Book Review: Principles of Group Treatment
Berne, M.D., E. (2005). Principles of Group Treatment. Fremantle Publishing, Australia. 379 pages. ISBN: 0-9757079-3-0.
This book gives a broad knowledge base to the reader and the content is almost step-by-step for those actually going through the practicalities of initiating group treatment. The approach analysed by Berne is applied transactional analysis. The book is divided into two parts; “Basic Principles” followed by “Transactional Analysis”. “Basic Principles” gives you a lengthy overview of the logistics that the group treatment facilitator needs to consider. The first chapter in this section is a generic look at determining what you want to achieve from your group and how to put that into practice by reviewing areas such as selection of patients, therapeutic goals and where to hold the meetings.
Preparation for the facilitator and the group members is then discussed in terms of ensuring all staff involved are collectively ready to implement group treatment and have access to resources, such as supervision, when the need arises. Member selection is again mentioned in terms of deliberately choosing members who will ensure the group is homogeneous so the group can maintain shared focus, visions and goals.
Aptly named “The First Three Minutes” is the next chapter, which deals with impressions within the group. It advises the facilitator on watching and listening to the group and also self-observation in order to build the therapeutic relationship as soon as possible. The issue of self-care is briefly mentioned here also.
The facilitator is given a fascinating anecdote in Chapter 4, which shows the versatility in roles that assists group therapists in helping their members and also some pitfalls to avoid.
The section titled Methods of Treatment describes how different types of group members and also entire groups can be given the most appropriate interventions considering the characteristics they display. Berne gives the reader insight into a few different approaches, including Supportive Therapy, Group-Analytic Therapy and Psychoanalytic Therapy within each group type.
The rest of Part One is dedicated to group dynamics that may unfold, teaching and further learning in a clinical sense and using group treatment as a basis for research. Part Two, “Transactional Analysis”, again starts with basic principles and techniques. The next issues raised however are more theory-based; the Transactional Theory of Personality. In the following Chapter, Transactional Analysis is evaluated alongside other theories, such as Gestalt Therapy and Psychodrama.
The facilitator’s reflection skills are tested in the next segment which deals with “games” that they may play but currently be unaware of, such as, “I’m only trying to help you” or “Psychiatry”. It gives some poignant examples of attributes we need to be aware of and avoid if at all possible, whilst facilitating group treatment.?Finally, the book is concluded with some diagnostic categories for mental health issues and other areas people may seek therapy for, for example, marital difficulty. These are discussed in terms of how valuable Transactional Analysis can be in group treatment. There is a variety of examples, anecdotes and diagrams for the reader to peruse and they help to lift the reader out of the text and into the real-world.