Two months back, I took over a group from another therapist at our clinic (who retired). Before she left she told me this was a good working group. But that hasn’t been my experience at all. Some members are talkative enough, but others participate minimally and a couple are openly hostile and challenging (everyone in the group is Court-referred). These are all male alcohol offenders and a few have domestic violence involvement as well. What’s the problem? Maybe it’s just me.”

Well, seems to me this is about time management. The challenge is to get the most positive impact from whatever (limited) treatment time remains.

You’ve got some personal experience with this group. So let’s take advantage of what you already know.

Sit down with pen and paper and divide the group into three categories, based on your impressions to date.

  1. Those who are interested in change and seem willing to work
  2. Those who aren’t interested and are probably just serving time, so to speak
  3. Those who are ‘on the fence’ and could go either way

Convert this to percentages. As in: Interested 30%, Not interested 40%, On fence 30%.

Be of interest to see how the percents stack up.

With involuntary clients, you always have some members who scrupulously resist any real change. At this point in the life of the group, it’s unlikely they will suddenly become motivated. It could happen, but the odds are against it.

Next, you might want to alter your goals to fit each segment.

With the ‘motivated’ segment, you could aim to facilitate the progress they’re already making. But with the ‘fence-sitter’ group, you might decide to focus special effort on increasing their motivation by resolving their ambivalence about recovery.

It sometimes happens that a group will get ‘stuck’ because the leader focuses too much attention on those who don’t really need it or those who probably won’t benefit anyway. Best not to neglect that middle group – that’s where you could potentially have the greatest impact.

As for your predecessor: with retirement looming, maybe she just lost interest. It happens.

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