Group therapy comes in many forms. Although all the ‘groups’ on the program at SafeHouse are therapeutic, our ‘Process’ group therapy is by far the most important. Of paramount consideration is safety. Our clients need be assured, first and foremost, about their confidentiality being contained, and not discussed outside the clinical and supervisory team. We consider clients’ rights to privacy sacrosanct. Clients themselves are briefed upon intake, and regularly reminded, about not discussing someone’s issues outside of ‘process’.
Process Group is where – sometimes for the first time – our clients learn to identify their feelings and develop some real emotional intelligence – two foundations of being a recovering person. If one accepts that most substance, process and behavioural addictions can be a response to traumatic past events, then this is a good place to start exploring an individual’s recovery. If a patient was very allowing around their own emotional disposition, then they wouldn’t have sought to change, anaesthetise, medicate or distract themselves from these emotions with a behaviour, process, or substance. Affect phobia (fear of feelings), and non-acceptance of feelings (attempts to ‘fix’ feelings) will have been ingrained during addiction as the norms, and must be challenged and overcome.
Of secondary importance is the framework by which that is facilitated, and because there are several therapists, this varies. All Process Group therapy modules work from a psychodynamic, humanistic, and existentialist perspective. One of our facilitators will always be looking at the group dynamics in terms of transference and countertransference – maintaining unconditional positive regard for our Clients (an honest empathy) while challenging pathological beliefs. And as it is recognized that much communication is non-verbal, both the facilitator and co-facilitator are particularly trained to attend closely to body and facial expression, and make note of them for further use.
‘Process’ group therapy is considered a ‘Sacred’ entity at SafeHouse. We are keen that it is never hijacked by any one person, by bad time keeping, lack of mutual respect, or any compromising behaviours or dynamics. Sometimes, at the discretion of the facilitator, role play and psychodrama are skilfully enacted within the group therapy arena. This would help illustrate a point, aid catharsis and assertiveness, and achieve closure in terms of a ‘Gestalt’ approach. Process group therapy is primarily about exploring current emotions in relation to past events. Being an intrinsic element of the SafeHouse Treatment Program, every group is carefully allowed free flow, monitored, and thoroughly de-briefed so that the Process may continue efficiently and effectively.
Process group therapy takes place five days a week, for at least an hour, and therapists ensure that all clients take ‘time’ in group, and contribute to others’ ‘time’. Watching the unfurling and ever-changing healing dynamics in Process Group is fascinating and very worthwhile, and helps the clinicians in their ongoing one-to-one relationships with their clients.
Other group therapy modules in SafeHouse are less clinical. Every morning a Day by Day group takes place, where clients express how their sleeping and previous 12 hours have been, read something motivational aloud, and affirm themselves and their peers. Every evening, a similar group therapy takes place – the Day Review group – when clients are encouraged to review their therapeutic day in its entirety, and break silence on any secrets or feelings they have not processed.
Several times a week, clients at SafeHouse attend off-site self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, as part of general excursion days. These meetings are group therapy without facilitators or guidance. They epitomise empathy and the unparalleled value of ‘one addict helping another’. Staff do not enter these groups, thereby giving clients their own private platform to express themselves without inhibition.
Overall, Group Therapy in all its forms at SafeHouse is the leading motivator for change, and is the hub of all the other therapeutic eclectic elements of the SafeHouse program.