Thursday, September 16, 2010

My first group experience: The Good, The Bad, and The Whoa.

So I did my first group with children last night! I have so much to learn. *sigh* In case you didn’t know, I’m interning at a domestic violence program. The children have witnessed the violence in many different forms, and they attend group while their parents (just the victim, and I don’t say women/mothers because we have one male – it does happen!) attend group. I’ve been working with the child therapist for the last few weeks and she gave me the floor tonight. She actually left the room while we did the activity, and I think it went ok. The children are 1-6 grade, and they are at different levels of maturity. While they were being typical kids, they did complete the activity and actually talked about it afterwards. To me, that equals a win.

It is very obvious that I don’t know proper ways of getting children to settle down and behave. We do things differently in a therapeutic setting. Telling little Johnny to sit down and be quiet doesn’t work so much. I may not have as much control as the child therapist, and she certainly has an entirely different style than I, but I think I did ok. I’m alive, they’re alive. I’ll get better, right? :)

However, I met a young man tonight who I will refer to as E. He’s in 1st grade and is very troubled, as exhibited by his behavior in group. He used a few bad words, talked about Hell, and ran around the room like some sort of big cat, growling all the way! He was very agitated and certainly did not want to participate in an activity where he sat the entire time. I was told that he is going to be my first client, and I must say, I am nervous as heck! We will be using the playroom, where he will likely get our his anger and frustration and wild-childness. I do think this young man is in desperate need of someone to pay attention to him, to tell him that he is special, to let him know he matters. I haven’t read his file yet, but I bet it’s a doozy.

I am also going to start working with an adolescent girl (I will refer to her as Y) who has siblings in the program, as well. In fact, her 2 younger siblings are in one of the child groups, and they journaled about some ugly stuff happening with big sis. She has been inappropriately dealing with her anger lately and we want to find out what's beneath the anger. The adolescent group facilitators says she doesn’t speak much in group, so hopefully I can gain her trust and give her an outlet.

I met with my supervisor today and she really put things into perspective for me. I’ve never had a therapy session yet, so I feel at a real disadvantage about providing it! However, she said some things that make so much sense and eased up my anxiety a tad. She said the most important thing about therapy is the human connection. The relationship. She said just be human to human, be present and actively listen. Don't worry about what theory or model l should be following - that comes with experience. Just listen, and be genuine. She also added that she still gets nervous 15 years later but said working through that fear is what will make me grow…


  1. Sorry, it has been a while since I commented - but I am reading!! I saved this post "unread" in my Google Reader until I had time to comment! I think the fact that you and the kids were still alive after your first group is really all you can ask for! :D It will get better - and learning how to manage kids in a group is a learning process for sure! Its one thing to care for a couple of kids (usually siblings) as a babysitter or relative - totally another to have a group of unrelated kids AND try to get them to do the same activity or actually TALK about something important! I find that the easiest way to get a "wild child" to calm down is to casually approach them and ask them to help you with something - hold a book, pass out a paper, or just put a reassuring arm around them and ask them to come sit next to you for a very important announcement you are about to make. It works pretty well usually - except when it doesn't... ;)

    Good luck with your first therapy sessions too - and really, I've never followed a "theory". I keep them in mind and use different methods sometimes - but mostly I work on building a relationship and gaining trust. The rest will come... Relax! :)

  2. Thank you - your comment means a lot! :) Tomorrow is the big day. Guess I should get to bed...