Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Having Group

Group is a primary tool here at TLC. We use it for therapy in our treatment program. We also use it as a tool in our peer counseling program in the halfway houses.

And for those who are unfamiliar, a general definition is when a group of three to maybe 15 people will sit in a circle and deal with some kind of issue. If it’s a therapy or peer group there’s generally a moderator and a specific topic such as relapse, anger, fear – more topics than I can put in this blog.

But another kind of group is when we have issues between one or more people. In the halfway house clients sometimes will call a group to deal with a roommate who’s hard to live with. Maybe one of the roommates is loud, has poor sanitation habits, is a gossip, or is suspected of stealing from roommates. It is a way for everyone to say what they have to say to the person.  And to maybe suggest how they can change. It’s a way to defuse anger and improve communication. And generally it’s fairly effective.

I remember a few years back when we had a “civilian” accountant working in our corporate office. (We sometimes hire “civilians” to do jobs that the clients aren’t qualified for.} He was amazed one day when a manager called everyone into a group. He’d never worked for a company where everyone stopped what they were doing and sat in a circle to deal with a problem. I’m not sure he ever did figure out the concept.

I remember once moderating a group with three others, each of them with at least Master’s Degrees. They were having communication problems over something personal. After a while I brought it to their attention how strange it seemed to be helping trained professionals communicate effectively. After all, I only had a business degree and had spent much of my life on the streets or locked up. That group ended shortly afterward – but the issue between them was resolved.

In any event, I enjoy the process of seeing people work issues out. Many times staff members and clients don’t realize their shortcomings or the effect their behavior has on others until they hear it in group.

Group is a safe environment where everyone can say exactly what they feel or think without fear of repercussion. And we use it fairly often, especially when one on one communication hasn’t been effective.