While leading a group, the leader will at times be challenged by different problem behaviors in group members. Members may engage in many types of behaviors that will disrupt the group process. These behaviors usually occur because group members begin to feel uncomfortable and anxious about trusting as the relationships in the group become more intimate. It is important for group leaders to develop methods of handling disruptive behaviors in a manner that is therapeutic but effective in eliminating the behavior.
Consider the following case:
You are leading a group of adults who have histories of trauma and abuse as children. The group has been meeting weekly for several weeks, and the members know each other fairly well. One of the group members, Jill, begins talking about her relationship with her father and how he hurt her. As she talks, she begins sobbing and has to stop what she is saying for a few seconds. During this pause, another member, Sue, jumps in. Sue angrily states what she would like to do to Jill’s father and that he was wrong for having done that to Jill. Sue then begins to rant about how men can not be trusted because they all hurt women, and there should be something done about this. During this time, you notice that Jill has shut down and is no longer crying.
As a group leader in the above group, how would you handle this situation? What specific problem behaviors can you identify in this example? Why would you consider these problem behaviors, and what negative effect might they have on the group? How would you get the group back on track without alienating any of the group members? How would you continue to demonstrate empathy for all of the group members but still eliminate the problem behaviors? Give specific examples of interventions you would make to handle these problem behaviors.
Support your ideas and suggestions with information from at least one research journal article or other professional resource.
Answer to the Question
The success of a group is pegged on the manner in which the group members interact with one another, and this also determines the amount of cohesion in the group. Group leaders are expected to identify, comprehend, mitigate, and minimize any behavior that disrupts the groups they lead. In the above situation, Sue monopolizes the discussion by interjecting Jill and proceeding to generalize a specific problem. Jill responds by withdrawing from the conversation which can be problematic because she may not be sufficiently motivated to contribute in future. Withdrawal can have a significant impact on the other group members because they are bound to fear being interrupted by Jill. Moreover, monopolizing can make the other individuals resent Sue because they will feel that she does not accord them the space to air their views to completion.
Boyd (2008) states that the individuals who display monopolistic tendencies in a group typically do it to vent their anxiety. Group leaders can tackle monopoly in within their groups by interrupting the monopolizer. Sue’s contribution can be acknowledged and directed to other members. Additionally, the group leader can set a maximum discussion time per member. By withdrawing, Jill becomes a silent member of the group. Boyd (2008) proposes that group leaders should interact with silent members to understand the reason for their silence before getting them to participate further. Weinberg (2014) advises that leaders should approach their group members via an intersubjective-relational method. This tactic places representation at the focal point of the group members, additionally, it prompts the members to mutually recognize the subjective experiences of the individuals in the group. The ultimate purpose of this approach is to enable the members to fully express their experiences and identify each other’s views.
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