Group therapy has its origins in 1905 when J.H Pratt was treating tuberculosis patients. He noted the positive effects of the instruction classes on the patient’s emotional states. Triggant Burrow in 1925 got impatient with individual therapy and began group therapy. He wanted to decrease the authority of the therapist in the sessions and increase interpersonal interactions. Paul Schilder and Louis Wender in the 1930s found group therapy to be effective in the treatment of prison inmates and discharged mental patients. After World War 2, many of the soldiers were treated successfully using group therapy. Over the years the technique has gotten a lot of support and interest.
Christian group therapy is important based on my experiences I have had as a writer. I have found that the principles of love, affection and fellowship in the Christian or Biblical set up encourage group therapy. The people find an opportunity to receive love, encouragement and corrective advice.
Importance of Group Therapy for Battered Women
Therapy for battered women is important due to several reasons. Research has shown that violence against women is an endemic situation in the society. It has been noted that 14-20% of women will experience rape at one point in their life. A higher percentage, ranging from 25-28% will be physically abused in their romantic relationships. It has also been reported that between 8% and 24% of women have been stalked or harassed at one point in their lives (Kilpatrick, Acierno, Resnick, Saunders & Best, 1997). Most of the time physical aggression or battery accompanies rape.
These are high incidences or percentages in the society. The effects of battery and abuse on women are even more staggering. Depending on the victim, the intensity of the
attack and sociocultural factors, the victims display several symptoms and conditions over a period of time. The victim-related factors include such factors such as prior traumatic events, age, race, socio-economic status, presence of family dysfunction, and genetic disposition.
These women experience a lot of mental conditions such as increasing anxiety, depression, hopelessness and low self-esteem. There are those with serious conditions such as suicidal thoughts, dissociation, somatization and post-traumatic stress. They also may experience a myriad of sexual problems and post-traumatic stress. To numb the pain and deal with the painful memories there are those women who start engaging in substance and alcohol abuse (Briere & Jordan, 2004). The same symptoms for women who have been battered have also been seen in women who have faced psychological abuse from their partners, stalking and sexual torture.
Group therapy has proven to be effective in the treatment of battered women over the years. There are several characteristics of group therapy that make it a preferable treatment method among others.
Dynamics of Group Therapy
Groups are usually composed of individuals who are dealing with the same challenges such as alcohol and substance abuse or even sexual abuse. They have a shared and explicit goal which is to overcome the challenges that they are going through after a traumatic effect. The members are able to listen to others who have gone through similar experiences and get their viewpoints on how they are coping. They hear of other people’s strategies and get emotional support. It is important for the leader of the group to have skills and experience in guiding the group and interacting with people. If the leader is not able to guide the group and
the discussions well, it will cause increased anxiety in the people.
There are four kinds of groups that can be formed under group therapy. There are activity groups where the members engage in an activity together such as cooking and
recreational activities. The members foster a sense of belonging and get to discuss their hidden anxieties in the process. There are also support groups where the members are able to share their problems in a familiar and well known setting. There are boundaries in the group and well established rules that provide a sense of safety and security in the members (Montgomery, 2002).
Problem solving groups are for the members who have established clear aims of what they want to achieve within a certain set period. There is a set model or set guideline which the group members adhere to in order to accomplish their goals. Lastly there is the psychodynamic group where the leader is quieter and lets the group members flow together to establish their own unspoken rules and boundaries. The group members become confident in their social interaction building up their personality and self-esteem.
Counsellor’s Identity, Function and Ethics.
In counselling there are three questions that arise. It is important to consider the counsellor identity, ethics and function. There have been attempts to have a cohesive definition of the counselling identity in the professional circles. Counselling is different from social work or psychotherapy due to its developmental, preventive and orientation towards helping the individual get well. Psychologists are more involved in testing, research and are generally more focused on pathology. They focus more on the objective and distant relationships with the client as opposed to counselling.
Social work on the other hand is more concerned with case by case management and providing community resources to the clients. It is more focused on administrative work than providing therapy (Lopez-Baez & Paylo, 2009). Despite the specializations in the counselling
career, there is a unified professional identity in the profession. When counsellors in diverse fields were asked about the identity of the professional counsellor, they highlighted that the individual should have received training through a CACREP accredited program (Merlin, 2011).
He should also have received counselling specific credentials and adhere to the ACA code of ethics. In providing group therapy for the battered women, it is important for the client to concentrate on the client and her progress towards holistic health in terms of mental and even social health.The counsellor function is therefore to provide mental or psychological help to the counselee. He should have certain ethics and values that enable him to be great in group therapy for battered women. He should have self-acceptance and accept others. He should know the difference between the norm and the person. He should also know the difference between the label and the behaviour (Peters & Mueller, 1960). In interacting with abused women, the counsellor should be careful not to have any kind of bias in counselling.
If the counsellor is a lady and has been abused in the past, she should work to ensure that her personal views and values do not pressure the patients into certain courses of direction (Patterson, 1989). Imposition of values is discouraged because one’s philosophy for life may not work for another individual. Not all counsellors may have an adequate or holistic
view of life and imposing their values may be detrimental to the patient. An individual should not get his or her philosophy of life from only one source but from diverse sources and experiences over his or her lifetime.
It is good for an individual to develop fully and get her or his own identity. There needs to be objectivity. When the patients share their experiences where they have been abused or battered, there should be an environment of trust. There should be confidentiality amongst the group members. They should not disclose details to others. The counsellor is also ethically bound to maintain confidentiality. The battered women are vulnerable and have low self-esteem. The men counsellors should not take advantage of this fact to have romantic relationships with the patients. It will create unhealthy dependencies that will cause the patient’s progress to stagnate. The focus is removed from the healing process to the romantic relationship. Finally it is ethical for the counsellor to provide professional services only in those areas where the individual is competent in (ACA, 2005).
The counsellor should have cultural competence where he or she can handle patients in different ages, socioeconomic classes, ethnicity, religion, races and gender (Richard & Huprich, 2009). The leader should be equipped with the skills and training to handle battered women and group therapy dynamics. This ensures that the patients are helped adequately and receive the right kind of help.
Christian or Biblical views of Group Therapy
In the Christian or Biblical set-up, group counselling has been noted to be an effective mode of counselling. Groups offer opportunities for corrective emotional relationships (Greggo, 2007). The group members get to air their views and they are given correction gently.
Researches in group therapies have shown that the individual is better off in a group than being left alone to deal with his pain and healing on his own. In the Christian set up,
pastors and other Christian leaders have found that groups offer attachment bonds that make the people get a sense of stability and closeness. The people also have an opportunity to help others which provides a sense of achievement and worth. The follow up in the groups causes someone to know that they matter to other individuals.
The Bible admonishes individuals to love Gad and to love their neighbours as they love themselves. Loving involves having an interactive relationship with other people and expressing goodwill to them. C.S Lewis expounded on four kinds of love. There is affection which is the place of deep affection for each other. There is also philia which stands for the close relationships and support. There is also the Eros and the Agape kind of love in human beings. Jesus Christ himself had followers who He was moulding to become preachers in the world.
Man has been commanded to be light and salt on the earth showing the importance of being role models and interacting with others in the society. The believers are encouraged to engage in social work and help the needy in society. There is also an admonition not to forsake meeting together frequently for fellowship. It is an opportunity to encourage each other and provide rebuke and corrective advice.
The Christian counsellors have found the group therapy approaches to be as effective as the individual therapy sessions. The group members find that they have high social capital
in terms of the friends they gain who can stand with them in times of difficulties, relapse and even family challenges. The individual has not been called to be individualistic or a loner. Counsellors should invest in group therapy as it has many advantages.
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