Tips for getting the most out of group therapy
Try to follow your instincts and desires; try to see where they take you and what that feels like. Notice who appeals to you, who doesn’t, and how you would like these relationships to progress and develop. Pay attention to how the group therapist works, what you feel about and toward the leader, and what you want from the leader. Notice any shameful thoughts or fantasies, and examine any reluctance to share them. consider taking a risk, and try to share them with the group. share any interesting dreams you may have had recently. Play with others and construct scenarios about them. Try to notice when you become wordless, when you get drowsy, when you want to run away and not come back, when you may feel childish, and when you notice sensations in your body. Let yourself feel the childlike states of both mind and body. Try to locate your passion in the group, and notice how you relate to this excitement. Most of all, be interested in all your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, with curiosity and compassion.
adapted from Stewart Aledort, Group Circle, Winter 2016
Lessons from Mr. Rogers
- Be the Mister rogers you want to see in the world. think, ” What would Mr. Rogers do?” Then do it. This is the simplest and most difficult of all the lessons.
- Know that scary things are out there and talk about them.
- Talk about your feelings. If you know what to do with your feelings, you can do anything.
- Dress down! The only thing that matters is who you are inside, anyway.
- It’s good to be curious and imagine new things.
- Remember the helpers in the world.
- Like other people, Like yourself!
- Remember, everyone is your neighbor! and I mean everyone!
The ABCs of Psychotherapy
As psychotherapists, we love words. Some of the therapists and theorists I have studied with have created mnemonics to help remember concepts, which I have found helpful and will share below:
Richard Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems approach, teaches us to work with all the different parts of ourselves. The goal is to achieve Self Leadership. The attributes of Self are:
Curiosity, Calm, Confident, Compassionate, Creative, Clarity, Courage and Connectedness.
He encourages therapists to work with the 5 P’s:
Patience, Persistence, Presence, Perspective, and Playfulness.
David Richo, who wrote one of my favorite books for couples, Being an Adult in Relationship, promotes the hallmarks of mindful loving – the 5 A’s.
Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing
Dan Siegel, a major influence in the field of interpersonal neurobiology talks about the 4 S’s of good enough parenting:
Seen, Safe, Soothed, Secure. (Not only children thrive when they get enough of these qualities – we all need them!)
He also used the acronym FACES to describe optimal mental integration:
Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable
Here are some more alphabet mnenonics – I am not sure who is responsible for creating them:
The 3 B’s:
Bonding, Belonging, Believing
The 7 R’s:
Rest, Restore, Relax, Review, Renew, Refresh, Replenish
Inspired by these examples, I have created one of my own mental health alphabets:
Open to optimism
Zero zombie zone
The Art of Self Compassion
A University of Texas psychology professor, Kristin Neff, has written a wise and wonderful book called Self Compassion. Her thesis is that people who are compassionate towards their failings and imperfections experience increased well being, and stable feelings of security and self worth. Through solid empirical research, personal stories, exercises and humor, Dr. Neff explains how to heal destructive emotional patterns of self criticism and attack , so that you can be healthier, happier and more effective.
The Core Components of Self-Compassion
To practice self-compassion, three core components are required:
1. Self-Kindness: This is being kind and supportive to yourself when you feel you have failed or in some way feel inadequate, as opposed to being harshly judgemental. Self-compassion is choosing to be gentle, understanding and kind to ourselves, rather than being self-attacking.
2. Common Humanity: This is feeling connected to others while we experience all facets of life, rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. It is remembering that failure and mistakes are part of the human experience, and acknowledging that it is normal and human to be imperfect. We all struggle. This is something we all share. It is part of what it means to be human.
3. Mindfulness: My definition of mindfulness is to notice whatever we are experiencing with compassion and curiosity and without judgement. To try not to ignore our pain or to exaggerate it. To turn towards our pain and validate and acknowledge our suffering. To have self-compassion, we try to pause and say, “This is really hard right now”, or say to ourselves, “I am so sorry that this is so hard for you right now.”
Kristin Neff has a 19 minute video introduction to self compassion:
Her website is self-compasion.org. It provides numerous valuable resources, such as self-compassion meditations and exercises, and videos on self-compasion.