What’s a Therapy Group Like?

Never, it’s not for me, I don’t have the confidence for a therapy group.

Probably just a few of the responses you might have to the idea of being in a therapy group with people you have never met before. And sometimes it can be the very fact that you do not know the other members of the therapy group that be so helpful.  These people most likely do not know you. They are not in a previous relationship with you:  a colleague, friend, sibling or parent, a partner.  They can give you feedback in a way that is not influenced by their history with you.   They may choose to share their responses to the issues you may be facing in your life. You will most probably find out that they have faced something similar themselves. You are not alone in your experience.

A therapy group can be an opportunity to gain support, to explore yourself and your relationships, to have a shared experience of connectedness.  There are different types of therapy groups and different configurations. Some meet regularly, often fortnightly or weekly for a couple of hours or so.  Some groups meet a three or four times a year for longer. Others meet as a one off for a weekend or longer.

As a therapist who runs a variety of different groups, I am often struck by the potency of the group experience for people.  Taking the step to join a therapy  group, to share intimate moments from your life can be a big decision for some people, one that I think reaps its rewards. Add to this of course, is the fact that I like running groups. I enjoy the interaction, the sharing and contact I see between people, the willingness to be open and support each other. I like the fact we nearly always find something to laugh about together. We enjoy ourselves and have some fun too.

I read recently that we are born into relationship – it seems to me that engaging in therapy with others is a natural way to learn about ourselves through relationship.

Information on my next therapy group can be found at Group Therapy

The Importance of Hope

What a lovely Bank Holiday weekend we had in Chesterfield. The weather was great, sunny and warm with lovely blue skies.  I was fortunate in being able to escape out into the countryside and go for a lovely long walk with my dogs along the Monsal Trail.

Monsal Head
Monsal Head

It was while I was out walking that I remembered a time a few years ago when I had a very similar experience of peacefulness, contentment and joy. Again I was out with my dogs for a walk, probably at a similar time of year and in similar weather. That time the walk was at Calke Abbey down near Derby. I have a very clear recollection of sitting on a wall by the reservoir, sharing an ice cream with my dogs and feeling sense of peacefulness and hope for the first time for months.

Relationship Break Up.
At that time this experience was hugely significant as I had recently separated from my first husband.  I was engaged in a some personal therapy to help me deal with the break up and in fact, probably more importantly, help me understand myself better.  I had been feeling pretty low for a number of months, I was finding the break up difficult, relationships with family were strained at best and I did not know how to make things different for myself, or what to do to help myself deal with the feelings I was experiencing. However, I remember very clearly sitting on the wall on that day and having what was probably one of the first experiences of hope after months of difficulty. In that moment I felt at peace, I felt happiness and I had a sense that things could be different. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me, but I also had a sense of potential and possibilities and that how I approached my life could change.  I did not have to continue to think, feel and act in the way I had in the past.

Therapeutic Support
These days, as a therapist I think that one important aspect of my role is to hold that sense of potential and hope for people when they cannot see it for themselves. Often when someone I am seeing is in the depths of their distress it is very difficult for them to see beyond what they are experiencing in the moment. To think that they can create a different life for themselves. That’s where I think a therapist has a hugely important task to hold that hope for them. To use a metaphor, it is almost like we are with them in a dark tunnel where they cannot see the light and we can.  We need to let them know that the light is there and to help them find it for themselves.

Change
I suppose this is, in part, what I am doing in writing this post. You may recognise some of what I am describing, have been in a place of despair yourself and recognise how difficult it was to believe that things could change. You may be there now – I hope you are not. What I do know from my own experience and from the people I have worked with over the years is that people are capable of making significant personal and emotional developments in ways that enable them to live more with more peace and satisfaction in their lives.

Adult Ego State

Ego State Model
Ego State Model

Here’s the final post on explaining ego states;  one of the ideas in TA I use widely with my clients and that I find really helpful in understanding ourselves and why we think,  feel and behave in the ways that we do sometimes.

It was Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis who originally described an ego state as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour”.  I have written about the other two egos states, Parent and Child in previous posts. Today I’m going to write about Adult.  Where Parent, Adult or Child is capitalised I am referring to the concept of ego state, where lower case I am referring to real parents, adults or children.

Adult. 

When we are in our Adult ego state we are using thinking, feeling and behaviour in response to the “here and now”.  So being in my  Adult ego state means that I am in the present and will respond to a situation or stimulus using my capacity as an adult for solving problems,   reality testing situations, being honest,  direct and open about what I am thinking and feeling and being spontaneous.

Problem Solving

I’m going to look again the examples I gave you in my posts about Child ego state and Parent ego state to explain this further.  I want to talk about what the Adult response might be in those same scenarios as a way of demonstrating what I mean by a here and now response that uses all our resources for problem solving and reality testing.  In the example of getting an answer wrong in a training course,  I used this to demonstrate being in the Child ego state where the person re-experienced  an uncomfortable feeling from childhood when getting an answer wrong.  The Adult response might be to feel ok about not knowing an answer and then to reflect on what you have not understood and what additional information might needed to give the correct answer.  So I am engaging my problem-solving skills as an adult to solve the “problem” of not knowing an answer.

Anger

Thinking about the Parent example of being cut up by a car driving too fast on the motorway, in this scenario I talked about the person getting  angry and swearing  like their Dad had done.  The key point about this is, once again,  that the response to the stimulus of being cut up by another driver does not look at problem solving.  A response from Adult might be to check my own speed and see if I going too slow, I might move over out of the way of other drivers who want to get past. I might also think about my own driving behaviour and if I am driving safely and appropriately for road conditions.

Being Resourceful

How is this useful to us?  Being in our Adult opens all up all of our resources to be used;   so that we not using out-moded strategies that we have taken in from our parents into our Parent ego state that are not applicable to the lives we are leading.  It also means not re-experiencing a child response to a situation and using old ways to get our needs met.  The examples I have used are about taking action and problem solving.  Other scenarios might involve being how you are in a relationship with your partner, how you parent your children, how you relax and have fun.

Are there certain situations that stimulate a Child or Parent response from you?  What would be an Adult response?  Would this be more useful?

Valentine’s Day

As it’s only a few days away I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day and how for some couples it will be a lovely experience full of closeness and affirmation of their love for each and for others a disappointment and possibly a day of sadness and anger.  How many of us have dreams of a romantic evening with a loved one doing all the things we most enjoy?  And how many of us have ended up with a bunch of wilting flowers from the local petrol station and a box of your least favourite chocolates bought as a last minute gesture.  Well I think a little planning and discussion before hand can make a difference so here are some simple tips that may help you make this year’s Valentines Day one that you enjoy.

 

Negotiate and compromise.

Firstly it can be helpful to begin by checking out that your loved one wants to celebrate St Valentines Day.  Then let them know why it is important to you to celebrate.  Next decide on something that you would both like to do.  If their ideas are very different from yours you may need to negotiate a compromise around this. For example you may decide to go with your preferences this year and theirs next.   Acknowledging and recognising the compromises you are both making is an important part of the process.

What is romance?

What do you expect from your partner or loved one and yourself?  Are your expectations realistic?  The place of romantic love in a relationship can vary tremendously depending on the background, upbringing and culture of the people involved.  One person’s idea of romance is not the same as anothers.  Find out from your partner or loved one exactly what their idea of romance is and what they would like to do.  Make sure they know what you want too.  Respect their right to want something different from you.

There is no mind reading!

Listen to their ideas and wants.  See if you can really understand their point of view, test out seeing the world through their eyes.  And remember, most people cannot read minds nor are they telepathic, we only learn how to please people from experience.  So, no matter how long you have been in a relationship the chances are that unless you tell your partner what you want they will not know.  So be specific.  If you want flowers or chocolates, tell them what sort, how many, the colour.  If you want a hug, let them know how you like to be held and how long for.

For some people asking for what they want or letting people know they have a need can be difficult.  They may have learnt at some point that it is not okay to ask, or feel scared and vulnerable in letting others know they have needs too.  Well, it is okay to ask and it is okay to have needs, this Valentine’s Day go ahead and ask for the romantic day you want.