Psychotherapy Group of Combat Veterans in Transition


When a psychotherapeutic group reaches the transition stage, many clients can drop out and become reluctant or unable to change. This stage is characterized by such features as group members’ reluctance, resistance, anxiety, passiveness, conflicts, and even aggression in some cases (Corey, 2016). Since the group members will be combat veterans with PTSD, the feelings and behaviors mentioned above can be overwhelming due to this population’s views on mental health care and their health issues. The leader of the group cannot ignore such behaviors and psychological states as they prevent individuals, as well as the entire group, from working and achieving goals. It is possible to consider several methods to ensure clients’ preparedness to change.

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Recognizing and Addressing Conflicts

As mentioned above, conflicts are very common during the transition stage, and they should be addressed immediately. If they remain unresolved, they can lead to further confrontations and escalations and will inevitably impede the group process (Kemper, 1994).

To handle conflicts, it is necessary to recognize them first (Corey, 2016). Conflicts can be manifested in different forms including the avoidance of some topics or interactions with certain individuals, reluctance to participate in discussions, or open confrontations and arguments between group members. Non-verbal cues should also be considered as the leader must notice if a client is disrespectful, non-conforming, aggressive, tense, and so on.

When the conflict is identified, it is essential to start working on it at once. The leader should make sure that the atmosphere in the group is friendly and positive (Makuch, 2014). All clients should feel safe, otherwise, they will not be able to focus on the development of solutions. The leader should recurrently emphasize that respect and empathy are the foundation of their mutual work. It can also be effective to discuss various techniques aimed at managing strong feelings.

The group leader ensures that people do not focus on each other’s personalities but concentrate on the major issues that unwind the conflict. Positively, team members will discuss the issues and possible solutions, as well as ways to satisfy all parties’ needs. It is possible to appeal to common grounds that are apparent among combat veterans who often share certain values. Finally, clients should understand that conflicts hinder the effectiveness of the therapy that aims at addressing the problems that affect their lives.

Reluctance and Strategies to Address It

As mentioned above, reluctance is a feature of the transition stage, and it should be addressed as well. Individuals may be unwilling to share their feelings and ideas due to various reasons including but not confined to being protective, anxious, or distrustful (Corey, 2016). The leader should employ several methods to overcome this problem and encourage team members to work effectively and achieve established goals. First, it is important to make sure that the leader is not controlling or forceful when trying to deal with people’s reluctance.

It is crucial to move at each client’s pace when handling their behavior. Furthermore, the leader should identify the reason for this conduct so that the most effective intervention could be chosen. For some clients, reluctance is a protective measure, so the leader should consider if the working environment is positive for this person. It is necessary to discuss with the client the aspects they find intimidating or simply uncomfortable. Encouragement and self-disclosure can be instrumental in addressing clients’ reluctance.

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Challenging Clients

During the transition phase, challenging clients’ behaviors can also disrupt the group process. For example, some team members’ absenteeism or constant tardiness without notification hurts group work (Corey, 2016). Such behaviors should be discussed with the client, and it is vital to pinpoint the underlying reasons for such acts. The leader should respond to the problem based on the person’s reasons and needs. It can be necessary to help this individual to cope with their anxiety or fears. The leader can help them replace their illogical fears and concerns with confidence, which will make them willing to participate actively in group activities.

Some of the most common elements of the guidelines Corey (2016) mentions include empathy, trust, and a positive attitude. It is critical to make sure that trusting relationships are properly nourished and maintained. The leader should be respectful and encourage other group members to respect each other. Without trust, the target population will not open up and remain reluctant to participate in group activities. Clients’ ability to empathize is one of the building blocks of the group progress. It is possible to consider the way these elements can be instrumental in assisting a challenging client to abandon inappropriate behaviors.

In some cases, clients can start monopolizing group discussions, which can lead to negative effects including other people’s annoyance, reluctance, or even aggression. However, it is important not to silence the monopolizer but encourage all group members to take an active part in the discussion (Kemper, 1994). It can be effective to discuss this behavior with the monopolizer focusing on other people’s feelings, as well as the purpose of the group and its goals.

The involvement of all the group members in this discussion is beneficial as this interaction will encourage other clients to be active. The leader should motivate (but not force) people to reveal their feelings and ideas. It can be difficult to achieve this goal with combat veterans who can be silent due to their trauma or focus on order and subordination. To establish a trusting atmosphere, the leader will repeatedly stress that the therapy is the space where clients can freely discuss any issues related to the objectives of the group. Encouragement and empathy can help participants become more empowered and active.


On balance, the transition stage is associated with the need to handle conflicts, clients’ reluctance, and resistance. Some of the major areas to focus on during this stage is the creation of a positive and trusting working environment. Every conflict or manifestation of reluctance should be addressed immediately as unresolved issues will accumulate and disrupt trust and will make empathy impossible. When choosing the most appropriate strategy to deal with a conflict situation, it is essential to identify the stakeholders’ needs and the exact reasons for certain behaviors.

The discussion of these issues, as well as underlying reasons, should be held in the group, and all clients will reveal their views and feelings on the matter. The atmosphere of trust and empathy will also be instrumental in helping challenging clients to progress. Although some group members may display inappropriate behavior or disrespect, the leader should not be discouraged as this is a normal process that is necessary for the groups’ transition to the next stage.


Corey, G. (2016). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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Kemper, B. J. (1994). Dealing with resistance in group therapy. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 30(3), 31-33.

Makuch, G. (2014). How therapists and counselors effectively handle resistant clients. Web.

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