Interpersonal Coping Is Key Early in Group Tx: Children, Adolescents

By Sullivan, Michele G. | Clinical Psychiatry News, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Interpersonal Coping Is Key Early in Group Tx: Children, Adolescents


Sullivan, Michele G., Clinical Psychiatry News


ROME -- Teaching adolescents a set of interpersonal coping skills before and during group therapy smoothes the way for more productive sessions and provides a safe place for youngsters to perfect these skills before integrating them into their larger world.

It's a good idea to introduce these skills as early in the intake process as possible and to share them with parents as well, Rick Berke, Ph.D., said at a meeting of the International Society for Adolescent Psychiatry. A group review after sessions begin reinforces the skills and establishes a common language among the members, said Dr. Berke, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Amherst, N.H.

"After I introduce the skills, I sit back and watch the group learn to use them," he said. "I am not the hub of the wheel. I let the group do it and reinforce them when they do."

Dr. Berke encourages his adolescent patients to follow six steps to communicating personal needs and getting those needs met in an appropriate manner:

1. State needs clearly. The adolescent learns to clearly and specifically state his need or desire.

2. Gather and share information. The adolescent and the group discuss the stated need and gather additional information about it, if necessary.

3. Propose and negotiate. The adolescent proposes a way to meet his stated need and negotiates with the group to arrive at a mutually agreeable way to meet it.

4. Care for oneself. In meeting personal needs, the adolescent seeks solutions that are good for him and accepts no solution that is not good for him. "This is a great way of teaching a means to deal with peer pressure," Dr. Berke said. "It teaches them how to say no."

5. Acknowledge others' needs. The adolescent and the group mutually explore their feelings about the solution. "This teaches them to deal with the reality of self and others, and helps in building group cohesiveness," Dr. …

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