Lizet Morlote- Leon
Carlos Albizu University
Professor: Fina Campa
Group Therapy: Ancestor and Cousins
During the 1960s and 1970s, the encounter group phenomenon, a heady, robust social movement, swept through the nation. There are several reasons the contemporary group therapist should have, at the very least, some passing knowledge of them. First, the proper training of the group therapist must include some personal group experience. Secondly, the form of contemporary group therapy has been vastly influenced by the encounter group. Lastly, the encounter group or at least the tradition from which it emerged has been responsible for developing the best, and the most sophisticated, small group research technology. Classic encounter groups have largely come and gone but they have had a considerable influence on how group therapy has developed – both in the huge multi-headed self-help movement and in the more traditional psychiatric/psychological environment. Let us examine some remnants of the encounter group movement. The self-help group movement is an enormously expanding field which merits discussion because its goals in many ways are parallel to the goals of group therapy. Self-help groups exist for the explicit purpose of offering psychological support: they help members deal with a psychological problem, a physical illness, a significant external stress, or with a stigmatized status in society (for example being short, obese, gay, and widowed). Encounter group is a rough, inexact generic term that encompasses a great variety of forms. Consider some of its many aliases: human relations groups, training groups, T-groups, sensitivity groups, personal growth groups, marathon groups, human potential groups, sensory awareness groups, basic encounter groups, experiential groups, and so on. Although the nominal plumage is dazzling in its diversity, all these groups have several common denominators. The groups range in size from eight to twenty members - large enough to encourage face-to-face interaction, yet small enough to permit all members to interact. The groups are generally time-limited, often compressed into hours or days. They focus to a large extent on the here-and-now; they transcend etiquette and encourage the doffing of traditional social facades. Finally, these groups value interpersonal honesty, exploration, confrontation, heightened emotional expressiveness, and self-disclosure. The goals of a group are often vague. Occasionally they stress merely the provision of an experience - joy, entertainment, being turned on; but more often they implicitly or explicitly strive for some change —- in behavior, in attitudes, in values, in life style, in self-actualization; or in one's relationship to others, to the environment, to one's own body. The participants are not generally labeled “patients;” the experience is considered not therapy but “growth.” ANTECEDENTS AND EVOLUTION OF THE ENCOUNTER GROUP
The term encounter group for an experiential group was coined by Carl Rogers in the mid-1960s. The most common term before then was T-group (“T” for training in human relations). The first T-group, the ancestral experiential group, was held in 1946. The State of Connecticut had passed a Fair Employment Practices Act and asked Kurt Lewin, a prominent social psychologist, to train leaders who could deal effectively with tensions among groups and thus help to change the racial attitudes of the public. Kurt Lewin organized a workshop that consisted of small groups of ten members each. These groups were led in the traditional manner of the day; they were basically discussion groups and analyzed ‘back home’ problems presented by the group members. Feedback
Feedback, a term borrowed from electrical engineering, was first applied to the behavioral sciences by Lewin (it is no accident that he was teaching at M.I.T. at the time). The early trainers considered that an...
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