The theoretical orientation of counselors depends on their characteristics and experience. One of the theoretical orientations that influenced my manner of conducting group therapy most is Client-centred orientation. This approach correlates with my attitude towards therapy – I find it necessary to be emphatic and avoid diagnostic judgments. In general, the Client-centred approach concerns the individual’s insight, paying much less attention to the interpretations of the therapist. The theory, which was first introduced by an American psychologist Carl Rogers, is based upon the freedom of self-determination. In order to understand this approach better, one should take a deep dive into several other topics such as the basics of group therapy, multiculturalism, and social justice.
The effectiveness of any theoretical orientation largely depends on the skills being used by the therapist. I find it really important to contribute to feedback from the very beginning of the therapy. As Ivey, Pederson, and Ivey (2007) claim, “the instructor might ask members to explain their expectation for the class and write them on newsprint for review later in the class to see if the expectations were met or changed” (p. 3). Firstly, it is important to consider the differences and similarities between the members of the group. With the help of several exercises, the instructor should practice with the group the ability to understand what the representative of the other culture express, feel and mean (Ivey et al., 2007, p. 4). In my practice, I will use different exercises enhancing understanding of other cultures, which will help the client make the accent on personal insight and find out in what way culture influence the members of the group. By becoming storytellers or speakers, the members of the working group will be able to enhance both the sense of entity and a better understanding of themselves.
Whatever essential micro-skills are, there are core competencies that contribute to the successful use of different technics. It is not enough to use only one channel of perception to make comprehensive analyses of the patterns of one’s individuality. Working with my group, I will take into account both verbal and nonverbal communication. For instance, I can use video and audio materials to enhance the group’s better interpretation of the vocal tone, accents in speech, keywords and the importance of certain grammatical patterns. Ivey et al. (2007) suggest that “in demonstrating nonverbals it might be useful for the instructor to give an emotion such as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ and ask all the members to demonstrate the emotion nonverbally” (p. 7). I will use some particular grammatical patterns as well to help the group realize how the choice of the words may influence our collectivistic or individualistic approaches. Ivey et al. (2007) observe such exercises as the use of either plural or singular phrases in order to illustrate how can the content of the speech be influenced by choice of plural or singular language.
Undoubtedly, the leader is to pace the group and be assertive enough to direct it. Although Client-centred theoretical orientation is based on much empathy and tolerance, and work with group demands control and feedback. According to Ivey et al. (2007), “it is useful to begin turning the overt group leadership function over to the members giving them chances to take the initiative” (p. 9). Therefore, I find it crucial to balance between paying too much attention to individuals and being too judgmental and persistent. It may be useful to give any person a chance to express their opinions as in the “wheel” technique (Ivey et al., 2007, p. 16). In my work, I will make attempts to control the group’s attention and provide adequate and due feedback. Thus, Client-centred approach should be combined with the assertiveness and the professional activity of the instructor. I should develop such characteristics to succeed in my group therapy.
Perhaps the most important type of skill is the Basic Listening Sequence. These skills include open and closed questions, encouraging/restating, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings, and summarization (Ivey et al., 2007, p. 19). One of the most important aspects of successful group work is asking the right questions. Questions may be interpreted differently, so I find it necessary not only to formulate them in a proper way but also to understand mechanisms of different interpretations. Ivey et al. (2007) write, “ask a question of each member and have them reframe the question into a paraphrase back to you. Each paraphrase is followed by a check-out phrase to make sure the paraphrase was accurate” (p. 22). Effective encourages are also critical for the successful group work. Here the power of words should be taken into account. For instance, the members of the group are expected to realize, through flashbacks to their past, the power of positive and negative words. Reflecting feeling and summarization are both vital. Describing one’s feelings and summarizing the content is critical for providing self-consciousness and the ability to understand others. The members of my group may tell stories about the most shocking events in their lives allowing others to detect and name these emotions.
The use of all the micro-skills mentioned above largely depends on the type of group. Groups vary in their aims and the types of treatment. During outpatient treatment, clients can apply what they learn to real-life problems. This might be challenging as some of the clients are to face difficulties being oppressed and disorientated. Inpatient programs imply more fundamental treatment, often dealing with serious problems. I find it more challenging in such groups to develop confidence in the clients and their judgments. The leader should be exceptionally attentive in order not to disrupt the client’s self-esteem. By and large, inpatient programs aim to help the people who once failed to overcome their addiction. Client-centered therapy helps them perceive themselves as personalities who are independent and strong enough to find meaningful directions. Nevertheless, much willpower is needed from me as the members of such groups may be depressed and unable to perceive themselves as real decision-makers.
In psychoeducational groups, much attention is paid to the same disorder or a particular population group. Such groups may concern parent training, anger management, gender issues, etc. In such groups, I am better to introduce guidelines, methods, and goals of the therapy and ensure that all the information is shared and discussed in a proper way. A point to keep in mind is that some groups are extremely sensitive to judgments concerning different roles. Therefore, gender or social roles are better to be assumed delicate issues. I need to respect the individualities of the representatives of various social groups and enhance the clients to avoid the sense of dependence on the expectations associated with the group. The Client-centred therapy is much about balancing between the backgrounds of the clients and their freedom to act despite the social limitations posed by the clients’ surroundings.
I bear in mind that the group can share some common values or consist of the individuals with completely different attitudes to life. According to Ivey et al. (2007), “the group can be perceived as a microcosm of all society with its various cultures, finding a way to work together for mutual survival” (p. 19). Individuals do not exist in a vacuum, but they interact in the context of their culture. The group therapy based on multicultural approach will benefit from the expanding of cultural boundaries. In my work, I will do my best to help an individual become more concise and make more independent decisions as social limits and some cultural stereotypes will be thoroughly considered. Ivey et al. (2007) emphasize that “self-awareness includes how you see yourself but also how you are being perceived by other group members” (p. 6). In this way, the aims of Client-centred therapy and the therapy in a multicultural group do not contradict each other.
Consequently, the successful Client-centred therapy should be associated with the personal characteristics of the instructor as well as the backgrounds of the client. As an instructor, I need to develop such qualities as tolerance but also remain active and assertive. In my work, I will make sure that the theoretical orientation is based on micro-skills, which help both the clients and the instructor develop various competencies. These skills appeal to the client’s manner to perceive and interpret information, ask questions, better understanding nonverbal communication, etc. Mastering the skills, I am better to pay attention to the type of group therapy and the nuances of the multicultural approach. The Client-based orientation is based on respect for the client’s individuality and initiatives, but the person’s background is also crucial. This fact makes Client-centred Approach a comprehensive approach that, however, needs particular professional skills and certain characteristics from the instructor.
Ivey, A. E., Pedersen, P., & Ivey, M. B. (2007). Group microskills: culture-centered group process and strategies. Hanover, MA: Microtraining Associates, Inc.