Group Therapy Tips for Facilitators

-Don’t try and “control” the group. At the end of the day, the group is for the group members. It is THEIRS! If the facilitator talks and talks, group members will become disengaged. Let them take discussions where they want to (unless it becomes completely off-topic and unproductive). If a group doesn’t turn out the way you expected, it’s okay. Sometimes that’s for the best.

-If a conflict arises in group, don’t freak out!

Conflict is actually a good thing. If group members can learn to solve problems in group, they can better solve problems in the “real world”. A conflict presents a good opportunity to go over conflict-resolution and communication skills.

-Make sure all group members understand confidentiality (and the limits of confidentiality/your duty to report).

NO BULLYING in group!!! Immediately stop group if you notice a group member is bullying someone.

This needs to be addressed right away. Group members should feel comfortable and safe in group, so bullying cannot be tolerated.

-It could be helpful to have group rules (but not too many… keep it under 10). For the most part, let the group members come up with the rules. As I mentioned earlier, the group is theirs… so it should be their rules. Make sure all the group members understand the rules and are comfortable with them. Some rules will need exceptions so make sure to clarify them. Once the rules have been established, type them and put them up somewhere. You can see an example of group rules here: Group Rules (Example)

-Let the group members decide on the consequences of breaking rules (as long as they are reasonable). Again, make sure all the group members understand the consequences and are comfortable with them. Encourage the group members to enforce the rules and their consequences. They assume the facilitator should be the “enforcer” but this is a bad idea- the facilitator doesn’t want to be seen as the “teacher”.

-If you notice group members are disengaged or you feel they aren’t taking a topic or activity seriously, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from group and sit in the back of the room.

This is a technique that forces the group members to get the group on track. There may be some awkward silences, but that’s okay. The group members can’t just sit back and rely on the facilitator to talk the entire group.

-Pay attention to facial expressions & body language, and point out what you see (i.e. “Hey Sarah, I noticed you looked uncomfortable when….”).

-Watch out for side conversations. They can get out of hand and are pretty disruptive. If you find that you can’t control side conversations, don’t be afraid to tell the group members that it is their responsibility to stop them- they must police each other. After all, you are not the “teacher”.

-You may want to tell group members to speak to you privately if they are having an issue with another group member. For example, if a group member is upset with another group member’s poor hygiene, it’s best if they talk to the facilitator in private. This would be embarrassing to bring up in group and out of the blue.

Some issues can be addressed in group at some point, but some cannot. Use your best judgment.

-Watch out for cliques! You want group members to feel comfortable. You don’t want anyone to feel “left out”.

-If you notice group members are disengaged, and you are having what is essentially a “one-on-one” conversation with a group member, you can try the following:

  • Stop making eye contact with the group member that is talking. This forces him/her to
    look at his/her group members (which they should be doing in the first place)
  • Interrupt and ask the rest of group for their reactions to what their group member is

-If group members complain about a certain activity (i.e. they don’t feel like writing), don’t worry about it.

They don’t have to participate if they don’t want to. At the end of the day, it is up to them to put in the effort if they sincerely want to work on themselves.

-Some group members will try to have a relationship outside of group. Watch out for this. This can get messy.

-Don’t worry if a group member doesn’t like you. That’s life.


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