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Welcome to the Manitoba Section of C.G.P.A.

Section President: Ruth Zetner

Manitoba Training Program, contact: Dorothy Strang (204) 787-3296 or Joan Diane-Smith (204) 958-9612


In our sectionís newsletter we run a column "Dear Consultant". Here is a recent one in response to the question of mixed gender groups for sexual abuse victims.

While there is considerable support for co-ed leadership of most kinds of groups including ones for victims of sexual abuse, co-ed group membership can be fraught with problems.

I have tried coed groups for children aged 7-11 and for teens aged 13-17.

In the younger group the boys who were not as able to speak about their discomfort and anxiety became physically agitated and started bouncing out of their seat, leaving the room and running around the building. The group was disbanded after four disruptive sessions.

In an adolescent group I had there were two boys and six girls. Despite an admonission one of the boys paired off with a girl and their check-in material and behavior during the group became a distraction to the other group members. They had to be expelled eventually in accordance with the group rules.

Lessons learned: (a) boys and girls differences in verbal accessibility and coping responses deserve separate faci, (b) putting boys and girls together where the group discussion will often focus on sexually salient material and where group members are likely to have boundary issues, and where sexual impulses are not easily sublimated can lead to the problems I had. I did run an adolescent group where again the boys were in the minority but these boys were not yet interested in dating, and did not appear to be disturbed by the discussion. In this group the girls related to the boys as might big sisters.

Dave T. Reed, MSW, RSW.

Reed Counselling & Social Work

Brandon, Manitoba

FAX: 1-204-725-2206

And here is our most recent question for "Dear Consultant":

Dear Consultant:

Our team is trying to institute more effective group supervision. We have just recently had a one way window installed and are wondering about having an appropriate policy in place for clients and staff. Do you have any pointers about establishing a policy and how to use the window for maximum educational benefit?


"Ready to View"

Dear " Ready to View":

Viewing through a one way window is an excellent vehicle for learning about groups. If this tool is to be used wisely and well, there are considerations of ethics and of pedagogy which must be taken into consideration in developing a policy for its use.

Firstly, and most obviously (I hope), all clients must be informed that there is a viewing window in place and that there are people watching the group in process. Some institutions inform all clients that a condition of receiving service from their therapists is agreeing to be videotaped or viewed, so that this is an established fact before group therapy begins. Other places simply inform clients on the days when viewing is going on. If clients object to being observed, the leaders must be prepared to make an appropriate alternate plan. Are you prepared to forego the observation? If it is an issue of supervision for you as a group leader, it is often useful to explain that is it important that you be observed in order to improve your work as a therapist, and that the main interest of the observer is to watch the leader, not the various members. You can offer to introduce the observer(s) to the group at the end of the session if the members would like to know who has been watching. You may discuss with clients on intake that the viewing window may be used and the purpose of this procedure. In the experience of many who have used windows extensively, many clients after a time simply "forget" or ignore the window and any potential viewers. One issue that I have observed is that with some clients their constant reflection in the mirror is more of a distraction than anyone who may be viewing. This may have to be considered when arranging seating of clients in the group.

Secondly, there must be a very clear policy that access to the viewing room is restricted to use for supervision or approved educational opportunities. You must ensure that the viewing room is not used out of mere curiosity. Each organization will find its own way to engender a culture of respect for the use of viewing windows. In our agency, the room is locked with a key that can only be acquired through the group specialist or the clinical director.

Thirdly, each viewing session should be followed by an opportunity to discuss what has been viewed with one of the leaders of the group or with another trained group leader to share observations, ask questions about the interventions the leaders engaged in or find out more about the various membersí group behavior in the context of the history of the group.

During the viewing, observers may keep notes of various aspects of the group interactions and processes, and use these for framing points for discussion in the analysis phase.

There should be some time prior to the viewing to get a sense of the history of the group and its individual members: this is very helpful for providing a better context for the observation. An excellent learning opportunity can be created by having one person act as the observer for the whole life a particular group; s/he would meet with the co-leaders before the group begins, watch the group in process, and then participate in the debriefing time. The observer would be present every time the group met and would get to experience the movement of the group through all its stages of development and interaction, through to termination.

Even the most competent and experienced group leaders benefit from being observed. The questions and different perspectives offered by a new set of eyes and ears always expand oneís understanding of what the group experiences. As part of ongoing growth and learning, using the one way window has great potential. Have fun sharing your learning with others.


"Alice" (through the looking glass)

Editorís Note:

Yalom has also used the "observers" to interact with the group by having them write a weekly letter commenting on the session, making some observation, or disagreeing with the leader. The letter becomes "grist for the mill" in the next session. I tried this in a long term young adult group a few years ago and this became incorporated in the groupís routine and a part of the culture. Rutan and Alonso have described using the mirror with co-leaders in a unique way. The two leaders essentially take turns with one therapist leading for several consecutive sessions while the other co-leader is the observer behind the mirror. They switch places every few weeks. This method (sequential co-therapy) gives each leader a distinct time "in the driverís seat" and minimizes co-leader competition. I havenít tried this. What does everyone think?

Joan-Dianne Smith, MSW

Group Consultant


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