Author Topic: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY  (Read 5110 times)

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Offline psy

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2010, 08:17:16 PM »
Quote from: "heretik"
Psy,
Two sets of circumstances, one group (whooter is talking about) comes to the table willingly seeking knowledge or just a experience, the group (you are referring to (kids in a program)) are forced to the table and punished with the identical experiential tool. Unbelievable.
There is no wiggle room here at all the "encounter groups" being used (from what I have read) in programs can only produce negative results. This is putting it kindly.
Whooter, are you getting this or are you still wanting to compare to the 70's when your wife was experimenting.

But even a program that recruits "consensually" will not really have full consent because it's almost never informed.  Lack of informed consent through fraudulent advertisement.  It's a cult.  The idea is to take people in and keep them for as long as possible in order to make as much money as possible and then they eject them onto the streets like human garbage.  Many cults do this, many programs do this, it's really the same thing, but you're entitled to your opinion.
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Offline heretik

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2010, 11:18:37 PM »
Quote from: "psy"
Quote from: "heretik"
Psy,
Two sets of circumstances, one group (whooter is talking about) comes to the table willingly seeking knowledge or just a experience, the group (you are referring to (kids in a program)) are forced to the table and punished with the identical experiential tool. Unbelievable.
There is no wiggle room here at all the "encounter groups" being used (from what I have read) in programs can only produce negative results. This is putting it kindly.
Whooter, are you getting this or are you still wanting to compare to the 70's when your wife was experimenting.

But even a program that recruits "consensually" will not really have full consent because it's almost never informed.  Lack of informed consent through fraudulent advertisement.  It's a cult.  The idea is to take people in and keep them for as long as possible in order to make as much money as possible and then they eject them onto the streets like human garbage.  Many cults do this, many programs do this, it's really the same thing, but you're entitled to your opinion.

I see what you are saying, your situation (@ Benchmark) being the bases for your comments, I presume. How could they give exact information concerning their behavioral alteration methods, this would lead in to further conversation. As I have read they do not want to explain anymore then they have to.
Whooter, why in Gods name would anyone want to subject a aspergers person to a "encounter group" of any kind. The close intense proximity of emotions being generated would probably blow out their psyche. I am not saying you would condone this or are even saying this but jeesh, just the thought it's mortifying.
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Offline Ursus

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #32 on: November 23, 2010, 01:21:31 PM »
Quote from: "psy"
Quote from: "Whooter"
I think there was a very small percentage of people who benefited long term in that it changed their direction in life.
So you admit the encounter group methods used by programs only changes most people temporarily?  Would you aslo admit that these confrontational techniques can cause harm in a number of people, especially when combined with other elements of program thought reform?

See.  The issue with encounter groups and attack therapy is that it is only appropriate, if at all, for a very small number of people.  Mostly those who have already established a strong core identity, who can stand up for themselves, and who can leave if it gets too much for them.  None of these things apply in most programs where these encounter groups are central to the program (raps or group are normally a daily occurrence).  I've personally seen a guy totally freak out in an LGAT and i've seen many utterly decimated by constant attacks in encounter groups -- to the point where they were basically dead inside and had no will of their own left to resist.

Sometimes the encounter groups were more moderate and it was just a circle of chairs discussing and attacking and just random stuff but if staff felt it necessary, if for some reason they thought you weren't "real" enough, or if you did something against the every changing, subjective and arbitrary rules, they would put you in the center of the room and that circle of chairs would become a 360 degree verbal firing squad.  It would not stop until either the time ran out or they felt you were sufficiently changed or repentant or whatever the particular goal was.  If you managed to outlast the time, they would bring you in the next day and the process would start all over again, meanwhile you would be on "bans" so you weren't allowed to talk to anybody or decompress (not that there was anybody you could trust to talk to anyway).

These techinques may not harm some people, but I have seriously doubts that they help anybody and I know from personal experience that they harm a lot of the kids that these programs claim to serve (aspergers, anxiety attacks, depression, etc).  They're simply not appropriate and the "one size fits all" approach most programs do harm many kids (even if they "claim" to provide "individuals educational plans" or some bullshit like that).  This isn't to imply that the techniques are appropriate for anybody, mind you, just that for some people they are more harmful than others.
Bears repeating...

It certainly goes without saying that kids in program usually do NOT have strong core identities yet, are certainly NOT able to leave at will, and are certainly NOT allowed to stand up for themselves without consequences.*

I'd also like to add the issue of informed consent (in case anyone hasn't already brought it up, and I happened to miss it). Namely, given the fact that kids are minors; technically, they are incapable of truly giving consent, especially to a non-benign and pretty psychologically invasive procedure like an encounter group (or whatever it was/is called at your hell-hole of choice).



* Re. standing up for oneself without consequences: at Hyde, at least during *my* time, there may have been a few exceptions. E.g., the kid already happened to be one of the "chosen few," or was able to find a staff member who backed them up. Perhaps this kid was then thought of as having exemplified "courage" (one of the Five Words). But this was not to be attempted by those low on the totem pole of Hyde social stratification.  :D
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Offline Whooter

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2010, 05:27:33 PM »
Quote from: "psy"
Quote from: "Whooter"
I think there was a very small percentage of people who benefited long term in that it changed their direction in life.
So you admit the encounter group methods used by programs only changes most people temporarily?  Would you aslo admit that these confrontational techniques can cause harm in a number of people, especially when combined with other elements of program thought reform?

The encounter groups were designed to impose short term change and/or enlighten people to see outside their normal range of thought or vision.  Any change that took affect was temporary.  But it was found that these changes and/or revelations could be expanded upon or utilized by ongoing therapy to get the person on a new track and any ongoing weekly therapy would help to solidify long term positive change.

Like anything else the techniques used could be dangerous if taken too far or not regulated properly.



...
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Offline Ursus

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3 - Relevance of the Encounter Group Movement for Psychiatry
« Reply #34 on: November 23, 2010, 07:40:07 PM »
Another installment:

American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report No. 1 - 'Encounter Groups and Psychiatry', continued...

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Relevance of the Encounter Group Movement for Psychiatry

We urge psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to obtain as much information as possible about encounter groups. Among the many clear implications for the mental health field are the following:

    1. Many types of encounter groups have goals of behavior change and personal growth and employ techniques which overlap heavily with those of traditional psychotherapy.
    2. Some practicing psychiatrists are heavily involved with encounter groups: they lead them, they participate in them as members, and they refer their patients to encounter groups as a technique to accelerate therapy. (Some psychiatrists, in fact, accompany their patients and participate as a member in the same encounter group.)
    3. It is increasingly common for psychiatric patients to have some encounter group experience: they may, for example, with or without the recommendation of their therapist, during the course of therapy attend a weekend encounter lab; or they may have decided to enter therapy as a result of some unsettling experience in an encounter group. The latter point, the psychiatric hazards of the encounter groups, will be discussed in detail shortly.
    4. The public, considering psychiatrists as experts in mental health questions, has turned to them for information and recommendations about the advisability or inadvisability of the encounter group experience. To cite one example, some California school districts have been heavily embroiled in the controversial issue of the use of sensitivity training in the school classroom; frequently the school board, the opposing factions as well as the local newspapers, have sought and quoted the opinions of psychiatrists.
    5. A number of the technical innovations employed by various encounter group leaders may have applicability in traditional therapy groups. Group psychotherapy has, in fact, already profited considerably from innovations arising from sensitivity training groups in the human relations field.

In summary, it seems apparent that the small group field is a rapidly expanding one, that it has a broad interface with the mental health field, and that, though the bizarre aspects may fade, the encounter group is based on a solid foundation and appears destined to survive for some time to come.


Encounter Groups and Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
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Offline Ursus

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Re: 3 - Relevance of the Encounter Group Movement for Psychi
« Reply #35 on: November 28, 2010, 09:16:50 PM »
Quote
    2. Some practicing psychiatrists are heavily involved with encounter groups: they lead them, they participate in them as members, and they refer their patients to encounter groups as a technique to accelerate therapy. (
Some psychiatrists, in fact, accompany their patients and participate as a member in the same encounter group.)[/list]
Lol... Talk about a potential conflict of interest!
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Offline Ursus

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4 - Meanings Behind the Surge of Popularity of...
« Reply #36 on: December 04, 2010, 01:22:01 PM »
Another installment:

American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report No. 1 - 'Encounter Groups and Psychiatry', continued...

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The Meanings Behind the Surge of Popularity of Encounter Groups

The evidence suggests that there has been a recent sharp increase in the number of small groups which, in a variety of ways, encourage expression of strong affect, intimacy and, often, an examination of intra- and inter-personal behavior. What are the sociological and psychological forces responsible for this phenomenon? We suspect that the groups have arisen in response to a pressing need in our culture. The California milieu which has been the most potent incubator of the new groups has certain clear characteristics. Because of the enormous migration to California in recent years, many Californians have no roots, no sense of permanence, no wellsprings of intimacy. Geographic and social mobility are the rule rather than the exception. The extended family is rarely available; the stable primary family uncommon (one of two California marriages ends in divorce); the neighborhood or work group has diminished in importance as the average Californian changes homes (and often jobs) with bewildering frequency; the neighborhood merchant, the family doctor are rapidly disappearing and organized religion has become irrelevant to many young people. In short, the cultural institutions which provide for stability and intimacy have atrophied without, of course, a concomitant decrease in the strength of human needs. Americans continue to require attachment and sustenance but must often disguise or submerge these longings in the service of adaptability to a swift-moving, ever changing competitive culture.

The encounter group may be viewed as a social oasis in which societal norms are explicitly shed. No longer must facades of adequacy, competence, self-sufficiency be borne. In fact, the group norms encourage the opposite behavior; members are rewarded by expressing self-doubts and unfulfilled longings for intimacy and nurturance. The group offers intimacy, albeit some times a pseudo-intimacy an instant and unreal form of closeness. Because of the inexorable automation accompanying technological advance and because of the environmental pressures fragmenting nuclear families, modern man not only seeks intimacy but also wishes to avoid separation and/or loss for which he is particularly ill-prepared. The encounter group offers a unique form of intimacy one which has no commitment to permanence. In this one may draw a comparison with vacation or convention behavior which is often characterized by a degree of disinhibition permitting us to form intimate relation -ships far more quickly than in our back-home culture. One can commit himself to others more rapidly and fully if there is an understanding, even an unconscious one, that the relationship is time-limited; for one thing there is less need to deal with separation and loss since impermanence had been decreed in advance. From this point of view, then, the encounter group offers immediate gratifications without the responsibility inherent in the long term relationship and without the pain of separation.

Members attend encounter groups not only for affective supplies but for "self-validation"; we are intrigued by and drawn towards an opportunity which permits us, as adults, to expose ourselves, to be examined and to be approved. A great majority of individuals, though they be functioning competently, nevertheless have some deep concerns about their adequacy; few other institutions offer us an occasion for what appears to be a comprehensive final examination of our status as human beings and many individuals attend encounter groups with the hidden agenda of finding out: Am I acceptable? Am I lovable? Do I match up to others?

Young adults, scions of the television set, may be particularly starved for such interaction and feedback. It is well known that the present younger generation has spent as much time before the television set as in the classroom; viewing is a passive and isolating experience which may result in a communication deficiency met, in part, by the basic encounter group. In the past century, the onset of biological puberty has gradually moved to earlier years, whereas the duration of technical education has gradually lengthened. Consequently the proportion of students in an "in-between" stage has increased: they are biologically mature but socially and professionally unprepared. Without indications of their personal worth, without clearly defined roles, or future roles which will be their basis for self esteem, students are restless and searching. The encounter group offers an opportunity to explore with others their role confusion and their uncertainty about personal worth.

Throughout history small groups have flourished in times of rapid social change when old values and behavior patterns were no longer working and individuals were forced to reexamine and redefine their value systems. Many enlightened individuals, abetted by increased literacy, education, and leisure time, are aware in themselves and others of a discrepancy between values and behavior; they espouse humanistic, esthetic, intellectual and egalitarian values and yet under self-scrutiny find that they and their entire culture often neglect these and instead base their behavior on the values of aggrandizement, viz, material wealth, prestige and power. Small groups appear to many young people to offer a new, more consistent microculture; the groups serve as a refuge from the larger society and as a basis from which to gain new perspectives on it.

Small groups have always served as an important healing agent; from the beginnings of recorded history, group forces have been used to inspire hope, increase morale, offer strong emotional support, induce a sense of serenity and confidence in the benevolence of the universe, all of which serve to counteract psychic and many bodily ills. Religious healers have always relied heavily on group forces, but when healing passed from the priestly to the medical profession, the conscious use of group forces fell into a decline concomitant with the rise of the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. Despite the official acceptance of group therapy as an effective therapeutic procedure, the number of psychiatrists using group therapy in their treatment of outpatients is very small indeed. Perhaps the recrudescence of group approaches outside the medical profession is in part a reflection of the failure of physicians to make adequate use of them.


Encounter Groups and Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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Offline Ursus

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5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups
« Reply #37 on: December 17, 2010, 10:05:27 PM »
Another installment:

American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report No. 1 - 'Encounter Groups and Psychiatry', continued...

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Dangers of Encounter Groups

Is the encounter group experience psychologically dangerous for participants? Surely this is one aspect of the field that psychiatry is compelled to examine. Although the evidence is distressingly limited, there is no dearth of emotional reaction to the issue. On the one hand, there is a tendency to exaggerate the hazards, and to overstress the dangers of the encounter group techniques. Some psychiatrists who have seen psychiatric casualties from encounter groups have responded by labeling the entire human relations field as dangerous and irresponsible. Right-wing attacks have labeled sensitivity training as a Communistic technique to undermine national loyalty and to encourage sexual promiscuity. School supervisors in California have campaigned on the platform of eliminating the "three s's" (sin, sex and sensitivity) from school systems. A recent 30,000 word entry in the United States Congressional Record(18) unleashes a blistering irrational attack on all forms of human relations training likening it to Bolshevistic brainwashing practices. (The attack, incidentally, is indiscriminate and includes such traditional psychotherapeutic practices as psychodrama and group therapy.)  

At the other extreme there is a tendency to ignore or to disregard rather compelling evidence of adverse consequences of the encounter group experience. Many group leaders and growth centers are never aware of their casualties. Their contact with their clients is intense but brief; generally the format of the group does not include follow-up and knowledge of untoward responses to the group is therefore unavailable to them. Furthermore, many non-clinically trained leaders reject the medical or psychiatric definition of adverse effect; they may assert that the stressing of members to the point of experiencing such extreme discomfort that they require professional help is not a danger but an accomplishment of the encounter group and that these individuals, although they may temporarily appear worse, have in fact undergone a growth experience and will, in the long run, be more fully integrated individuals. The most extreme view holds, with Laing(9) that even a psychotic episode may be a growth experience which permits the individual to liberate himself and to realize his potential more fully. In some quarters, this comes close to the advocacy of psychotic experience as a desideratum of personal growth.

The evidence supporting either of these positions is meager indeed. The data relating to encounter group casualties is in a chaotic state and extraordinarily difficult to evaluate. Systematic follow-up studies are scarce. Much of the material is anecdotal and the large number of participants in a group or a laboratory increases the likelihood of multiple reporting: if fifty laboratory participants report on the same negative event, it soon takes on massive proportions. We must keep in mind, therefore, the difficulty of assessing non-systematic studies conducted on groups of different or unknown leadership and composition, using improvised techniques, which meet for highly varying periods of time. One systematic study of the psychiatric casualties at a residential two-week National Training Laboratory at Bethel, Maine, revealed that the psychiatric casualty rate as measured by hospitalization, overt psychosis or a need for psychiatric attention was in fact very slight, (approximately 0.5% of the participants).(17) The NTL Institute records(12) indicate that of 14,200 participants in summer laboratories and industrial programs, only 33 (0.2%) found the lab so stressful that they had to leave the program prior to completion. At another NTL lab, however, one of the authors (I.Y.) noted that approximately 10% to 15% of all the participants consulted the lab counselor, a psychiatrist, for such complaints as anxiety, depression, agitation and insomnia. Three observers report on four two-week laboratories: of 400 participants, six individuals developed acute psychotic reactions. In each group the credentials and clinical training of the group leader were impeccable. Rogers(15) reports that of 600 individuals seen in 40 groups only two (0.3%) developed psychoses.

In a report published in the American Journal of Psychiatry(5) the authors reported that in three T-groups (a total of 32 participants), there was one frankly psychotic reaction, one borderline acute psychotic withdrawal reaction, four marked withdrawal reactions with lack of participation in the group, two severe depressive reactions with withdrawal, two severe emotional breakdowns with acute anxiety, crying and temporary departure from the group, one sadistic and exhibitionistic behavior pattern and four mild anxiety or depressive reactions. (The authors do not, however, describe the nature of the universe from which these three groups are selected. Future studies would be of greater value if they reported the incidence of high casualty groups relative to the entire population of groups.) Another article in the same journal(3) describes a project in which 73 freshman medical students were seen in sensitivity training groups. The authors stated that there was no emotional illness precipitated by the groups and, "in fact, psychiatric consultations are one-half those of last year and one-third those of each of the previous two years."

A recent letter by two Fellows at the Menninger School of Psychiatry,(11) which was distributed to several heads of psychiatric training programs, describes a T-group for psychiatric residents in which three (of eleven) members suffered psychotic breakdowns, two during the course of the meetings and one seven months after the meetings terminated. Jaffe and Scherl(6) report on two individuals who experienced psychotic decompensations following an intensive T-group experience. The Committee on Mental Health of the Michigan State Medical Society recently conducted a study on sensitivity training laboratories in Michigan because of reports of psychotic breakdowns, exacerbation of preexisting marital difficulties and an increase in life tensions. The committee concluded that the hazards were so considerable that all group leaders should be professional experts trained in the fields of mental illness and mental health.(7)

In a research project on a university campus(10) 209 students participated in 19 encounter groups; 40 students dropped out of the groups (despite the fact that three college credits were offered). The six-month followup of these students is not yet complete, but there were three clearly discernible casualties: one student committed suicide and two students arrived at the emergency room one in a manic state and the other severely anxiously depressed. At least eight other students decided, after the onset of the group, to begin psychotherapy. The case history of the student who committed suicide reflects the general difficulties in assessing the dangerousness of the encounter group. Since the student killed himself four days after the second meeting of the encounter group, hasty and faulty reasoning would have impugned the encounter group as the responsible agent. However, the psychological post-mortem revealed that the student had been severely disturbed for many months, had reached out for help from a number of sources, had been in individual psychotherapy and in group therapy with trained clinicians and had, in fact, attended a group therapy session a few days prior to his suicide. Furthermore, a review of the tapes of the encounter group meetings revealed that the group had had two relatively dull, low affect, plodding sessions.

As we have emphasized, the field defies attempts at generalization. Most systematic studies have been conducted on National Training Laboratory groups; these groups are usually led by well trained leaders who, if not clinically trained themselves, have easy access to a clinician. (Recently the summer NTL labs have adopted the practice of including a resident psychiatrist on their staff.) Furthermore, the NTL executives and most trainers make a distinction between the T-group and therapy group; the task of the T-group is intended to be education education about group dynamics as well as one's interpersonal behavior. However, many trainers and many of the new encounter group leaders make no distinction between encounter groups and psychotherapy; for them, encounter groups are therapy groups for normal individuals. However, screening or careful selection of well-adjusted participants is rarely attempted and probably unfeasible; therefore it is common for deeply troubled individuals to seek help from encounter groups. Advertisements in free university and growth center catalogues are phrased in such a way as to attract both well integrated individuals seeking personal growth and individuals with major psychological difficulties. Encounter group leaders with no clinical training, with no ability to appreciate the seriousness of certain signs and symptoms and with no ongoing sense of responsibility to the participants have precipitated severe neurotic and psychotic reactions. The assumption that a psychotic experience is growth inducing is not a new one in the field of psychiatry, but it is an assumption lacking supporting evidence. It is challenged by the great majority of clinicians whose experience has shown them that the most common effect of a disorganizing psychotic episode on an individual is to leave him with his self confidence and sense of mastery badly shaken. A psychotic experience is a manifestation of illness, not a way toward health and maturity. Mental hospitals "are filled with patients who even after many years have failed to attain maximum benefit from their psychoses! (13)"

In addition to actual psychological decompensations, what other dangers are inherent in the encounter group approach? There have been many instances of participants suffering physical injury; some encounter groups focus on the mobilization and expression of rage, and physical fights between participants who have long suppressed rage are encouraged. Severe bruising and broken limbs have been reported by physicians.

Another aspect which has relevance for psychiatry is the overly simplistic approach to behavior change espoused by many encounter group leaders; in the public eye these practices are equated with psychotherapy (for example, as we mentioned previously, the attack on sensitivity training in the Congressional Record clustered group therapy together with encounter group approaches). Many encounter group leaders have adopted a crash program approach, successful in industry, advertising, and some scientific ventures but resulting in a reductio ad absurdum in their attempts to change behavior. The part has been equated with the whole; the naive assumption has been made that if something is good, more is better. If involvement is good, then prolonged continuous marathon involvement is better. If expression of feelings is good (and it plays a role in all successful psychotherapy), then total expression hitting, touching, feeling, kissing and fornication must be better. If self-disclosure is good, then immediate, prolonged exposure in the nude (culminating in the members of the group intensively "eyeballing" each others' crotch area(18)) must be better.

Untrained encounter leaders have little concept of specificity of psychological needs. Generally they appear to assume that every one needs the same type of learning experience to express greater affect, display more spontaneity, chuck inhibitions, etc. Little consideration is given to the fact that some impulse-ridden individuals need the opposite: to learn to delay and to control affect expression. The practice of psychiatry, despite the differences of opinion within the field, is based on a body of knowledge, and psychiatrists have a responsibility to combat the myth which is abetted by wild encounter techniques that psychotherapy consists of doing a bit of everything; we must maintain our usefulness to the public by maintaining our own stability and by directing continuing efforts to research the efficacy of our therapeutic methods. Clearly it is inadvisable for psychiatrists to be swept along by current fashion and to adopt practices which are obviously offensive to the public taste; the burden of proof for the efficacy of such procedures lies with the designers of the innovative techniques.  

Some individuals experience difficulty not during the encounter group but after its termination when they reenter their familiar social and professional environment. Many encounter groups make the error of offering an absolute and infallible standard of behavior (unflinchingly honest, spontaneous, and direct) without regard for the time, place or object. Members find the immediate intimacy and the open communication of the encounter group culture so exhilarating that they then attempt, often with disastrous results, to behave in the same fashion in their social and professional lives, only later, or never, to realize the inappropriateness of their expectations. They may jeopardize their relationships to others and experience dysphoria and dissatisfaction with their lives. Some have responded to this by using the group not as an agent to aid them in their lives but as a substitute for life. The encounter group culture thus becomes the "real" world and a new clinical entity, labeled by Carl Rogers as the "group addict," is created: these individuals spend an inordinate amount of time in groups and roam up and down the West Coast to spend every weekend in a group. Experienced group dynamicists are well aware of the re-entry problem and NTL labs, for example, devote time in the group to working on the application of learning to the back-home situation. "Bridgeburning" is another closely related unfortunate consequence. Some individuals, following a high impact group experience, experience an intense dissatisfaction with their hierarchy of values and their life style. To attain the degree of authenticity they seek, many make abrupt and irreversible decisions, forsaking major life commitments by leaving their wives, families and jobs.

In summary, although there are apparent dangers in the encounter group experience, no generalization may be made save that, in the hands of some leaders, the group experience can be dangerous for some participants. The more powerful the emotions evoked, the less clinically perspicacious and responsible the leader, the more psychologically troubled the group member, then the greater the risk of adverse outcome. We must especially exercise caution in our evaluation of the overall encounter group field. It is, after all, a very diversified one; there are perhaps as many differences amongst various types of encounter groups as there are between the encounter group and the therapy group. Some groups may be led by competent, responsible leaders who provide a constructive learning experience for the participants; others may be led by wild, untrained leaders who may produce untoward emotional reactions in the participants. Above all we must note that there is distressingly little data; the casualties come to our attention, but the size of the universe from which they arise is unknown: the group participants who have an important, constructive experience are rarely seen by psychiatrists. It is important that psychiatrists study the available evidence, generate new data through research inquiry, and not take the position of responding with a primitive territoriality reflex to the movement as an unmitigated danger which must be curbed or condemned. We must not fail to note that the encounter group field has been a highly innovative one, that it has created techniques for harnessing powerful group forces in the service of education and behavioral change. In a number of ways psychiatry has been enriched by insights and techniques stemming from some parts of the encounter group field; we must not describe the dangers without also noting the promise of the new group approaches.


Encounter Groups and Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
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Offline seamus

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #38 on: December 18, 2010, 07:13:31 AM »
Interesting arguement! however the subjuct of SELF DETERMINATION is never mentioned..and the audience that those seminars are directed to are ADULTS. this having been said,how much of it has to do with the therapy via coercion that so many of us suffered,as children. I think we digress here.Didnt certain adults PAY to go to "encounter groups". What happened to free will? its one thing to pay,and go oneself. And quite another to sign a child in and write a check while sayin' bon chance,mon frer. Would one expect a child to take away the same message as an adult? Exactly what would be the most probable outcome of such a situation?
So just take the idea of this half assed therapy leading to a well, short term , fleeting and tempoary change. Hmmm.....once the shine wares off a subject will most likly be left with,huge self doubt,a feelin that he/she had been given a "bum steer",a certain amount of introspection, and x amount of anger.so one might say a certain emotional pendulum has gone both to,and fro. Where does it REALLY leave a subject? Could one suppose how a body could be confused at the prospect of finding out,that the truth had feet of clay?Or angry.....or depressed......
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Offline Ursus

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Re: 5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups
« Reply #39 on: December 24, 2010, 06:23:27 PM »
Quote from: "seamus"
Interesting arguement! however the subjuct of SELF DETERMINATION is never mentioned..and the audience that those seminars are directed to are ADULTS. this having been said,how much of it has to do with the therapy via coercion that so many of us suffered,as children. I think we digress here.Didnt certain adults PAY to go to "encounter groups". What happened to free will? its one thing to pay,and go oneself. And quite another to sign a child in and write a check while sayin' bon chance,mon frer. Would one expect a child to take away the same message as an adult? Exactly what would be the most probable outcome of such a situation?
Yep. I totally agree with your take on how encounter groups can potentially really mess with concepts of free will and self determination, certainly more so when you are an adolescent. Opting for an encounter group experience implies that one can opt OUT as well. Not so when you're stuck in a program!

Quote from: "seamus"
So just take the idea of this half assed therapy leading to a well, short term , fleeting and tempoary change. Hmmm.....once the shine wares off a subject will most likly be left with,huge self doubt,a feelin that he/she had been given a "bum steer",a certain amount of introspection, and x amount of anger.so one might say a certain emotional pendulum has gone both to,and fro. Where does it REALLY leave a subject? Could one suppose how a body could be confused at the prospect of finding out,that the truth had feet of clay?Or angry.....or depressed......
Personally, I tend to think a good part of that "shine" is due to all the endorphins and adrenalin released into your bloodstream during circumstances of crisis. Seriously, I think some folks can get "addicted" to that!  :D
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Offline heretik

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Re: 5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups
« Reply #40 on: December 24, 2010, 09:06:22 PM »
Quote from: "Ursus"
Quote from: "seamus"
Interesting arguement! however the subjuct of SELF DETERMINATION is never mentioned..and the audience that those seminars are directed to are ADULTS. this having been said,how much of it has to do with the therapy via coercion that so many of us suffered,as children. I think we digress here.Didnt certain adults PAY to go to "encounter groups". What happened to free will? its one thing to pay,and go oneself. And quite another to sign a child in and write a check while sayin' bon chance,mon frer. Would one expect a child to take away the same message as an adult? Exactly what would be the most probable outcome of such a situation?
Yep. I totally agree with your take on how encounter groups can potentially really mess with concepts of free will and self determination, certainly more so when you are an adolescent. Opting for an encounter group experience implies that one can opt OUT as well. Not so when you're stuck in a program!

Quote from: "seamus"
So just take the idea of this half assed therapy leading to a well, short term , fleeting and tempoary change. Hmmm.....once the shine wares off a subject will most likly be left with,huge self doubt,a feelin that he/she had been given a "bum steer",a certain amount of introspection, and x amount of anger.so one might say a certain emotional pendulum has gone both to,and fro. Where does it REALLY leave a subject? Could one suppose how a body could be confused at the prospect of finding out,that the truth had feet of clay?Or angry.....or depressed......
Personally, I tend to think a good part of that "shine" is due to all the endorphins and adrenalin released into your bloodstream during circumstances of crisis. Seriously, I think some folks can get "addicted" to that!  :D

This can be very true, Ursus.
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Offline Ursus

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Re: 5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups
« Reply #41 on: December 30, 2010, 07:07:25 PM »
From the above section, "5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups":

    "Furthermore, many non-clinically trained leaders reject the medical or psychiatric definition of adverse effect; they may assert that the stressing of members to the point of experiencing such extreme discomfort that they require professional help is not a danger but an accomplishment of the encounter group and that these individuals, although they may temporarily appear worse, have in fact undergone a growth experience and will, in the long run, be more fully integrated individuals."
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Gawd. What morons.
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Offline heretik

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Re: APA Task Force Report: ENCOUNTER GROUPS AND PSYCHIATRY
« Reply #42 on: December 30, 2010, 11:15:02 PM »
Most encounter groups I had either been involved with or have discussed with others were temporary but the effects lasted a long time afterward. I guess I could compare it to being trampled by a herd of elephants. My identity (self) was being crushed.
 
The self: core identity or social creation?
A theme of modernism is the dichotomy between the universal and the individual. Although the construction of self is seen as an illusion by Eastern religions, the Western notion of self is that of an individualistic true self. This is reflected in the ancient Greek dictum "to thine own self be true". The foundation of psychoanalytic work rests on uncovering layers to reach deeper, more fundamental features of the individual. Most psychotherapy is based on this Westernized notion of the individual self, and in this psychotherapy is a child of modernism (Parry, 1991).

Excerpt from this article; http://apt.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/6/6/450
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Offline Ursus

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Re: 5 - Dangers of Encounter Groups
« Reply #43 on: March 09, 2011, 01:40:16 PM »
Quote from: "heretik"
Most encounter groups I had either been involved with or have discussed with others were temporary but the effects lasted a long time afterward. I guess I could compare it to being trampled by a herd of elephants. My identity (self) was being crushed.
My guess is that the degree of damage also depends in part on how much choice you have in the matter of participating or not. When you can opt to walk away, both physically as well as psychologically, you can accept or not accept whatever is dished out on your terms. Of course, coercion kinda messes with whether that "choice" is truly volitional.

I also don't see how someone who isn't an adult can be said to "consent" to this. There's an implied informed perspective that can really only be acquired by living on one's own for a while. Imo, of course!
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Offline Ursus

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6 - The Promise of Encounter Groups: Applicability to...
« Reply #44 on: March 13, 2011, 11:54:06 AM »
Next installment:

American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report No. 1 - 'Encounter Groups and Psychiatry', continued...

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The Promise of Encounter Groups: Applicability to Clinical Practice

Many have considered the fact that if the intensive group experience is so powerful and has so much potential for harm, then it is likely it must also have a great inherent potential for constructive change. As Carl Rogers has pointed out, whatever else one may say for face-to-face encounter groups, one must recognize their potency; individuals are intrigued by them and strongly drawn to the groups. Disregarding for a moment the question of enduring change, we must recognize that with great regularity participants describe the experience as a powerful and moving one.

The National Training Laboratories has, for two decades, had the problem of designing a well balanced laboratory which included a T-group and various other exercises designed to teach theory, to integrate the T-group experience into the total laboratory exercise, to focus the participants' attention on the application of his learning to back-home problems, etc. Almost invariably, however, the T-group has tended to eat up the entire laboratory; its attraction is so great that, unless strong precautions are taken, every other exercise is turned into another type of T-group. The American Group Psychotherapy Association, a large organization composed primarily of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers, has had a similar experience. For many years the AGPA has sponsored a two-day institute immediately preceding its annual convention which was originally designed to consist of small group seminars with the mandate of exploring in depth some designated topic. These small groups have with such regularity evolved into encounter groups (despite the best efforts of the institute directors) that the sponsoring organization has made concessions in the format of the institute which allow their development in the experiential direction.

The source of the potency and attraction of the group is problematic: perhaps the groups offer a unique socially sanctioned opportunity for regressive behavior and impulsive expression; perhaps, too, participants are intrigued by the opportunity to explore themselves and to risk new and different behaviors.

Until recently the group therapy and encounter group fields represented two separate parallel streams of knowledge and practice. There has been of late, however, an increasing amount of cross fertilization. A few psychiatrists have been heavily involved in the National Training Laboratories and have led T-groups in NTL laboratories and a large number have been participants in T-groups. Furthermore, some psychiatrists have been leaders or participants in some of the newer forms of encounter groups; a few (the actual number is unknown) have been active in the organization and operation of growth centers. Many of these psychiatrists have introduced techniques they have learned in encounter groups into their psychotherapeutic work. In addition, many group therapy patients have had some encounter group experience and have attempted to introduce different approaches and techniques in their therapy groups. Consider the example of the "here-and-now". Long a well established technique in both individual and group psychotherapy and dating back to such theoreticians as Reich, Ferenczi, Strachey, Ezriel, Klein and Horney(22) the "here-and-now" has been vigorously implemented in the T-group. T-group trainers have been remarkably inventive in developing techniques which both plunge the group into the here-and-now as well as elucidate the here-and-now interpersonal and group processes; many group therapists have effectively applied these techniques to the therapeutic group process. Several accounts of encounter techniques applied to group therapy are described in a recent text.(4)

T-groups, springing from the field of social psychology, have behind them a long tradition of research in group dynamics. No comparable body of knowledge has been generated by group therapy, a field notoriously deficient in any systematic research. Thus, what is presently known of the basic science of group psychotherapy stems almost entirely from social-psychological research with task groups and T-groups; psychotherapy owes to the T-group much of its systematic understanding of such factors as group development, group pressure, group cohesiveness, leadership, and group norms and values. Furthermore, T-group research has elaborated a wealth of sophisticated research techniques and tools of which the group therapy field is now slowly availing itself. Thus far we have referred primarily to the traditional, responsibly led T-group. The current spinoffs of the T-group, the variegated new forms of the encounter group are, of course, even less research-oriented than the group psychotherapy field. They reflect in general the anti-rationalism of the present youth counter-culture and emphasize, particularly, emotional experience and expression. The groups generally place little emphasis on the cognitive working through of the experience; furthermore, the participants often do not espouse an ethos of change; they often come to the group not for the deliberate purpose of changing but to "turn on", to have an experience, to tune into their feelings. Within this framework, these groups have developed effective methods of evoking strong emotions in relatively brief periods of time. What relation does this have to psychotherapy? Generally, since 1943 when Franz Alexander(1) first formulated the concept of the "corrective emotional experience" psychotherapists have understood that an emotional experience is a necessary but not sufficient condition for change. Catharsis, though important, is in itself not, corrective; many individuals have powerful emotional experiences throughout their lives without learning from them or developing a sense of mastery. In dynamic psychotherapy, emotional experience and expression facilitate the therapeutic process in at least two major ways: first, the sharing and ventilation of strong affect deepens the therapist-patient or patient-other group members relationship; secondly, once the emotions are expressed and visible, the patient may be helped to recognize and to understand the irrational aspects and sources of some of his emotional reactions.

Some encounter group techniques to facilitate emotional expression  have proven useful for certain extremely schizoid, constricted individuals who have split off their affective life and who frustrate traditional therapeutic approaches by endlessly obsessing and intellectualizing. A powerful confrontive approach sometimes unfreezes these individuals and permits them to make rapid strides in therapy; indeed many therapists in California have referred such patients to encounter groups for this purpose. We note (and this is a point not often appreciated by clinically untrained encounter group leaders) that unfreezing is not equivalent to therapeutic change; it is a part process. But there is no reason to reject the possibility of therapy being conducted in stages, perhaps first an unfreezing, confrontive, affect-eliciting stage which results in rapid behavioral shifts and a second stage of working through the data generated by the first in an endeavor to make the behavioral changes more enduring. (The usefulness of encounter techniques as a stage in therapy is testable by research. Patients in ongoing individual therapy could be studied, with baseline date, before and after referral to an intensive short encounter group experience.) We must note, too, that many therapists have reported patients who have had an intense peak experience which, without subsequent working through, has resulted in marked and enduring improvement. Apparently in ways which we do not fully comprehend, a peak experience can serve as an internal reference point and counteract subsequent periods of despair or hopelessness.

For many years the length of the group therapy meeting was fixed; the ninety-minute meeting was part of the entrenched folk wisdom of the field. The encounter group field has, however, experimented with a large number of variations on the duration of the meeting: group meetings may last from several minutes, in some micro-lab techniques, to a marathon of forty-eight hours. Recently there has been a carryover into group therapy and many clinicians report experimentation with the time variable. Groups are described which meet regularly for four-, six- or eight-hour sessions; some therapists choose to meet less frequently but for longer sessions, for example, a six-hour meeting every other week; some psychiatric wards have instituted an intensive group therapy week where the patients meet in small groups for eight hours a day for five consecutive days; two clinicians(20) report favorable results with a "saturation group therapy" approach in which their patients meet for 16 weekends in each of which they spend approximately fifteen hours in group therapy.

Another influence on the practice of psychotherapy stemming from encounter groups is an increased emphasis on non-verbal behavior. Although traditional psychotherapeutic practice has for decades recognized the importance of non-verbal communication, it has failed to make maximal use of this knowledge. Non-verbal behavior may be important in at least two ways: 1) sometimes patients may communicate an affect non-verbally when they are unconscious or only dimly aware of the affect. Recognition and interpretation of the non-verbal act, gesture or posture by the therapist may assist the patient in his self-understanding. 2) At times the therapist may prescribe some non-verbal act which may help to explicate some important inter- or intrapersonal theme. (The prescribed behavior generates data by making explicit what had previously been implicit.) For example, if the group members are bitterly, but unknowingly, engaged in a status struggle, the group leader may ask the group to arrange themselves physically in a line according to their perceived hierarchy of influence. Such structural interventions are commonly used in encounter groups and some, if well selected and well timed, have been used effectively by group therapists.

Another important area of impact of encounter groups on the field of  psychiatry has occurred in the training of clinicians. The sensitivity training group was originally conceived as a technique of education; soon after its inception, group dynamicists recognized that personal involvement in a human relations group could be an extremely effective means of learning about both group dynamics and one's interpersonal behavior. For the last several years, a large number of psychiatric residencies have offered an experiential group as part of the training program in group therapy. Occasionally these groups develop (fortuitously or by design) into therapy groups, but generally they are led in a here-and-now based sensitivity group design. Most educators hold that it is as important for group therapists to have had some personal group experience as for individual therapists to have had some personal individual therapy. The American Group Psychotherapy Association which has formulated training requirements for accreditation as a group therapist, suggests a minimum of sixty hours as a participant in an experiential group. Such a group allows the trainee to experience personally the role of a member, the process of group development, the coercive power of group pressures, the threat of self-disclosure and the unrealistic expectations that members have of the group leader. Trainees profit most from their group experience if the leader helps them maintain a participant-observer role in which they involve themselves in the affective life of the group but yet retain the capacity to step back at appropriate times to appreciate the process of the group.


Encounter Groups and Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
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