Topic 3: Stages of Group Development {by 9/24}

There are two readings due this week –Yalom Chapters 11 & 12.  Address the following discussion point: (1) Simply share your thoughts on subgrouping and use of self-disclosure by group members. Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 9/24.  Have your two replies no later than 9/26.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah-Eve
    Sep 20, 2014 @ 14:24:22

    Clients in group therapy may form smaller subgroups, which can be beneficial or harmful to group cohesion. According to Yalom, if subgrouping is addressed appropriately, it can strengthen the therapeutic effectiveness of the group. Smaller groups can enhance the feeling of client inclusion within the group, increasing his or her feeling of belongingness. The negatives of this type of grouping comes about when one member of the subgroup drops out. This may lead other individuals within the subgroup to drop out of the group as well. Sharing the feelings and interpersonal relationships within the subgroup with the rest of the group is important. Secrets may propel clinical problems and conflict.

    Self-disclosure is an integral part of group therapy. It may be risky, but when the right amount of personal information is expressed at an appropriate time, it benefits group cohesion. Self-disclosure creates a sense of trust within the group and allows for individuals to practice altruism in supporting the individual who is disclosing through validation, advice, and feedback. When an individual self-discloses, it promotes a sense of safety within the group, allowing others to feel free to self-disclose also. Revealing personal information may feel extremely liberating and exhilarating for the client. Timing and amount is extremely important. Individuals who self-disclose too soon may off-put other individuals in the group, and may in turn feel shame. Individuals who withhold information for too long may make others feel as though they are not trusted.


    • Richard Hisman
      Sep 22, 2014 @ 09:06:11

      It seems that Yalom, while he says he does not openly discourage does do his best to do that in his pre-group interviews. He does seem concerned about intimate relations among members and its affect on the group. But never really offers any advice about what to do. He makes it known that he believes it can shut down the productivity of a group. I can agree with you that it would seem that in short duration groups that we would encounter the most, that drop out rates would be a concern. Unlike the long duration groups Yalom runs, where there is enough time for the group to right itself.


    • Sarah Gagne
      Sep 28, 2014 @ 20:38:16

      In regards to drop outs, while it may be a possibility for members of a subgroup to follow suit and leave when conflict arise, I think it may be more likely for individuals to drop out if they are not part of a subgroup and feel alienated. It seems that drop outs can occur on either end of subgrouping, so the facilitator should be mindful of what is going on within the groups and control them as best as possible.


  2. Richard Hisman
    Sep 22, 2014 @ 08:59:03

    Yalom truly takes no firm stand either way on subgrouping. He explains all that there is to be concerned of, and at the same time explicates that it does not have to hurt the group. Even in his pre-group sessions rarely stresses the harm of subgrouping. The most exact point he comes up with is for the therapist to be aware and vigilant of the effects on the main group. That the subgroup members need to be sharing what is happening when they meet. This can alleviate any secret sharing and restrictive disclosure that could occur. He stresses the importance of intimate relationships and the harm it can do to the group dynamics and direction. One fact must be considered when looking at Yalom’s position, he explains that his view is based on many months if not years of one particular group.

    As to the use of self-disclosure, he is much more firm in his rational. A group that can not have non-judgmental disclosure is a malfunctioning group. Disclosure by itself will lead to other disclosures from other members. The level of disclosure will rise with each additional disclosure until a comfortable level of group intimacy is reached. This is a clear example of why subgrouping can be detrimental to the group as a whole. He explains how too little or too much disclosure too fast is maladaptive. An individual who does not truthfully disclose is doing harm to self by never achieving a rise in self-esteem. Additionally, the group is harmed by having trusted this disclosure if it is learned to be false. I must end by saying that again the complex dynamics he often discusses play out over a year or more that a group has met.


    • Sarah-Eve
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 10:00:11

      One way in which subgrouping can be harmful to the group is through interuption of self-disclosure. When subgroups judge other, or if others are expected to be judged by the subgroup, self-disclosure will be extremely limited. If the subgroup fails to self-disclose with the group, individuals may feel as if they are secretive and untrusting of the rest of the group. These interuptions to the progression of self-disclosure may hinder group progress.


    • Paige Hartmann
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 16:07:13

      Richard, I liked how you discussed the impact of a false disclosure on both the individual and the group itself. It is clear that self-disclosure involves risk, but the individual should only disclose information that is truthful in nature. It is also true that too much or too little disclosure can effect the group. Group members should strive to be aware of these issues when self-disclosing for the first time.


  3. Angela Vizzo
    Sep 22, 2014 @ 22:32:20

    Yalom describes sub-grouping as arising from members believing that they can get more gratification from certain members of the group rather than from the entire group as a whole. Two major reasons identified for the creation of sub-groups are manifestation of hostility towards the group leader, and problems in group cohesion. Yalom states that he neither encourages nor discourages sub-grouping, however, I personally see that the positives that arise from it would be very rare and more commonly it would negatively impact the group. For example, sub-grouping can lead to an increase in dropouts and feelings of alienation from group members.

    As Yalom points out, evey self-disclosure involves some risk, though once one member builds up the courage to self-disclose it leads other members to follow suit and make their own self-disclosures. The self disclosures lead to a loop of trust, self-disclosure, feedback, and interpersonal learning. Yalom also points out that the more self-disclosures that happen, the more commitment the members feel to the group. This is because they are trusting the other members with their secrets and in turn are being entrusted with others’ secrets as well. Based on this increased commitment one can assume that incidence of dropouts decrease as self-disclosures increase.


    • Sarah Gagne
      Sep 28, 2014 @ 20:28:03

      I like that self-disclosure is not only helpful for the individual sharing, but also for the individual listening and taking in the information. This person can achieve an increase in self-esteem just by understanding that the person sharing would only do so if he or she felt comfortable within the group. The individual listening is trusted with a secret and the individual sharing also may be looking for feedback from someone they feel is a reliable source.


  4. Gil
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 23:01:43

    Subgrouping comes off as a double edged sword. There are definite risks involved when the purpose of group attendance becomes hazy. If an individual is more concerned with attaining one friend or one sexual partner, then the opportunity to learn the overall skill is impeded. Give a man subgrouping friend and he’ll have one friend, show him his interpersonal style with feedback and he will learn to make friends. However, a dyad or smaller group can offer the same opportunity as the larger group. The X factor is communication. If a member is open to communication about the subgroup, then even a ill-advised subgroup can become therapeutic.

    Self-disclosure seems to mirror a normal distribution; too much or too little results in less cohesion. However, Yalom describes self-disclosure as the life-blood of group therapy. Those who do open up moderately are more popular in group, which is correlated with better group outcomes. Yalom also shows a positive correlation between those who self-disclose and those who get more of out group.Here, acceptance is the major key. Many individuals have feelings that if people saw their “true selves” people would reject them. Self-disclosure allows reality testing for these maladaptive assumptions.


    • Richard Hisman
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 10:07:25

      What a great way to summarize subgrouping. Yes it can offer the same satisfaction as a larger group, but it could quickly dismantle short duration therapy groups. As I said earlier, Yalom is basing his thoughts off groups that can last for years. I think the importance of this can not be overstated. In a ten to thirteen week group this could derail the group quickly. As to how to avoid that I have no true answer. But I do believe it is more detrimental to CBT groups if it goes awry.
      One thing that is not clear to me, is how to handle the individuals how are too quick with too much disclosure. If one encounters such an individual in pre-group interviews, should the individual be recommended for another group? That does not really work either because a group of individuals with this tendency would be beyond control. Does one try to tame the amount of disclosure with the expectation that group influence would affect change?


      • Gil
        Sep 25, 2014 @ 12:52:30

        I think you make a good point about the timing of groups. If there is a process to be had when it comes to working through the relationships made in group or in subgrouping, then an interrupted process can do more harm than good. If the group ended in the “storming” portion of group, I’d imagine that the members would not take away anything useful from group.

        I’d assume that the pre-group coaching could help an individual who shows that he or she will be too loose on self-disclosure. Once the group has started, tempering someone’s self-disclosure is tricky, yet also very beneficial if done skillfully. Over disclosing marks a deficit in social skill and should be addressed.


  5. Sarah-Eve
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 10:04:21

    Subgroups can in fact provide the same opportunity as a larger group. Mentioning that communication is vital in the integration of that subgroup into the larger group is spot on. Without communication on both fronts; how the subgroup is feeling and how the other group members are feeling about the subgroup, the group may become anti-therapeutic. The overall goals of the subgroup, and their interest in the goals of the rest of the group are also important. If the subgroup’s goals are to progress with the group and learn new skills, they may not impede the group’s performance. If the subgroup’s goals are in attaining a personal friend or sexual partner and not in participating in the greater group goals, the group may become incohesive.


  6. Paige Hartmann
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 10:33:05

    Subgrouping is a normal process that can occur within group therapy and can be viewed as either helpful or harmful. Yalom explains that if subgrouping is appropriately addressed it can actually improve the therapeutic process of the group. The formation of subgroups can be attributed to hostility toward the group leader as well as a lack of group cohesion. Yalom explains that subgrouping can have a negative effect on the group depending on whether a group member is included or excluded from a subgroup. However, Yalom also explains that subgrouping can improve the group cohesion when the goals of the subgroup are similar to the goals of the larger group.

    Self-disclosure is an essential aspect of group therapy. Although self-disclosure can be risky for the individual disclosing personal information, it can help provide trust within the group setting. As more group members self-disclose, it allows additional group members to feel comfortable to as well, thus enhancing the degree of group cohesion. However, group members need to be mindful of the effects of too much or too little self-disclosure on the group as a whole.


  7. Michelle
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 14:51:07

    Yalom claims that all groups experience subgrouping; although it can be to the detriment of the individuals and group, if handled well, it can also have a positive effect. Often times, subgroups are formed in response to “need frustration” or confusion about group status or connection. By forming a subgroup, members of this newly formed group can share frustrations and anger, in ways that bring them together. Subgroups at times provide a venue for what Yalom calls “acting out,’ in which members share with the subgroup, rather that with the group as a whole. Because the goal is to form group cohesion, this behavior is unfavorable.
    Research has indicated that partaking in a subgroup can reduce the therapeutic rewards of the group intervention. Members may feel obligated to interact in certain ways with members of their subgroup, and may even share and feel required to keep secrets.
    Subgroups can be used as a tool as well, however; if for instance an individual struggles with sharing with the entire group, and does so in the subgroup, it may become easier to then disclose that information in the group. Groups that want to get together for activities outside of therapy can be helpful if the goals of the gathering complement the work of therapy. To do so however, Yalom suggests that ll group members are invited to participate thereby removing the subgroup factor.
    Self disclosure is tricky, and should be done in the right amount, and at the right time. Too much or too little can be troublesome. Research has shown that self disclosure is an important part of successfully attaining therapeutic goals. After the self disclosure, also important is the group’s response, which will optimally be supportive accepting if the important information shared with the group.


    • Paige Hartmann
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 15:56:49

      Michelle, although subgroups can be detrimental to the group as a whole, you make a valid point regarding how subgroups can be beneficial. Self-disclosing for the first time within a large group can be intimidating, but as you mentioned, sharing within the subgroup may provide a stepping stone for the individual to share with the group. Although there seems to be more negatives as a result of subgroups, it is important to recognize the positives as well.


    • Angela Vizzo
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 18:49:46

      Michelle, I like how you point out that subgroups can be a venue to express acting out behaviors. At times these behaviors expressed to the entire group can be detrimental to the group, but if dealt with in a subgroup they can be expressed and let go without damaging the group as a whole. However, I could also see how this could go the other way and the subgroup could take these things too far and bring down the entire group. It seems like a real fine line between when subgroups are helpful or hurtful to the group at large.


    • Gil
      Sep 25, 2014 @ 12:58:51

      I think you have a great point about subgrouping being beneficial if the message and skills of therapy are used outside the group. Ultimately, all therapy is about generalizability. Homework is so prized in CBT primarily because of this factor. Having a supporting group of people to help apply skills used in group, can serve as the needed transition step to applying the skills and lessons in other areas of life. The next group can be a recount of these experience that will likely inspire hope and action in others.


  8. Robert
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 17:28:55

    relationship with one another than the entire group. This violation of group norms occurs at the expense of these members pursuing personal change, the reason they are in therapy. Yalom suggests two factors underlying subgrouping which are hostility towards the group, especially towards the group leader and a lack of group cohesion. Yalom treats subgrouping as benign, with its occurrence at times hindering group cohesion or it can be ultimately beneficial as providing therapeutic material for the group to work with.
    Yalom makes it clear that every self-disclosure involves some risk, with the receiver likely to feel obligated to reciprocate with some personal disclosure. With both the receiver and original discloser vulnerable, a progressively deeper level of trust and more intimate disclosures ensues until some optimal level of intimacy is reached. Self-disclosure in a group brings greater cohesiveness as members generate a constructive loop of trust, self-disclosure, feedback and interpersonal learning. Group members who self-disclose too little or too much, too quickly run the risk of hindering their ability to trust their group members and have a higher chance of dropping out.


    • Angela Vizzo
      Sep 24, 2014 @ 18:56:03

      Robert, I really like your discussion of how self-disclosures lead to vulnerability and therefore intimacy, that is a great way to phrase it! This intimacy allows for greater group cohesion and therapeutic gain for the members. However, like you also mentioned the members need to be careful not to disclose too much or it can be more harmful rather than helpful to their status in the group.


  9. Jessica
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 18:32:36

    Subgrouping seems inevitable but contrary to my previous thoughts, it is not inevitably a bad thing. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it can result in positive outcomes by showing another side to people in the group (demonstrated in case examples on p. 351) that can be brought up in group therapy later. Even if the subgrouping is harmful to individuals and/or the group, such in the case of Jan and BIll, if it is discussed openly it can highlight people’s interpersonal problems and be a learning experience for all in the group (although it can also result in a waste of time by focusing on this problem and negative affect from other members). Subgrouping seems to be particularly harmful if it is never discussed in the group and it becomes a secret held by certain members. The others often become aware something is going on but may not know what it is or how to address it so the whole group becomes constrained, hindering the progress of everyone’s therapy.
    Self disclosure is highly important, for without at least self disclosure of problems that the person is seeking therapy for, group therapy becomes unproductive in solving those problems. But too much too soon is like verbally vomiting in public- it makes other people in the group uncomfortable because they don’t know how to respond and want to run away least they word vomit too, thus embarrassing the promiscuous self-disclosing person and leaving them in a vulnerable place.
    Despite being an aspiring sex therapist, I do have a problem with how open some of these groups are about sexual evaluations of other members without apparent intervention from the therapists. For example, on p. 331 when it was just 2 members at group, Martin and Wanda, Martin revealed his strong sexual attraction to Wanda who said she wished she could offer himself to him sexually, and the therapist interpreted her willingness to help him in this way as a sign that she’s not as selfish or greedy as she thought. They also talked about their sexual attraction to other members who weren’t there. I can’t help but wonder if this subtlety encouraged Wanda to be more sexually giving of herself to make other men happy versus working through her own “abhorrence of sex.” Also, what would they say to the other members next session when they ask what happened: that they talked about how much they wish they could sleep with each other and/or various members of the group? That would be an interesting group to return to, but I’m not sure how therapeutic it is to get all that sexual tension our there in the open or creating sexual tension where there previously was none.
    Similarly the all-male group described on p.355 before Jan entered was very sexually open to the point of talking about their fantasies to gang bang a previous group member with large breasts. Shouldn’t the group leader shape the norms so that devaluing other members for their genitalia and encouraging others to join in on such a fantasy is NOT appropriate? Isn’t that the opposite of what we want them to learn from group- appropriate social skills and respect for others? This also marginalizes anyone not involved in the fantasy. I couldn’t help but wonder how did the gay guy feel during that discussion? Their reckless self disclosure prevented him from self disclosing til a year and half into group therapy. When he did so he continued to differentiate himself so much from the group in dress and manner that he remained forever an outsider of this heterosexually charged group.


  10. Sarah Gagne
    Sep 28, 2014 @ 20:00:28

    Subgrouping can be dangerous to group dynamics if it is not adequately controlled by the clinician. If there are issues that arise from subgroups, it should be addressed within the group setting to facilitate a here-and-now environment. If the facilitator is unwilling to address obvious issues within the group setting, group members cannot be expected to do so either. Subgrouping can lead to inappropriate relationships between members, such as sexual or hostile. Yalom identifies the problem that can occur in love/sexual relationships in which the members of this subgroup give their relationship higher priority than their relationship with the group. As always, the primary relationship should be the member as a part of the group. These relationships may lead to less honesty and a tendency to be loyal to each other rather than the group, which may lead to less disclosure. Further, individuals that are caught up in subgrouping may lose out on valuable relationships with other group members if they are not open to interacting with others.
    Yalom does identify that there are some pros of subgrouping. Subgrouping can be helpful to the group process if the goals of the subgroup are consistent of the goals of the group. A shy individual in a subgroup may benefit from the direct support of someone they feel comfortable with and may be more active in group discussion.

    Self disclosure can be negatively affected by subgrouping, as alienated group members may not feel comfortable to self-disclose without feeling judged. Self-disclosure is a very important part of group therapy as it can improve group cohesion. Self-disclosure must be timed appropriately; an individual should not share too much too soon, and the content of the disclosure should be appropriate within the group setting. Self-disclosure can be helpful for an individual as she may have been holding onto sensitive information and can feel a weight off her shoulders when sharing with others in a safe environment.


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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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