The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy

By Irvin D. Yalom | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Therapist: Basic Tasks

Now that I have considered how people change in group therapy, it is time to turn to the therapist's role in the therapeutic process. In this chapter, I will consider the basic tasks of the therapist and the techniques by which they may be accomplished.

The four previous chapters contend that therapy is a complex process consisting of elemental factors that interlace in an intricate fashion. The group therapist's job is to create the machinery of therapy, to set it in motion, and to keep it operating with maximum effectiveness. Sometimes I think of the therapy group as an enormous dynamo: often the therapist is deep in the interior--working, experiencing, interacting (and being personally influenced by the energy field); at other times, the therapist dons mechanic's clothes and tinkers with the exterior, lubricating, tightening nuts and bolts, replacing parts.

Before turning to specific tasks and techniques, I wish to emphasize something to which I will return again and again in the following pages. Underlying all considerations of technique must be a consistent, positive relationship between therapist and patient. The basic posture of the therapist to a patient must be one of concern, acceptance, genuineness, empathy. Nothing, no technical consideration, takes precedence over this attitude. Of course, there will be times when the therapist challenges the patient, shows irritation and frustration, even suggests that if the patient is not going to work, he or she should consider leaving the group. But these efforts (which in the right circumstances may have therapeutic clout) are never effective unless they are experienced against a horizon of an accepting, concerned therapist-patient relationship.

I have chosen to discuss the techniques of the therapist in respect to three fundamental tasks:

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