Psychoeducational group therapy is an important part of managing people with special mental disturbances and problems. Support groups affect rehabilitating mothers who have special experiences in relationships, as well as those who experience emotional distress (Reis, 1989, p. 144). As part of the practice in psychoeducational group therapy, one of the requirements is to join a group and have a firsthand experience. I decided to do it by joining a local education support group for the new teen mothers that offered support and education to help them with their new life changes and to help them identify warning signs for possible postpartum depression. Throughout the four sessions that I attended, some of the evident observations that I made included the leadership style I displayed, the group dynamics, and the challenges facing the group. The following is, therefore, an essay detailing the events in the sessions that I attended with the teen mothers.
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This session was held at a local church hall. The reason behind the choice of the venue was that a church usually offered a calm and peaceful environment that is conducive for our sessions. Mothers who had known about the group through different means attended. The session was scheduled to discuss several things about their high prevalence of post-partum depression for these teen mothers, with the main thing being a discussion on how they could cope with psychological stressors such as physical exhaustion, role restriction, financial problems, social isolation, and depressive symptoms as well as confusion. The first thing in the day’s topic was a discussion of tips for coping with change. In a group dynamic such as this one, the participants must be counseled on the changes that they will experience (Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, & Schimmel, 2012, p. 24). Teen mothers usually experience many situations as a surprise because many of them lack the relevant information about the situation that could help them be prepared psychologically. Therefore, for this day, I taught the mothers how to be in charge of their reactions to the expected change. As Forsyth states, the leader in a psychoeducational group therapy should try and change the attitude of the participants so that it fits what is required for their therapy (2014, p. 15).
The second thing that was discussed was how to stay flexible and react to stresses that would face teen mothers especially when they are pregnant. As expected of the mothers, a brief period of hurting and psychological soreness is a characteristic of their pregnancy condition especially if they are not married and worse off if the respective fathers of the unborn are not willing to take responsibility once the child is born (Reis, 1989, p. 146). In this session, therefore, they were advised on how to cope with the period and prevent mental breakdown. Some of the changes that they were to undergo were also presented in the forms of leaflets and articles from different places. Five phases that people experience in adapting to change have been described, and these include resistance, uncertainty, assimilation, integration, and acceptance (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 24). These were discussed through the participation of different members of the group, in a language that they addressed in their own words. A group member also explained how she related to these stages.
Some patients dealing with emotional and mental problems, such as in the case of the members in the group, often develop ways for them to cope with the changes that they experience (Reis, 1989, p. 144). Some of the warning signs we listed included increased frequency of illnesses, poor sleep, alcohol, and use of other drugs, isolation from other people, and a reduced interest in daily activities, depression, and fights among family members (Forsyth, 2014, p. 17). These were addressed in the session with the group members discussing these signs showing how they can avoid them. We also discussed the different ways of fighting back such as staying healthy, not blaming themselves, avoiding isolation, developing support systems, and being active, as stated by Forsyth (2014, p. 15).
The group consisting of seventeen mothers who were pregnant and with no husbands was interactive, with each of the mothers participating actively in the group. They expressed their feelings over their condition with support coming from their colleagues and myself. None of the members had attended group counseling, which is a characteristic of most of the people attending group therapy sessions (Forsyth, 2014, p. 18). The new group member that started the sessions was warmly welcomed and briefed of the previous meetings and the discussions that had taken place. As Forsyth states, the group leader allows members to participate actively in the discussions, and this was also evident (2014, p. 15). Biblical knowledge was also used as a basis for encouraging mothers.
Group Developmental Stage
During this session, the group appeared to have different members that had joined it at different stages. Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, and Schimmel classified these stages as the initial stage, the transition stage where the member’s safety and integration are built, the working stage, and the ending stage (2012, p. 16). The group was in no particular stage based on the new members that were joining but was at different stages.
It is the role of the leader to provide direction during the group sessions and modulate the discussions (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 23). In this session, the leadership style that I tried to display was interpersonal. This means that I tried to provide attention to all members by giving them an equal share of talk time. I would participate in active listening encouraging the speakers to speak on and display their emotions during the session. This style was effective, with most of the mothers getting to express themselves.
Some of the challenges experienced and evident in this session include the inexperience of the leader, the short duration of the session, and the complexity of the problems under discussion. These were, however, not enough to stop the progression of the session. There was an observable change in the faith of the participants. They also had the peace of Christ through participating in the group as advised in the bible.
In this session, the participants were to discuss how they were to create life plans, and through their interactions move from the feelings expressed in the first session (Forsyth, 2014, p. 19). Some of the recommendations made for them to take care of themselves include the search for creative and learning opportunities. The mothers were to come up with a life plan to take them through the period of transition after their experience. For mothers who have had postpartum depression and especially in teenagers, a gap is left behind that is so evident and they easily see the change (Reis, 1989, p. 146). The people around them quickly move on leaving them in a position of self-care, which may be harmful to them (Reis, 1989, p. 147). With this in mind, the mothers were to discuss the changes that they are currently experiencing.
The expression of change for these mothers was followed with advice on the means of coping with the stress. Some of the tips that I provided to the mothers on how to adapt to the change included the assumption of control over their attitudes. Attitude is an important part of any therapy. I targeted it to enable them to adapt to the changes with the right attitude (Forsyth, 2014, p. 15). The bible was useful in this teaching. I used several verses to encourage stressed teen mothers. Staying flexible to change is the other tip that I offered the teen mothers based on the realization that they would be subject to many changes in the periods after the group therapy. Human beings are social beings, and this has allowed them to solve some of the most challenging problems (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 24). Group therapy is based on such a belief, and in my view, biblical knowledge should be widely applied in them. The participating mothers were advised to shun isolationism and interact with other mothers, as this would help them with the information that they needed during the period of transition.
Another subject of discussion during the group session was the communication skills of the teen mothers together with how they were to deal with the blame from other areas. The spouse was regarded as an important pillar in the event of emotional distress (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 27). We, therefore, discussed communication between the parties clarifying how the mothers should communicate with their spouses. The group session was aimed at equipping the mothers with the tools to overcome their grief by accepting and dealing with the changes.
The group dynamics in this session were not any different from the previous days, and the participating mothers were social and welcoming to the new members. They also participated in the discussions and paid attention to each other’s problems and needs. Some of the teen mothers participated more relative to others, but through balanced modulation, it was possible to get each of them to express themselves. Throughout the session, the mothers seemed comfortable with each other and their confidence grew. Of the seventeen mothers, the mother who had experienced some form of emotional distress stood out as deserving empathy, which I provided together with the group members. This allowed me to practice my faith and the theories that I had learned in class.
Group Developmental Stage and Leadership
The group was still at different stages of development. Mothers who had joined at different stages received their share of attention. Under my leadership, I was able to propel the group throughout this session and used the bible as a reference on several occasions. My leadership style was interpersonal. I managed to get all the mothers to participate in the discussions. This strategy is an achievement that required faith and trust in God, which demanded the use of the knowledge acquired throughout the different learning sessions.
Several challenges were evident in this group session. As Forsyth states, time is a necessary resource when conducting group therapy, and the success of the intervention is based on the amount of time that is invested in it (2014, p. 15).In this session, the allocated time was not sufficient to adequately cover the designated topics, and affect the mothers. This case could be avoided in the future by having fewer group members so that each can get more time to participate in the therapy.
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This third session was the apex of the psychoeducational group therapy. Mothers got to work on the ways of handling their experiences and the subsequent change. In this session, the preparation for the expected change was emphasized thus marking the major point of the discussion as recognized in these types of group therapies (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 31).In this session, the participants were allowed to express their emotions from their experiences and express the same about the future. Unrealistic expectations are discouraged in any group therapy. Participants were counseled against having such expectations for the future.
The teen mothers also had a session on letting go of their emotional distress with a discussion on how to hope for the future even after the experience. They were also to discuss the activities to keep themselves busy if they thought so much of the events leading to distress. Some of the difficulties that mothers have after such depressions include bearing the blame for the experience (Reis, 1989, p. 147). This has led to mothers suffering from depression and other mental conditions that may warrant treatment (Reis, 1989, p. 144). In this group session, therefore, the mothers were taught how to avoid self-guilt and or accept the past and move on.
They were also advised on the avoidance of acts such as alcoholism and the use of other drugs that would affect their social output as well as their health. These are also not acceptable in the Christian faith. The mothers should turn to the word of God for advice and counsel on how to cope with their grief. Some of the mothers even reported that their appetites had changed over the period after the emotional distress and that they were eating more and taking more chemicals. This was discouraged in the session, with the mothers affected being taught how to avoid such acts.
Mothers in the group therapy expressed their different experiences and or how they had dealt with the periods following the distress. This was a learning experience for them, and I, therefore, advised them to learn from each other. Complacency was also evident as in many of the causes of emotional distress (Reis, 1989, p. 144). I discouraged this in most of the mothers. Some of the other things that we discussed with the mothers allowed them to avoid the stress that would follow their emotional distress (Forsyth, 2014, p. 23). We agreed that for them to avoid the stresses, they had to practice more of being quiet and still, learn how to plan for activities in their lives, practice prayer, and read the bible now and then.
Despite the seriousness of this session, the participants were able to communicate and express their feelings among themselves. An environment of trust had been created, and they were free to engage in the discussion without fear. The group members were also conversant with the rules of the group session, and they obeyed them to the letter. The interactions were friendly and they understood each other, with visible bonds for the few days that they had been in contact. The participants also respected my authority and command of their problems. They also understood most of the things that were said.
Group Developmental Stage
The developmental stage of the group in this session was mainly in the working stage, as the problems that the participants had were being addressed despite several members joining the group halfway. The precise definition of the stage at which the group is at can be said to be different, as the members joined at different stages in the group development.
Leadership and Challenges
The same challenge of time in the group session was evident as in other sessions due to the large number of mothers participating. This, as stated above, could be corrected if the group had fewer members. However, any mother who wants to participate should be allowed to do so, and only new groups should have been created at different times. Under my leadership, the group sessions were interactive, with most of the members getting to participate actively. Some of the leadership challenges that I encountered included the resolution of the conflict of ideas among the mothers. Some of them would provide suggestions that were contrary to the teaching. It was rather difficult to dissuade them from the ideas. After several sessions, however, this change was possible.
This constituted the last session, which was aimed at giving the mothers some of the strategies for dealing with emotional distress. In a group therapy session, the participants must be taught how to cope with the problems affecting them using tasks that are easy for them to perform (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 24). It began with the participants listing the things that are likely to change with the situation. This was important and provided me with a basis on which to start the session. They were to list the things that would end after the distress, and recognize the symptoms of the proposed changes. Some of the things that I advised them to do were to take time-outs and think about their experiences, take stoke, look at them creatively, and experiment every day by starting with that particular day.
In this session, change was recognized as an important part of recovery and resumption of daily activities, and I thus encouraged teen mothers to do some of their daily activities differently. Some of these activities included going to work on a different route, spending their lunch in new places, and changing the position of their desks at the workplaces. These would make them see a change in their lives, which they were to take positively. They were also supposed to attempt something that they have never performed and go out on weekends. Some of the other activities included saying no in places or requests that they would normally have said yes, declining to do an activity that they have participated in regularly, asking why some things have to be done in a particular order, and engaging in leisure activities when they can.
The leadership of this session was very demanding and required knowledge on the appropriate advice to mothers who had experienced emotional distress. Interpersonal and intrapersonal forms of leadership were necessary for the session, and I had to display wide knowledge of the topic under discussion. The bible proved useful in most of the advice that I provided to the mothers, and have faith that they will recover and move on with their lives. It is important to note that before this group, my leadership role was limited to psycho-educational groups. I had not been involved in the leadership of as large a group as this one but in mainly individual counseling.
One thing that came out in my leadership was the reflective listening that I applied (Forsyth, 2014, p. 27). The members were not comfortable with this idea. They said that it was bringing attention to me instead of them. I, however, resulted in the use of calm facial language rather than the insightful paying of attention to show compassion. Some of the strengths that I exhibited include the ease of “building rapport with my group members, being able to show compassion to the members, developing trust, and staying organized throughout the sessions” (Forsyth, 2014, p. 28). The group also helped me improve my leadership skills. I trust that I helped them recover from their situations.
The group sessions were marked by various challenges as stated earlier, and these were mainly due to the nature of the experience that the mothers were undergoing. Before joining the group and in previous sittings, some of the mothers had desperate attempts. When they experienced flashbacks during the sessions, I got concerned that it would affect the other members. I also thought that the stories that the mothers shared in the group sessions would affect each other, causing them to experience vicarious traumatization. The few sessions that I attended also had an effect on me, and I almost suffered from compassion fatigued as evidenced in leaders who attend such groups due to cumulative effects of group grief work (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 24). The tests were however few relative to the happiness that was evident in the assembly. The mothers were able to share their experiences with people that understood their positions. They cheered each other on. We often referred to the biblical teachings. This strategy may have grown the faith of some of the mothers.
The group session for teen mothers with any form of emotional distress was initially challenging, but working through it successfully encouraged me and improved my faith in God and the therapy. The time constraint did not hinder the experience of the group. The therapy proved useful to the participants. Leadership is an important part of group therapy, and that exhibited in this group proves this (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Haynes, 2014, p. 29). I believe, however, that the training of the psycho-educational group leaders should be wide and involve sessions on displaying emotion and communication skills as suggested by Forsyth (2014, p. 28). This strategy will go a long way in improving the outcome of these sessions. I learned a lot in the sessions that I attended, one of which is the benefit of having a co-leader in the session either from the participants or externally.
Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Haynes, R. (2014).Groups in action: Evolution and challenges. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Cengage Learning.
Forsyth, R. (2014). Group dynamics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.
Jacobs, E., Masson, L., Harvill, L., & Schimmel, J. (2012).Group counseling: Strategies and skills. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Cengage Learning.
Reis, J. (1989). A comparison of young teenage, older teenage, and adult mothers on determinants of parenting. Journal of Psychology, 123(1), 141–151.