Alyssa K. Engblom
Winona State University
In the book The Schopenhauer Cure, Yalom portrays a group therapist, Julius, who uses a variety of group facilitation techniques in order for the group to be run effectively. The first technique Julius uses in the group is to switch the focus from content to process. “Julius intervened by using the group therapist’s most common and most effective tactic—he switched the focus from the content to the process, that is, away from the words being spoken to the nature of the relationship of the interacting parties” (Yalom, 2005, p. 132). During this scenario, Bonnie is feeling insecure about herself and confronts Rebecca about “preening” for the men in the group. Phillip is still new to the group, and the other members are not too sure what to think of him yet. In order for the group to be refocused, Julius tells everyone to “take a step back…and to try to understand what’s happening. Let me first put out this question to all of you: what do you see going on in the relationship between Bonnie and Rebecca?” (Yalom, 2005, p.132). Julius does not want everyone to focus solely on what Bonnie and Rebecca are saying to each other, but rather on their relationship with each other.
The second technique Julius uses is to have group members focus on the “Here and Now.” An off-shoot of the Here and Now technique is to have members of the group talk directly to each other, instead of talking about them. Julius “had done what the good group therapist should do: he had translated one of his patient’s central issues into the here-and-now, where it could be explored firsthand. It was always more productive to focus on the here-and-now than to work on the patient’s reconstructions of an event from the past or from current outside life” (Yalom, 2005, p. 158). During this group meeting, Julius is trying to get to the root of why Bonnie feels that everyone else is more valuable or more important to the group than her. However, all of her explanations are all external and the other group members feel that her answers are regressive or don’t make sense. Julius then moves into another technique. “In his view the work in therapy consisted of two phases: first interaction, often emotional, and second, understanding that interaction. That’s the way therapy should proceed—an alternating sequence of evocation of emotions and then understanding” (Yalom, 2005, p. 160). To get to this second stage, Julius asks the group to look back at what occurred in the past few minutes. He was trying to get Bonnie to see that she takes situations or comments and then punishes herself with them.
The third technique Julius “taught to his group therapy students was: Members should never be punished for self-disclosure. On the contrary, risk taking must always be supported and reinforced” (Yalom, 2005, p. 218). At this point in the book, the group members are upset at Gill for not telling them sooner that he has a drinking problem. They are angry that he was blaming all his difficulties on his wife, Rose, and not talking about the real problem. Julius then goes on to use a fourth facilitation technique, Horizontal vs. Vertical Disclosure. “Julius always taught students the difference between vertical and horizontal self-disclosure. The group was pressing, as expected, for vertical disclosure—details about the past, including such queries as the scope and the duration of his drinking—whereas horizontal disclosure, that is, disclosure about the disclosure, was always far more productive” (Yalom, 2005, p. 219). He then asks Gill what made it possible for him to open up to them at this particular meeting.
At the beginning of the story, Philip did not seem like an appealing character. However, by the end of the book and after I got to know his character a bit more, I could see certain strengths peeking out. Philip is an extremely intelligent, bright, and committed individual. He was dedicated to...