Social microcosm is an interpersonal process-oriented approach to group work - Social Microcosm introduction. It refers to the study of interpersonal relationship of group members with each other and their group Therapist as well as the operation of a group therapy. This approach transpires within the group hence remains the hub of the group and is done in the present. Therapy is an art and science that is subjective and non-negotiable experience in human beings. Corrective emotional experience examines the unique therapeutic importance of group psychotherapy. Therapeutic change is a complex processes which happens through a complicated interchange of human experiences referred to as therapeutic factors which are collectively called curative factors or mechanisms of change (Yalom, 2005, p.18).
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Yolam’s curative factors include; instillation of hope, universality, imparting information, altruism, the corrective recapitulation of the primary family group, development of socializing techniques, imitative behavior, interpersonal learning, group cohesiveness, catharsis, and existential factors. Each of these factors has a specific purpose and impact a certain psychological change. They are useful to group therapy facilitators for better understanding of the group therapy process. Group therapists are responsible for creating good and contusive environment for effective interaction of group members unlike individual therapists who are less facilitative because they feed their clients with support, feedback and interpretations.
Instillation of hope to group members is crucial as the clients will be optimistic that success, change and resolution are all possible in the group. Faith brings about therapeutic effectiveness in individual healing. A client who sees transformation among group members and believes by therapist in the therapy process gains faith with it. This should be communicated well in time to clients by conducting early group sessions emphasizing on positive expectations, counseling of pessimistic members.
Universality helps clients to understand that they are not alone in their hurting, misery or in their psychological problems. Knowing that you share the same problem with others creates sense of relief. The clients begin to share and appreciate each other creating trust, openness and healing amongst themselves. Therapists should help the clients develop universal group of experience by showing them their similarities in their issues and creating sense connection.
Imparting of knowledge or psycho educating clients includes giving of advice, suggestions or instructions to by group therapists. Didactic instruction or advice giving which is used to explain a process of illness, transfer information and change thought patterns by the facilitator is usually discouraged. Psycho education is much more preferred since it offers operational instruction or alternative suggestions on achieving an objective effectively. The therapist can impart the information by directly advising them on their illness and ineffective thought patterns or by sharing the effectiveness of the group therapy for their psychological transformation. Group’s members also can give advice to each other; although not beneficial in content it serves a purpose in that it shows caring and interest about one another (Vinogradov, Yalom, 1989, p.34).
Another Yalom’s therapeutic factor is altruism which means giving without expecting to receive. A client receiving from others feels that others do value and appreciate him; likewise the client giving out feels he or she has something important to give out. This promotes the clients morale and self esteem in return. Surpassing interpersonal interaction by providing support, reassurances, giving suggestions and sharing of problems creates a feeling of being part of a larger society than the one were before. Some clients become more real and show their plight becoming credible source of information and aspire others to support the group. They assist in exploring other client’s negative self evaluation and find mean of helping them in the group.
The Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Group; Most psychotherapy clients have not got enough and satisfactory experience the primary stage which is the most important group. The group family setting can give clients chance to relieve early family conflicts and relationships are correctively that prevents growth. The therapy group resembles family dynamics with much aspect of family being seen such as authority or parental figures, peer siblings, strong emotions, deep intimacy, hostile and competitive feelings as well as deep personal revelations. Members tend to respond to other in the group as they reacted to their family members. Through the group therapy setting, members can work out their differences and unfinished business with their family members from childhood. Resurfacing old family issues will be raised and worked out with the help of therapist and other group members by helping the clients to try out new interpersonal behaviors (Nicholas, 1984, p.23)
Development of socializing techniques in group setting therapy setting provides a great chance for observation and development of social skills and operates in all therapy groups. Therapy groups provide clients with great opportunity to develop social skills on how to relate with others and receive direct feedback on their interpersonal skills. They also learn how to deal will their emotions, how to solve problems that affects them, be of great use and appreciate others not only within the group but also outside. Yolam says that the benefits of this therapeutic factor helps senior members to be responsive to others as they have skills in conflict resolution, are less likely to be judgmental and have much more capability of delivering accurate therapy. The group therapist helps clients by exhibiting social skills through modeling (Boyd, 2007, p.52).
Imitative Behavior; According to Yolam, clients in the group therapy will try to imitate the therapist and other members behavior in trying to find out those that fits them well. They will absorb the behaviors that suit them and disregard the ill-fitting ones. He emphasizes that group therapists influence the group socializing patterns by initiating certain behaviors that the group members imitate. The members can as well teach clients skills that are helpful to their lives
Another Yolam’s therapeutic factor is interpersonal learning. It entails the processes that are similar to individual therapy like insight, working through transference and the corrective emotional experience. Yalom says that interpersonal relationships are very important since they are developed for experiencing corrective emotional experiences hence the group becomes social microcosm of the members’ lives outside the group. Understanding the importance of interpersonal, the corrective emotional experience and the group as social microcosm helps very much in comprehending interpersonal skills. Human beings have always lived in groups that are intensively and persistently have relationships among members of the group. They are interdependent of each other in many ways for their survival. Members experience corrective emotional experience through expressing their emotions to the other group members (Boyd, 2007, p.46).
Group cohesiveness; this refers to the members feeling like they belong to somewhere, being appreciated by the other group members and valuing the group in which they are part of and being supported. Yalom stated that a strong cohesiveness is crucial for the other therapeutic factors to function well. He described cohesiveness as the necessary curative factor for effective therapy that promotes greater collective self esteem, hope and ones wellbeing.Yolam further agues that the experience of being in cohesive group enables clients to take part self-disclosure and personal exploration, an important step in effective therapy.
Group cohesion makes the members feel connected to one another, hence becomes more harder to influence others, more open ,willing to listen to others, more accepting, having greater sense security and relief themselves from tension in the group. Through cohesive groups members should be able to express and identify their weaknesses such as anger, hostility and conflict which inhibit the growth of the group. The conflicting members should device means of working together. The group therapist has the duty of helping the group identify and explore conflict through open expression of anger, noting their challenges during the early stages. The facilitator should also allow members to share their disappointment and anger without interfering. This is a healthy and positive way to avoid creating a group norm that discourages the open expression of intense feelings especially when faced with confrontation about your lack of care, concern or direction (Yalom, 2005, p.61).
Catharsis is an emotional experience that means expressing one deep emotional feelings and experiencing a discharge of repressing emotions. Although most theorists’ ague that it is not enough to promote psychological change, it allows release of repressed feelings by getting beyond the feelings and attempting to add meaning to the cathartic experience. The facilitator should enhance the process of expressing feelings and then reflecting back on the process. Catharsis allows clients in primary stage to understand and express their problems, which are relative to the client’s experience. Existential factors refer to the search for purpose and meaning in life. It is a psychological and philosophical theory which recognizes that; life is unfair and unjust at some times, there is no ultimate escape from pain and death, one must still face life alone regardless of how much he gets close to others, facing the basic issues of life and death helps one live more fully and honestly and not caught up in trivialities and that one must take ultimate responsibility for the way (s) he lives in spite of how much guidance and support one gets from others. Existential awareness is seen as the most therapeutic factor, since basic issues of human life; life, death and isolation are more important as we get old and closer to our personal deaths. Yalom’s Therapeutic factors in group therapy, therefore provides clients with varied means of easing change in their lives. Group therapy is an important alternative for people hustling with different psychological problems (Nicholas, 1984, p.76).
Boyd Mary (2007) Psychiatric Nursing: Contemporary Practice. London: Routledge, pp.46, 52
Nicholas Mary (1984) Change in the Context of Group Therapy. New York: Psychology Press, pp.23, 76
Vinogradov, Sophia & Yalom Irvin (1989). Concise Guide to Group Psychotherapy. New York: American Psychiatric Publishers, pp.34
Yalom, Irvin D. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th Ed.). New York: Basic Books, pp.18, 61