When the psychotherapeutic group successfully reaches the working phase, the clients and the leader may concentrate on the specific issues that made them participate in the therapy. By this stage, the group has acquired such characteristics as a considerable degree of cohesion, empathy, trust, and support. Cox, Owen, and Ogrodniczuk (2017) emphasize that social support has proved to be one of the major premises for helping combat veterans to re-integrate into society. Group members learn how to empathize and help each other and themselves. During the working stage, the leader encourages group members to participate in discussions and various activities aimed at addressing certain concerns and shaping clients’ behaviors.
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Characteristics of the Working Phase
It is important to stress that the leader should be able to ensure all clients’ transition to the final phase through all the stages of group development in order to achieve the goals of psychotherapy. Different phases tend to overlap so it can be rather difficult to identify when the group is prepared for the next stage. Moreover, group members often move through stages at their own pace and become ready for new phases at different times.
The leader should try to make clients feel comfortable and willing to move further without pushing them (Corey, 2015). The working phase/stage is characterized by participants’ willingness to share their ideas and feelings openly, confront each other, as well as the leader, deal with conflicts in a positive way, and empathize with each other.
At this stage, clients are also eager to take more responsibility and take an active part in discussions and activities. People start providing feedback to their peers without the leader’s invitation or encouragement. Group members are ready to explore the most urgent and complex issues, which is the core of the entire process. This stage is also characterized by the effective management of conflicts and confrontation. Some people think that these are negative features that should be eliminated. However, the lack of confrontation and conflict often leads to stagnation in the group, which makes it impossible for clients to address their key issues and shape their behaviors.
As mentioned above, most of the work on the issues that bring people to the group are discussed and explored during the working phase. The leader also uses interventions that mainly address the patients’ major concerns and needs. Corey (2015) notes that conflicts are possible at any phase of group development, so conflict management activities will be a part of the therapy. Open discussions of the two sides’ arguments and positions can be instrumental in resolving conflicts effectively.
Discussions often constitute the largest part of interventions, but it is effective to combine them with other types of activities and look for new forms to implement them. For example, group members can reveal their ideas on a topic, but they can also try to provide arguments to support or refute some positions. It is possible to focus on the conversational form or choose to insert some writing or even drawing. The primary goal is to make sure that the participants are comfortable with the chosen activity and can share their ideas freely.
One of the most common and effective activities is role-playing that can be employed to help combat veterans to address their PTSD symptoms and change their behavioral patterns. The leader should make sure that this activity is properly planned and supervised since it can lead to such undesirable outcomes as negative attitudes (Corey, 2015). These activities will come after a discussion of certain issues and clients’ sharing ideas on the matter.
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The leader can encourage combat veterans to act out certain roles if they have some value to add to the discussion. The clients will be able to consider different viewpoints and develop their own strategies to deal with them.
It is also possible to utilize creative writing as an intervention aimed at shaping clients’ behavior and self-expression. King (2018) states that creative writing can be beneficial for combat veterans as it increases clients’ motivation and self-expression. The use of journals can be combined with creative exercises that can be the basis for discussions and role plays. The leader should make sure that the activities are easy to complete as too challenging tasks may have adverse effects on participants’ motivation and satisfaction. This activity can facilitate group members’ willingness to reflect on various issues and look for creative ways to treat them. In many cases, people find it less difficult to analyze some situations and concepts if they are in the position of an author (narrator).
Self-disclosure is an important instrument that will contribute to the development of the trusting atmosphere. The leader can participate in such activities to encourage others to share their stories. The leader’s self-disclosure will be instrumental in facilitating clients’ self-reflection as people may examine new perspectives regarding some of their experiences (Corey, 2015). As always, the group members cannot be pushed to disclose some ideas or experiences they find challenging or embarrassing. Every client should be given the necessary time to become completely ready to share certain information.
Therapeutic Factors of the Group
Corey (2015) notes that the progress of the group and each individual are closely related to key therapeutic factors. One of these factors is the motivation that is instrumental in clients’ achieving their goals. Motivated members of a therapeutic group are active and eager to take part in the offered activities. Motivated clients also trust their leader and their peers, which helps them to identify the most undesirable behaviors and ways to change those patterns.
Moreover, if the participants are motivated, they may often affect the agenda of the session in certain ways. They can bring out some concepts or experiences that will benefit from discussion and reflection. Motivated combat veterans will be willing to focus on the issues that prevent their reintegration into society. The leader guides these discussions and ensures the maintenance of a positive and empathic atmosphere.
In conclusion, it is necessary to state that the working phase is characterized by clients’ readiness to work on their issues and concerns. The leader should make sure that all members of the group go through all the stages.
Some of the interventions that can be utilized include discussions, role plays, creative writing, and self-disclosure. The leader has to encourage the participants to be active, but group members cannot be pushed to do or share when they are not ready to do that. Numerous activities aimed at managing conflicts will also be a part of the working phase. Motivation is one of the therapeutic factors that are critical for achieving the established goals. Motivated group members are active and empowered, which makes them prepared to self-reflect and share their feelings.
Corey, G. (2015). Theory and practice of group counseling (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Cox, D. W., Owen, J. J., & Ogrodniczuk, J. S. (2017). Group psychotherapeutic factors and perceived social support among veterans with PTSD symptoms. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 205(2), 127-132. Web.
King, K. D. (2018). Bringing creative writing instruction into reminiscence group treatment. Clinical Gerontologist, 41(5), 438-444. Web.