ACA Blog

Apr 05, 2012

Witnessing the Group Process

[caption id="attachment_4859" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jennifer Bingaman"][/caption]

I’m sure it’s no surprise, but working at a residential drug treatment center can be interesting. We have a bunch of grown men living side-by-side all trying to work through some heavy issues along with their addiction. We have anger and apathy. We have motivation and we don’t. We have a good proportion of Axis IIs intermingling with people who have never had to understand something like a personality disorder. It’s an adventure in understanding for staff and clients most days.

This past week, we had a new client come on the property that caused a fair amount of unrest in our community. The men became enraged at the behavior of this new client in their midst. The group believed the client was doing all these outrageous things like bumming too many cigarettes, skipping groups, stealing food, talking his way out of commitments, invading personal space, the list the clients rattled off about this new community member could go on.

Witnessing this interpersonal chaos take over the campus was a new experience. It honestly felt like being in high school again. The way word spread about this problem was remarkable. The guys went on with the issue for a week until finally someone brought up something incredibly insightful in a clinical group.

He proposed that maybe they were all feeling the way their loved ones had once felt toward them when they were in active addiction. Maybe all the manipulation, the using, and the freeloading was what they had all once done. The realization that crept across each client’s face in the room was amazing. The clients had made headway with the issue.

So we processed. We talked about how amazing it was that their friends and loved ones had tolerated them for years and how lucky they were to have people who cared that much. How they might benefit from showing our new client a bit more compassion. How they learned about themselves from their struggles with this particular person. We talked about solutions and insight. It was just so cool. That’s kind of the only way to describe it.

It was great to witness a group work like that. I have been in so many group settings in my internship and I’ve seen such a variety of dimensions in group therapy that have taught me so much already. To watch a bunch of guys in a room start with a problem and find a solution was refreshing. It instilled my faith in the group process and gave me deeper insight into my role as a counselor in this setting.

Jennifer Bingaman is a counselor-in-training and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences as a client and a counselor with a few life musings thrown into the mix at The Pursuit of Sassiness

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