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  • Writer's pictureDr John Breadon

group therapy in chester autumn/winter 2024 - an introduction and invitation

Updated: Jul 8



I hope this autumn, starting on September 9 in central Chester, a new therapy group will come into life. It will be a group of around seven people. And what sort of group will it be? In the therapy-speak from the heyday of the group therapy movement - during the late 1960s and 1970s - it will be an encounter or process group. This means it will not focus on one single issue, the way a group might for addiction or bereavement does. The core principles are deceptively simple: we start talking about matters of real importance and take it from there. It is unscripted; destination unknown. The group experience unfolds and deepens with each passing hour. The journey from strangers to intimates is a remarkable one.


Could such a group be right for you?


The benefits


Single person therapy is unequal, that can't be otherwise. The therapist is not there as a friend or a peer. And the focus is on you, exclusively. In group, the peer experience is everything. Typically the growth value comes via other participants in the form of direct, sometime indirect, sometimes tough, sometimes tender, support and challenge. There is an unvarnished quality of expression from our peers that most therapist's will struggle to provide (with good reason). Overall, the dynamic is very different in a group and can only be experienced rather than guessed at. But to be more specific, some of the learning and growing opportunities in group often include -


  • increased awareness of one's functioning in the present - body, mind and interpersonally

  • learning by doing

  • experimenting with new ways of interacting

  • coming to know better our changing roles in groups

  • becoming more direct and clear in expression

  • becoming more comfortable with self-disclosure

  • becoming more comfortable with intimacy and being vulnerable

  • learning better ways of resolving conflicts*


In short, in a group therapy setting our 'old fixed or frozen patterns can be thawed out, dissolved and replaced by new flexible ones'. (*Gestalt Group Therapy: A Practical Guide, Bud Feder, 2013, Ravenwood Press)


Group therapy is also a much more low-cost option than traditional one-to-one therapy - closer to £20 per session rather than the typical £50+ for individual.



The costs


The flip-side of the above can be regarded as some of the costs of group membership. We need to have (some) 'good manners' around sharing the space and time. This can be frustrating, especially if we have lots we need to say on any given night. Space and time, in other words, must therefore be negotiated and worked at. The collective is always being balanced and reconciled alongside the importance of each individual's voice and needs.


For many, groups of any size can feel like pretty scary places (often related to our first 'group experience', the family). Gaining confidence in groups through speaking up, receiving feedback and giving feedback are often what brings people into group therapy in the first place; but there is much emotional heavy-lifting to be done in the process. To make a group experience safer - and safety is a vital aspect in all of this, though it's not a constant by any means - the construction of a group contract or agreement is key. The first session is usually spent doing this. To give you an idea of what this looks like, here are some of the most basic elements you're likely to encounter and sign up to, once collectively agreed:


  • Be on time.

  • Confidentiality. What is said in the room, stays in the room.

  • In the group, take time and give time to share. Be aware of your needs.

  • Speak from the 'I'. Core commitment to taking responsibility for your words and feelings.

  • Try to stay "on topic”.

  • Be aware of any scapegoating in the room, including areas around power, diversity and inequalities.

  • Mobile off.




The practicals


The group will convene on a bi-weekly basis, on Monday nights, for a maximum of eight sessions. There is the possibility of extending the life of the group into 2025 - and beyond. The venue is in Hoole, Chester. Plenty of parking is available. The running time is 7.30pm-9pm. The cost will be around £20 per session, depending on final numbers.


For more information, email me at john@chestercounsellingservice.co.uk


With thanks:


Group silhouette - Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

Come as You Are - Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash







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