Some early psychoanalysts, especially Alfred Adler, a student of Sigmund Freud, believed that many individual problems were social in origin. In the 1930s Adler encouraged his patients to meet in groups to provide mutual support.
At around the same time, social work groups began forming in mental hospitals, child guidance clinics, prisons, and public assistance agencies. Group counseling offers multiple relationships to assist an individual in growth and problem solving. In group counseling sessions, members are encouraged to discuss the issues that brought them into counseling openly and honestly.The facilitator works to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance that encourages members to support one another. Individuals that share a common problem or concern are often good candidates for group counseling, where they can share their mutual struggles and feelings.
Before a student begins group counseling, the facilitator should interview them to ensure a good fit between their needs and the group's. The facilitator should also consider the age, grade level, gender.The student should be given preliminary information before sessions begin, such as guidelines and ground rules, and information about the problem on which the group is focused. Individuals who create turmoil in the group by engaging in chronically disruptive behavior, or whose communication behavior is chronically inappropriate offer a challenge.
Since groups are systems composed of interrelated parts, one disruptive member can influence the entire group. It’s been discovered that when one group member is highly disruptive, formerly cooperative members begin behaving in disruptive ways also.This is especially true when the disruptive member is not dealt with effectively by the group facilitator. I think the first thing the facilitator should do in this situation when dealing with a disruptive member is change your communication in relation to that person’s difficult behavior.
Communication in-groups are a transaction operating within a system. You may change the troublemaker’s behavior toward the group, even though you will not likely change him or her from a difficult person into a likeable one. Try not to encourage the disruption.I would not pacify the student by permitting frequent interruptions. Allowing the disrupter to manipulate the group in order to “keep the peace” rewards the troublemaker for objectionable behavior. As the facilitator I would have to resist the very real temptation to meet firepower with firepower.
Becoming aggressive with aggressors escalates into intractable power struggles. Keep telling yourself that if you do, you’re engaging them on their terms and on their familiar ground, to your disadvantage. Resisting the temptation to fight fire with fire requires self-control.Don’t provide a soapbox for the troublemaker.
Aggressors are more than happy to mount the soapbox and focus attention on their personal agenda. Defer the confrontation if possible, you can’t ignore disruptive behavior especially when it becomes chronic, but sometimes you can defer it to a more appropriate time and place. The facilitator should allow the group to confront the difficult person directly. If the entire group is upset by the behavior of the difficult person, then the group should confront the disrupter. Confrontations, of course, should be descriptive, not evaluative.
When all else fails then you simply have to separate yourself from the difficult person. Some individuals leave no other option except ostracism (a competitive choice) by the group. Difficult people can provoke intense anger and deep frustration from group members. Every effort needs to be made to deal with these people in appropriate manners; however we are not strictly rational beings.
Even if you have lost your temper and let your emotions get away from you, this is not as problematic as simply ignoring or enduring the disruptive behavior.If your anger translates into personal attacks, at the very least you have served notice on the troublesome group member that his or her pattern of behavior is unacceptable and will not be suffered in silence. If you do lose your self-control, you will need to follow up at a later time with direct confrontation. You may find that your initial outburst got the attention of your troublemaker. A more rational, deliberate strategy may still work even after a shouting match. There is perhaps no greater challenge or more important task in a group than to establish a positive, cooperative, confirming climate.
Defensive climates promote conflict and disharmony in groups. Supportive climates do not free groups entirely from conflict, but such atmospheres enhance the likelihood of constructive solutions to conflict in groups. Your speech can have a powerful impact on clients. Often times people hear how you say a thing more than what you say.
Your speech should be audible and clear. Avoid whispering and speaking too fast. Think before you give a verbal response. Although you should welcome class participation remember you are the group leader.In some instances our good hearts get in the way by giving a client several chances to correct his behavior but we do ourselves a disservice as well as the client if they are not confronted. We must remember that the health of the group as a whole supersedes that of the individual.
Disruptive clients can politely be informed that they will not be allowed to return to group and instructors should supply the former client with two to three referrals to another group. Set up a system of positive reinforcement together with the student in order to incite better behavior.Speak one-on-one with the student about your expectations for the group and ask him/her why they think they’re acting out. Do not disregard answers such as "boredom" or "trying to be funny," but rather incorporate them into your positive reinforcement system. Do something to give positive feedback.
At the end of the day although your primary responsibility as a counselor is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients this is a much more complex situation with a group because this responsibility extends to every member.