In the Beginning
The work of the group therapist begins long before the first group meeting. As I have already emphasized, successful group outcome depends largely on the therapist's effective performance of the pretherapy tasks. In previous chapters, I have discussed the crucial importance of proper group selection, composition, setting, and preparation. In this chapter I will consider the birth and development of the group: first, the stages of development of the therapy group, and then problems of attendance, punctuality, membership turnover, and addition of new members--important issues in the life of the developing group.
Every therapy group, with its unique cast of characters and complex interaction, undergoes a singular development. All the members begin to manifest themselves interpersonally, each creating his or her own social microcosm. In time, if led by an effective therapist, members will begin to analyze their interpersonal style and eventually to experiment with new behavior. In light of the richness of human interaction, compounded by the grouping of several individuals with maladaptive styles, it is obvious that the course of a group over many months or years will be complex and, to a great degree, unpredictable. Nevertheless, mass forces operate in all groups to influence their course of development and to provide a crude but nonetheless useful schema of developmental phases.