The group therapy leader is one of the most essential variables that will influence the group’s success or breakdown. Group therapy leaders need to have very important group leadership skills before they can go into helping individuals deal with their own problems. Group leaders must have knowledge of how groups best function and that they individual posses the skills to intervene in timely and effective ways. When a group leader creates a group climate that fosters interpersonal norms such as directness, openness, respect and concern for one another, these norms will create therapeutic interactions among the members. Essential leader behavior is to cultivate a group climate that is secure, ...view middle of the document...
Like any other therapeutic skill, active listening exists in degrees. The skilled group leader is sensitive to the congruence (or lack of it) between what a member is saying in words and what he or she is communicating through body posture, gestures, mannerisms, and voice inflections. For instance, a man may be talking about his warm and loving feelings toward his wife, yet his body may be rigid and his voice listless. A woman recalling a painful situation may be smiling and holding back tears. In addition to group leaders listening well to members, it is important that leaders teach members how to listen actively to one another.
The group leader can facilitate the group process by (1) assisting members to openly express their fears and expectations, (2) actively working to create a climate of safety and acceptance in which people can trust one another and therefore engage in productive interchanges, (3) providing encouragement and support as members explore highly personal material or as they try new behavior, (4) involving as many members as possible in the group interaction by inviting and sometimes even challenging members to participate, (5) working toward lessening the dependency on the leader by encouraging members to speak directly to one another, (6) encouraging open expression of conflict and controversy, and (7) helping members overcome barriers to direct communication. The aim of most facilitation skills is to help the group members reach their own goals. Essentially, these skills involve opening up clear communication among t Empathizing
An empathic group leader can sense the subjective world of the client. This skill requires the leader to have the characteristics of caring and openness already mentioned. The leader must also have a wide range of experiences to serve as a basis for identifying with others. This is especially important in being able to empathize with a culturally diverse client population. Further, the leader must be able to discern subtle nonverbal messages as well as messages transmitted more directly. It is impossible to fully know what another person is experiencing, but a sensitive group leader can have a sense of it. It is also important, however, for the group leader to avoid blurring his or her identity by over identifying with group members. The core of the skill of empathy lies in being able to openly grasp another’s experiencing and at the same time to maintain one’s separateness he members and helping them increase their responsibility for the direction of their group.
Group leaders who are highly directive are likely to make use of interpretation, which entails offering possible explanations for certain behaviors or symptoms. If interpretations are plausible and well timed, they result in a member’s moving beyond an impasse. It is not necessary that the leader always make the interpretation for the client; in Gestalt therapy, clients are encouraged to make their own...