Group therapy is a very influential part of the recovery process. It is a safe space where someone learns that they are not alone in their struggles with a number of like-minded people who are willing to share in their highs and lows through the recovery process. It can provide a wealth of new ideas and strategies, as well as an unconditional feeling of belonging that is scaffolded through group therapy as each person learns more about themselves and develops new relationships. Mediating a group therapy session can be incredibly rewarding, as someone has the opportunity to act as a catalyst to profound healing. However, this positive and progressive atmosphere is something that has to be curated in order to be effective. Learning how to mediate group therapy sessions can build an atmosphere that is palpable with its healing potential and birth a culture around recovery that can stick with someone for a lifetime.
Create an Atmosphere That Encourages Conversation
Creating an atmosphere where people feel safe talking about difficult subjects involves a number of different factors. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to talk all the time and there may be situations where someone simply doesn’t want to share in a particular situation. Whether they feel as if they don’t have any unique input to a certain prompt or the topic is simply difficult for them to discuss openly, each person may choose to abstain from the conversation for a bit. Creating an atmosphere that encourages conversation balances this notion with positive reinforcement for those who do choose to speak.
Asking guiding and open-ended questions can help someone begin a conversation with their responses. Having other members be respectful and quiet, and then thanking someone for their participation, no matter how much or how little they spoke, can be the reinforcement that someone needs to feel like their voice was genuinely heard. Repeating back key phrases that someone used can also create this effect, as well as reinforce prominent parts of a person’s answer to ensure all people heard a potentially impactful answer.
Avoid Direct Questions Too Much
Asking very specific questions can limit how people feel they can respond and overall stunt the conversation. Asking questions that are open to multiple answers or interpretations can be much more effective in establishing a progressive dialogue. If members do not feel they can share on a particular prompt, a dragging silence can change the atmosphere of the room as a whole. Participation from as many members of a group session as possible is the goal, and allowing them to interpret questions in a way that is pertinent to their own lives can continue to facilitate ongoing discussion.
It is also important not to direct questions at particular individuals. While some questions can be formulated with certain members in mind, directly asking for input from a certain individual can often have the opposite of the intended effect. If someone is feeling like they are being singled out, it is normal for them to then take a more reserved approach to the question, find an answer that gets them out of the spotlight, and thus can compromise their desire to share in the future.
Form the Dialogue Around a Passive Voice
Conversations about each person’s journey through recovery is a sensitive and difficult topic at any stage of the recovery process. Using a passive voice can invite a calmer, more interpretive conversation. Using the language of absolutes can create an atmosphere that can feel difficult to navigate, as it doesn’t tend to prompt open discussion when things are already framed as “certain,” “definite,” or “absolute.” Simply utilizing words like “may” and “can” can go a long way in creating a warmer, more inclusive atmosphere that lends itself to the discussion rather than having a conversation take on a direct feel that doesn’t lend itself to differing opinions.
It’s Okay to Lighten the Mood
Discussions around recovery can become heavy and emotional very quickly. While keeping the conversation on-topic is important for each person to learn more about their own situations as well as each other as a community develops, it may also be necessary to dial back the conversation and take on a lighter tone. This doesn’t mean that conversation around recovery has to cease as a whole, but it can be a crucial skill to give everyone a mental break from the dense atmosphere that can be created amidst heavy conversation. Allowing jokes to be told can help the community feel more comfortable with each other and allows each person to take a breath to process what has been discussed before moving through more topics. It is possible that some people will regularly need this break and will use it as a rejuvenation period that is necessary for them to stay active and conversational in group therapy.
Group therapy is a cornerstone of the recovery process and it is important to have an effective atmosphere that can comfortably facilitate discussion. At Alta Centers, we create an atmosphere that champions each individual’s personal journey and encourages peers and professionals alike to all learn from each other’s strengths while supporting each other’s weaknesses. Located just outside the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California, Alta Centers champions the city’s essence of opportunity into each program and personalizes your time to give you the unique approach you may need in addressing your continued sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, Alta Centers can provide the necessary support to help you take that big first step. For more information on how we can help you, or to talk to a trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (888) 202-2583.
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