Psychotherapy Interpersonal Process Group

What is an Interpersonal Process Group?

An Interpersonal Process Group (or Psychotherapy Process Group, or Process Group) is a less structured group environment that is led by a therapist and focuses on material between the group members (interpersonally). This is a different structure than psychoeducational groups, as a process group is focused primarily on what is activated in the group (experientially), rather than focusing on developing a skill. It is similar to a support group, in which members are encouraged to give support and and feedback to other members, however the process group also encourages participants to examine reactions and responses that emerge interpersonally within these various contributions.

What is the benefit with joining a process group?

A process group provides a safe and supportive environment in which participants can express a variety of feelings and collaborate with others to increase self-awareness. Often, participants find that by being in a group environment, they re-experience previous interpersonal dynamics that have been distressing to them in other relationships. By creating a trusting climate to examine these feelings in, participants have an opportunity to examine troublesome or maladaptive relationship patterns, understand how these patterns developed, and create alternative ways of interacting that are more beneficial to the individual. Through this process, participants are able to gain more freedom and agency in their interactions in order to have more meaningful ongoing relationships with others.

What can I expect from my time in this group?

It is important to first establish an environment of trust in a process group, and so this is the focus for the first few sessions. Group trust is built on every participant’s commitment to the group including maintaining strict confidentiality, consistent attendance, and engaging authentically and openly in each session. During the rest of the group meeting time, participants are responsible to bring up anything that is troubling them, and the discussion is based on whatever participants would like to talk about, including responses to other’s contributions. The two guiding principles for participants roles include paying attention to their reactions (including thoughts, feelings, images) that occur moment to moment in the group, and reporting these observations. This is a way of slowing down and examining automatic responses that often go unnoticed as we interact with others. The therapist intervenes and contributes as necessary in order to promote open reflection and to provide observations to encourage understanding and collaboration.

What is the role of the therapist in this group?

The primary role of the group therapist is to facilitate individual and group growth. The therapist does so by creating an atmosphere of trust and safety, in addition to assisting with individual’s increased awareness of interpersonal themes in order to promote personal growth. The therapist is also responsible for monitoring and intervening any hostile or unhealthy group dynamics, and making efforts to balance group roles to ensure that every participant has an opportunity to share and is responded to in a growth-promoting way. Open communication is also encouraged towards the therapist by the group members, and so the therapist will encourage participants to share reactions towards the therapist’s role and interventions during the group process.

What would make me a good candidate for this group?

A process group would be appropriate and therapeutic for an individual who would like to continue personal and interpersonal growth in a trusting group environment. Often, individuals are attracted to this type of group if they have experienced distressing or difficult interpersonal relationships and/or have unexpressed feelings that may interrupt the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Individuals who join typically want to feel better about themselves and also find more fulfillment in their interpersonal relationships. This type of group would be very difficult and therefore not therapeutic for an individual experiencing psychosis, mania, or who is not interested in collaborating with others.

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