by Cele Keeper, LCSW
I have been thinking about why so many agencies in our area do not offer groups either for supervision or for the client populations they serve. I don’t know the answer to that, but it feels like maybe those of us who work (or volunteer, as in my case) around town should see if we can sell the group idea to the management level.
I am blessed that one of the two agencies where I do group supervision, The Women’s Home, is set up on a group modality. At this 18-month residential facility, the clients who hope to return to society in a healthy, empowered way come from the street, mental hospitals, jail, drug/alcohol treatment centers, abusive relationships and a history of rotten decisions. You name it, we’ve seen it. You can’t make this stuff up.
So, there are two weekly psychodynamic groups facilitated by a Baylor/Menninger 3rd year resident (a six month rotation) and an experienced full-time staff person. (I should mention here that each resident also has an individual therapist.) A third such group falls into the after-care category or is attended by women residents who now have daytime jobs and those who have successfully graduated. A splendid vocational staff throws itself into getting these women back into the work world.
In addition, the agency offers its clients a varied selection of psycho-educational groups: grief work, co-dependency, artistic expression, relapse prevention, spiritual awareness, anger management and the obligatory 12-step work to name a few. Some are mandatory for women recommended by staff, others not. All persons co-facilitating groups of whatever stripe are mandated to attend our weekly supervision session, which is an opportunity for the psychodynamic folk and the addiction folk to learn from each other. (As you might have surmised, neither group has much reverence for the value of the other’s modality.) Now we have added to the mix among our interns the DBT-trained folk, who don’t have a clue why, when they give their clients an assignment to do, they fail to carry it out. So we are all learning from each other. And there is always amazement among the attendees about how a client may present to one staff member and offer a totally different persona to, say, a newbie intern. Splitting has a hard time finding a home when staff is on the same page.
In offering groups to the agency’s clients, we devotees of group therapy and all its virtues know how self-perceptions and modes of communicating (that have not worked) can be challenged and corrected in the safety of a group setting serving as a healthy family.
So if your agency doesn’t offer any groups to its staff or to its clients, do a selling job up the chain. This is a win-win proposition.