Group therapy is a recognised means of helping people to develop self-awareness and overcome their problems. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can hamper the individual and the group process. Resistance is a major issue that often emerges in group therapy. In this essay the nature of resistance and the reasons for its prevalence will be explored, together with strategies the facilitator can implement to manage this issue within the group process and dynamics. Before this can be achieved it is important to provide an overview of group process.
According to Corey, group process consists of six stages. These are the formation (pre group issues), initial (orientation), transition, working, final stages and post group concerns including evaluation and follow-up issues (Corey, 2004). Corey goes on to explain the stages. In the formation phase the facilitator is preparing the group, announcing the group, formatting and structuring the group, recruiting, screening and selecting members. The initial stage consists of the group members spending time in becoming oriented with the group and exploration within the group context (eg. building trust, self-identity within the group, identifying goals etc). The transition stage is about dealing with resistance, conflict, defensiveness and other behaviours that may arise in the group participation. In the working stage, is a more in-depth exploration of significant problems and issues in order to bring about changes that better address the personal struggles of group members. The final stage is about consolidating and integrating what has been learned in the group and putting it into practice in the group member’s every day life issues. The last stage, the post group issues, looks at the evaluation, termination and follow-up aspects of the group.
“The concept of resistance began to take shape in psychology with the development of psychoanalytic theory” (Buetler et al, 2001: 431). The Oxford English Dictionary defines resistance as “withstand the action or affect of. Try to prevent by action or argument. Refrain from (something tempting). Struggling against” (Oxford English Dictionary). Corey develops this in the group context, noting that: “The term ‘resistance’, as applied to a client’s behaviour, implies the refusal to co-operate or change and is a form of active opposition to the therapist’s influence”. Resistance can be classified as a behaviour that can keep members from exploring personal issues or painful feelings in depth (Corey, 1995: 16).
Resistance is a common struggle or problem within the context of group dynamics and process. This behaviour can occur at any stage of any group process and can impede the group dynamics and process and can be projected in many and various ways. Human beings are all different and all develop different coping mechanisms. The different ways in which we cope or do not cope in various situations, become ingrained into our beings. There are many different reasons and causes of a group member’s resistance, as well as different levels of resistance within that. Egan suggests that: “Many socio-psychological variables such as sex, prejudice, race, religion, social class, upbringing and cultural and subcultural blueprints can play a part in resistance” (Egan 1982: 297). Examples of this kind of resistance include, for instance a man resisting being helped by a woman, a black person resisting help from a white person and vice versa.
Resistance may occur in all stages of group process, but mainly occurs in the earlier stages and mostly in the transitional stage. Members are starting to self-disclose, find their place within the group, build trust and out of this conflict and tension may arise. My own experiences of resistance occurred in the early stages of group process (from the beginning), especially in finding my place within the group and self-disclosing. However, resistance may also occur...