How Process Groups Work
During discussion, the therapist continually monitors three dynamics:
- The psychological functioning of each individual group member
- How group members are relating to one another
- How the group as a whole is functioning
As the group discusses an issue, the therapist helps keep the conversation productive and may ask questions to help clarify participants’ statements, make a point or move the conversation in a relevant direction. Any intervention the therapist chooses to use will impact all three group dynamics, and the goal is to strike a balance so that each dynamic receives optimal attention and serves the needs of each individual and the group.
The therapist’s primary role in the group is to promote and probe interactions that carry a lesson or a point. The level of the therapist’s participation in the conversation and chosen interventions depend on a variety of factors:
- What the therapist observes in the group dynamics
- How leadership and hierarchies are emerging in the group
- What strengths each member brings to the group
- How each individual’s resistance to change affects the group’s functioning
The Psychodynamic Approach to Process Groups
The psychodynamic approach is based on several principles, including:
Early experience impacts later experience
Perceptions can distort reality
Unconscious processes influence behavior
We choose our behaviors to adapt to situations and avoid harm
Every behavior is influenced by an individual’s makeup, environment and experiences and is an attempt to adapt to a situation while staying as safe and comfortable as possible.
Participants in process groups begin to understand themselves better within the framework of the group dynamics and the relationships they develop in the group. The interactional nature of process groups and the “here and now” focus on the relationships allow members to examine the unconscious processes of the group and use them to become more self-aware. In this way, the group itself becomes the agent of change and helps members understand how their behaviors affect others and how others’ behaviors affect them .
Benefits of Process Groups
Working in groups in treatment helps people reduce their ambivalence toward treatment and recovery. It also reduces denial and increases motivation for important changes in thought, behavior and lifestyle. The interactions with the group address clients’ emotional issues, including anxiety and depression. In group settings, including process groups, clients increase their ability to anticipate, recognize and cope with high-risk situations that may lead to substance abuse.
- Reframe key issues in their lives
- Practice reflective listening
- Experience feelings of hope
- Relate to others going through similar circumstances
- Develop higher emotional intelligence
- Experience a sense of belonging, which reduces isolation
Other Types of Group Therapy Used in Treatment
The other four types of group therapy are psychoeducational groups, skills development groups, cognitive-behavioral/problem-solving groups, and support groups.
Skills Development Groups
Other Types of Groups
Group Therapy: Vital to Treatment & Recovery
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that community support is one of the four pillars of successful recovery.4 Process groups and other group therapies provide a high level of support and community participation from the very start, and they continue to support individuals as they progress through treatment, helping to increase self-awareness and improve interpersonal functioning, which are crucial for successful, long-term recovery.