Groups allow us to work at several levels with others. They allow us to explore our own experiences in light of the feedback from others. At a deeper level, they allow us to explore and share our relations with our collaborators in the group and get feedback from them on their experience of us. This can be profoundly moving, deeply transformative and also very challenging. It requires commitment and emotional resilience from members.
I offer groups in two formats: Men Only and Open. Both groups run with the same philosophy so, while we encourage members to bring their outside experience to the group, we mainly concentrate on what happens in relations within the group. Simply complaining about other people or circumstance is discouraged; the challenge is to use our experience to find out how we are in the world and in the group and, if appropriate, to move to a different way of being that is more rewarding both for us and for our fellow members.
The groups meet fortnightly and commitment to a one year membership is a requirement because groups go through their own developmental process which is not always comfortable. The extended commitment is necessary to give all members the assurance of a stable environment to do the work. It is also to ensure the group is together for long enough to allow trust to develop and for members to mean something to each other.
Each group negotiates its own ethos but common agreements include:
- Confidentiality: what happens in the group stays in the group. Many groups prefer that members do not identify other members in outside conversations and do not share specifics of what happens in the group.
- If members interact outside the group, they will share their interaction at the next group meeting.
- Members do not talk outside the group about other members who are not present.
- If an absent member is discussed in a group meeting, the discussion is shared with the member when they return.
- Members do not interrupt each other or talk across each other.
- One conversation at a time.
I will provide an emailed summary of how I saw the group to each member within two days of each session. This is not meant as a description of what actually happened in the group; it is meant as an additional input to your own thinking and, possibly, as a challenging way to interpret what happened.
Once the group starts, new members will only be added during the year if the group agrees or requests it.
For those who wish to know more about how the groups work, the work of Irvin D. Yalom is central to my approach and I also make use of Adlerian group counselling as described by Sonstegard and Bitter.