Most fully the benefits of psychotherapeutic work in groups reflected the book K. Rudestam "Group therapy". Let's list these benefits by highlighting their essence:
- group experience counteracts alienation, helps to solve interpersonal problems; a person avoids unproductive closure in himself with his difficulties, finds out that his problems are not unique, that others experience similar feelings, for many people such discovery in itself is a powerful psychotherapeutic factor;
- the group reflects the society in miniature, makes obvious such hidden factors as partner pressure, social influence and conformism; in practice, the group models the system of relationships and interrelations typical for the real life of the participants, it gives them the opportunity to see and analyze psychological patterns of communication and behavior of other people and themselves, not obvious in everyday situations;
- the possibility of getting feedback and support from people with similar problems; in real life, not all people have a chance to get a sincere, unappreciated feedback that allows you to see your reflection in the eyes of other people who understand the essence of your experiences, because they themselves are experiencing almost the same; the ability to "look" in the whole gallery of "living mirrors" is, apparently, the most important advantage of group psychological work, not achievable in any other way;
- in a group, a person can learn new skills, experiment with different styles of relations among equal partners; if in real life such experimentation is always associated with the risk of misunderstanding, rejection and even punishment, the training groups act as a kind of" psychological testing ground "where you can try to behave differently than usual, "try on" new behaviors, learn to treat yourself and people in a new way — and all this in an atmosphere of benevolence, acceptance and support;
- in a group, participants can identify with others, "play" the role of another person to better understand him and herself and to discover new effective ways of behavior used by others; the resulting emotional connection, empathy, empathy contribute to personal growth and development of self-consciousness;
- interaction in the group creates a tension that helps to clarify the psychological problems of each: this effect does not occur in individual psychocorrection and psychotherapeutic work; creating additional difficulties for the leader, the psychological tension in the group can (and should) play a constructive role, to feed the energy of group processes; the task of the leader-not to give the tension to get out of control and destroy the productive relationships in the group;
- the group facilitates the processes of self-discovery, self-exploration and self-knowledge; otherwise, than in the group, other than through other people, these processes are fully impossible; opening yourself to others and opening yourself allow you to understand yourself, change yourself and increase self-confidence;
- group form is preferable in economic terms: participants are cheaper to work in training than individual therapy (and for many training work is much more effective); the psychologist also receives economic and temporary benefits.
Any social community-from the dyad and a small group to the population of the state-can not exist without the rules governing the life of the people who make up this community.
Training groups also develop their own norms, and in each specific group they can be specific (I. Vachkov, 2001). The facilitator should understand the necessity of standards for the effective development of the group and to promote the development and adoption by the parties of such rules, which would be consistent with the goals of the group. The norms help to decide whether to Express feelings, how to do it appropriately, whether in relation to others to focus on their personal qualities or their social status.
Group cohesion is an indicator of the strength, unity and stability of interpersonal interactions and relationships in a group, characterized by mutual emotional attraction of group members and group satisfaction. Group cohesion can be both the goal of psychological training and a necessary condition for successful work. In a group formed of strangers, some part of the time will be spent on achieving the level of cohesion that is necessary to solve group problems.
Summarizing the available research (A. A. Alexandrov, 1991, J. Godfrey, 1992; K. Rudestam, 1993) I. Vachkov identifies the following factors contributing to group cohesion:
- coincidence of interests, views, values and orientations of group members;
- a sufficient level of homogeneity in the composition of groups (especially in terms of age, it is undesirable, for example, to combine in one group of persons over fifty years and under eighteen);
- atmosphere of psychological security, goodwill, acceptance;
- active, emotionally intense joint activity aimed at achieving the goal, significant for all participants;
- attractiveness of the host as a model, a model of an optimally functioning participant;
- qualified lead, use special psycho-techniques and exercises to enhance the cohesion;
- the presence of another group that can be regarded as competing in some respect;
- the presence in the group of a person who is able to oppose himself to the group, which is very different from the majority of participants (as the sad experience of not only training, but also everyday life shows, people are especially quickly rallying not in the struggle for something, but in the struggle against someone).
The reasons for the decline in group cohesion can be:
- appearance in the training group, small subgroups (this is especially likely in groups that exceed 15 people; however, sometimes a kind of competition that appears between the sub-groups, group dynamics accelerates and contributes to the optimization of the training);
- familiarity (friendship, sympathy) between individual members of the group before the training begins-this leads to hiding some private information from the rest of the group members, to the desire to protect each other and not to enter into a debate, to alienation of such a dyad from the group;
- mismanagement on the part of the presenter, which can lead to unnecessary stress, conflict and collapse of the group;
- the lack of a common goal, enthralling and brings together participants and the joint activities organized leading, sluggish group dynamics.
It is group cohesion that determines the success of the training work, as it makes the group more resistant to situations accompanied by negative emotional experiences, helps to overcome crises in development.
In some cases, achieving high group cohesion becomes the most important goal of psychological training (although it is not always advisable to inform the participants). Trainings of unity, team building are often held in organizations and institutions, whose effective activity depends on the degree of unity and mutual understanding of employees.
Homogeneity and heterogeneity.The literature contains significant data on which group acts optimally, in which the participants are similar in a number of parameters (homogeneous), or one in which the participants are very different (heterogeneous). First of all, we mean the following: gender; age; education; level of intelligence; social status; type of personality and style of behavior; psychological problems; beliefs and value orientations; goals of participation in the group.
According to I. Yalom, groups that are homogeneous in their composition are initially more inclined to cohesion, the psychological atmosphere in them is more comfortable, people feel more free and relaxed. However, from the point of view of K. Rudestam, the main disadvantage of homogeneous groups is the lack of ground for disputes. This leads to a decrease in group dynamics, to the absence of contradictions and constructive conflicts, which are sometimes necessary for the success of the group.
According to many experts, heterogeneity is a condition of productivity of the group, especially if it is associated with the difference of personal conflicts, ways to overcome them, the types of personality and emotions experienced. In addition, the heterogeneity of the group can be considered as a situation modeling the real system of relations of participants in the world. The group can be harmed by a big difference in the age of the participants, in the level of their education and intelligence, in social status and life positions. At the same time, social psychology is well aware of the increase in the productivity of group work in the case of a certain combination of people of different types and different views. It is important that the difference is not too big: a first-year student is unlikely to be able to self-open and feel comfortable in the same group with the head of the Department of the same faculty.
Experience has shown that it is particularly destructive to influence the work of a group when one person is very different in some respects from others: for example, less effective are groups in which one woman and all the other men, or Vice versa, one man surrounded by women. "Purely female" and purely male " groups also have their own specifics related to gender-role identification not only of individual participants, but also of the group as a whole. I. Vachkov describes a situation when in a women's group an empathic, soft leader at a certain stage of development of the group begins to be perceived by the participants as a girlfriend with whom you can talk about anything.