haim is a very serious person too.
We talked about our children and the different cultures. Haim is very interested in the Malaysian culture, and got the impression of a peaceful country (no war since its conception). This 31st of August is going to be Malaysia’s 49th independence day (from the UK) – quite a young country.
Z. is going to take Haim to visit the mountains. L.’s daughter is here too, and she might join us.
Z. invites any g-p member who comes to Malaysia to contact her too.
Salamualaikum & Shalom Aleichem (peace be on you)
Z. and Haim
P.S. I have pictures of us that I will send to the list when I get back to the US (Haim)