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Group counselling - one person dominating group

(35 Posts)
Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 09:25:10

I've been going to group counselling for a few weeks but there is a bloke that takes over. In the last session, each of us had to give a brief history of our lives, only an hour and 12 people in group so knew we had to keep it short. He talked for 20 minutes and as the counsillors don't want to stifle anyone, they let him carry on and on. Eventually one of them stepped in and asked him to hurry it up as time was running out. He looked miffed and said, 'OK, 2 more minutes' and proceeded to waffle on for another 5. He used up so much time that 3 people didn't have a chance to speak at all. I don't know what to do but he is putting me off going back as all I can remember is him from the session.

Birdsgottafly Thu 23-Jun-11 09:31:13

This is the fault of the counsellors, not his. Not everyone is suitable for group counselling and need one to one, it sounds as though he is one of those people. The counsellors should have estabilished ground rules on the first day and one of them should have been alloted time. Can you have a private word with one of the counsellors. I would go back though.

Bonsoir Thu 23-Jun-11 09:31:40

The group is being very badly managed. The counsellors may not want to stifle anyone, but they effectively let this one participant stifle all the others. You should point this out to them and, if things don't change, you need to complain to their superiors.

Hullygully Thu 23-Jun-11 09:32:13

wot the first two said

AuntieMonica Thu 23-Jun-11 09:35:26

I would possibly give the group sessions one more 'chance' IF this man been leading up to this previously. If not, if he's been dominating the time regularly, then the set-up is all wrong and you should say something to the councillors.

As PPs have said, this group is being badly managed, it is the group facilitators responsibility to make sure everyone has a positive experience there.


Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 09:45:23

Thank you for your comments. It is a lovely group of people and he is really spoiling it. I could see everyone else staring at their shoes and the 2 counsellors looking at each other but I think in future they need to say something like 'you have 5 minutes each, try and stick to that to ensure everyone gets to speak'.

Bonsoir Thu 23-Jun-11 09:46:03

The counsellors definitely need to be more assertive.

Sunshinenow Thu 23-Jun-11 09:51:19

If he is dominating the group quite so much then leaders need to guide. but not too much so.

Group should reflect real life. So how you manage someone dominating and not respecting other people's feelings IS part of life. It is possible the leaders are taking this approach. It is worth asking them this question - not just complaining about them not taking charge and allocating time.

It may help to also look at what this is making you feel and why.,Although it's early days - it's worth keeping going.

Tchootnika Thu 23-Jun-11 09:52:52

It would be a shame to give up on group because of this person, and it may be that counsellors are taking 'softly, softly' approach for good reason.... I think this sort of thing - people's ability (or lack of ability) to give space to others, etc. - is what can get worked on really well in group counselling, but it has to be done gradually, which is probably why counsellors aren't intervening so far. Also, a more considered discussion later on - e.g. about other group participants' feelings during rambling bloke's monologues, etc. - is probably ultimately more constructive approach...?

Animation Thu 23-Jun-11 09:54:53

He sounds a pain.

The two facilitators should be stepping in really to challenge him. Are these counsellors quite young or inexperienced?

As the group gets stronger some good peer pressure might warn him off - stop him dominating all the time.

Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 09:56:41

Sunshinenow, under normal circumstances, you would be able to politely ask the person to respect everyone else's time. I don't need to ask why I feel like this. The whole group was just far too polite and no-one said anything.

Birdsgottafly Thu 23-Jun-11 10:00:42

You don't expect those participating in group counselling to 'police' each other so early on, that is the job of the counsellors.

Op were ground rules laid down which would have included time and confidentiality.

Omigawd Thu 23-Jun-11 10:02:30

This is the counsellors' job, they should have stopped him after 10 minutes for sure, but make allowances for 1st session errors. Go back for one more, they should have had some form of discussion afterwards and decided to run things differently next time.

If it still hasn't changed, I'd have a word afterwards and tell them you feel really uncomfortable with guy dominating the group like this and are questioning the value everyone else is getting out of it. You probably won't be the only one telling them!

Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 10:04:49

Confidentiality was discussed in the 1st session. Time was not. He did say (amidst all his other shpiel) that he has always had problems forming relationships. He seems to have no self-awareness whatsover.

Animation Thu 23-Jun-11 10:09:11

Group therapy sessions are pretty limited in the NHS - and the counsellors can't afford to sit uncomfortably with this guy - they've got to be more pro-active so that everyone gets a turn and benefits.

Birdsgottafly Thu 23-Jun-11 10:12:11

Then i think that the counsellors have overlooked this as part of the respect for each other should have been everyone having an equal chance to speak, otherwise some of you are wasting your time being there. I would have a private word if it continues unchecked, the counsellor may not be experienced in group work, part of the skill is running the room and leading the sessions, which isn't as neseccary in one to one work.

Don't let the counsellor turn this to being your problem.

Tchootnika Thu 23-Jun-11 10:14:26

Depends on the counsellors - many take the approach that participants can't really discover stuff/develop skills if there's always intervention on part of counsellors.... Might seem lazy/inadequate, but at the same time, if a participant said (s)he expected counsellor to police interaction, many counsellors would just turn this back on participant, asking why (s)he didn't have the confidence to do this, if it's something they should address, etc....

Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 10:15:12

I think I will arrive early next week and just have a quiet word with the counsellor.

AuntieMonica Thu 23-Jun-11 10:18:56

Even though i agree one person dominating the group isn't ideal, i think it's important to remember SOME members of a group may well be ok with this. It's wrong to assume that no-one else is gaining any benefit from this happening. Some people can gain great insight into their own issues by listening to others.

It often depends on the subject matter too, a group about assertive behaviour can often be lead this way, to build up individual members into gaining the confidence to contribute. I wouldn't recommended it though, often leads the 'talker' into being the 'fall guy' though sad

How many sessions have you had, OP?

Animation Thu 23-Jun-11 10:20:02

If this was longer term psychotherapy group - lasting for up to a year, then the facilitators might sit back and let interpersonal issues evolve between the clients.

I don't think that's the purpose of THIS group though.

Hammy02 Thu 23-Jun-11 10:23:34

To be honest, I stopped listening to him after a while. An awful thing to say but he was going into the far end of a fart in details when this wasn't appropriate. I was fascinated by everyone else's stories.

Allinabinbag Thu 23-Jun-11 10:24:26

Once you had a five min intro and wind-down, you have a very short amount of time per person anyway, only a few minutes each. 12 seems a lot, is this a normal amount? How does it work if someone has a more in-depth story or experience to tell?

Birdsgottafly Thu 23-Jun-11 10:25:06

Also, if everyone hasn't had a chance to speak then the counsellors have not got to know all of the members of the group, which is important. Sometimes you will have a plan to follow but then change things to suit the group, they do not know all of the group members because of the man dominating it. The whole purpose of the opening sessions is story telling and relationship building, that hasn't happened.

Birdsgottafly Thu 23-Jun-11 10:29:17

Op, you need to start to thik what it is that you hope to gain from this, as that is normally asked a few sessions before you finish, bring it up sooner rather than later if you feel that you are not gaining anything.

Be aware however that there is nothing 'in appropriate' that is said, it speaks volumes to the counsellors. They will read as much into what other people are not saying compared to him.

OTheHugeManatee Thu 23-Jun-11 11:47:46

I have weekly group sessions as part of my therapy training course. It's expected that the vast majority of therapeutic interactions come about as a result of group members interacting with one another. Or to put it another way, what was stopping other members of the group from commenting on the way he waffled on?

It might be very helpful for him to hear your reaction to his over-long rambling, especially as he has said he has trouble forming relationships. The key thing is to separate out your own stuff: if you were feeling dominated, what does that remind you of? Does this trigger feelings from your own past? Is there some reason you feel uncomfortable about challenging him?

If you can voice your frustrations in a way that recognises which parts are yours, you might both have an opportunity to do useful work together. Certainly the most enlightening moments for me in group have come about as a result of me challenging someone, or being challenged: conflict can be incredibly creative in the context of group counselling. If you just sit there feeling cross and stifled, or else complain afterwards to the facilitator you might miss an amazing opportunity.

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