Notes on Meeting No.4 of Safeguard Group
Notes on Meeting No.4. 23rd January, 1969.
Group Guest - The Revd. Laurence Reading, Secretary of Adult Committee of C. of E. Board of Adult Education.
Origins of Group Work in C. of E.
1957 U.S. Episcopal Church ran two weeks course at . . . . . King's College, London. Known as King's Lab.
1962 Another Episcopal team ran course at Haywards Heath. Course leader surprised at different reaction obtained in the U.K.
Basis of C. of E. Courses.
Distinction between Church courses and, say, Tavistock. Tavistock mainly "industrial" (including hospitals etc.). Content and use of courses different. Also C. of E. courses limited by considerations of money, accommodation etc.
C. of E. courses are structured by the timing of the sessions, the building, the furniture and the staff. These are points of reference.
The C. of E. groups are given a task. This may be misunderstood but provides structure. Some hold that structure is obtained by giving no task.
The tasks of staff members are defined (viz. to help group). Security is given by the presence of staff members. The course members are not on their own.
The total situation is very much controlled. C. of E. would not run a T-Group otherwise.
Introduction of participants to T-Groups.
Many forms tried. In the U.S.A. a T-Group for Bishops before the Toronto Congress in 1963 was proceeded by a full introductory talk and the presentation of a verbatim copy of the talk. The participants were referred to these when they asked, at the end of the course, why they hadn't been told what was going to happen. May be understood intellectually but actual experience necessary for full absorbtion of facts presented.
Anxiety, Stress, Tension and Pain.
The C. of E. T-Group does not create anxiety artificially. There is always anxiety if a person is meeting a new situation. Deny anxiety and you increase it. Is anxiety being created artificially if the usual steps to reduce tension are deliberately omitted? There must be tension. It is neither good nor bad. To eliminate all stress would make the group ineffective. The assumption that everything must be directed to making things go smoothly must be challenged. Group anxiety is beneficial - it enhances creativity. It could be destructive - but when people meet ordinarily, their relationship could be constructive or destructive. Pain is an essential element in change.
To one member of S.G., the fact of the circle of chairs, the timing of the sessions and the presence of the trainees created anxiety. He felt terror and left, very angry, after twenty-four hours. May have been exceptionally sensitive to atmosphere. He must have had the anxiety of the whole group thrust upon him. The group felt guilty about him. He felt he might have failed them. He was their scapegoat.
Another member of S.G. shared the responsibility of a task with members of his congregation. The laity felt the burden of hostility. To be a scapegoat is part of the function of the ministry.
Those members of the Safeguard Group present recognised the value of T-Groups and the necessity for some tension and anxiety in learning to accept oneself and others. However, the intensity of stress and the circumstances under which it is applied need careful scrutiny.
The Measurement and Control of Stress
Some say T-Groups successful if two members are carried out frothing at the mouth . At what level is stress acceptable and how can it be measured and controlled?
Objective measurement is impossible. Anxiety can be great and dangerous, greater and less dangerous. A staff member spoke very harshly to a course member. The attention of the group was thereafter focussed on that member of staff making similar outbursts ineffective. Weeping is no guide - depends on social acceptance.
Staff members are the thermometers of the group. Part of their task is to feel what is going on. Anger usually suppressed by course members and staff members feel it directed against them. Depends on perception of staff member. If course members obscure what is happening, staff member's task is hindered.
Learning versus Therapy
T-Groups are for learning. Therapeutic Groups are for dealing with disturbances known to exist. It may be dangerous for some people in a certain stage of development to join a T-Group. A Therapy Group more suitable. One S.G. member was snubbed and much upset by a T-Group trainer who was endeavouring to see that the T-Group did not turn into a Therapy Group. Therapy often a by-product of a T-Group, not the purpose.
Invasion of personality. Coercion by bandwagon effect. New Article to Creed - "I believe in the Holy Group". Diabolical experimentation such as preconditioning of most members of a group to produce a clash. Deliberate application of shock treatment. Experimentalism by staff.
Selection of Staff Members
Bethel, U.S.A. (oldest established centre for group work?) have found no solution to problem of objective selection. In early 1968, looked at means of determining whether people were likely to be adequate. Proposed entry requirements were four weeks course and Ph.D. in related subject. Not satisfactory. Academic qualifications no guide.
Best solution is "apprenticeship" of course members who have shown unusual awareness of what is going on. Gradual involvement in training. Constant assessment and cross-checking of what is actually happening in group, how they have been coping.
Selection of Course Members
Impossible to carry out all the screening desirable, but not an open situation. Recommendation of new members by former participants gives a useful measure of selection. "How did you hear about these Groups?" question on application form may also help. A warning of stress and a signed consent another possibility. Clinical Theology tutors and those administering Clinical Theology or group training work should go on a group course so that their selection or advice vis a vis group course applications is based on personal experience.
Emergence from T-Group
Group work best done, then forgotten. Learn and then lose it. For casualties, after-care should be provided. Wait until casualty comes to his senses and returns; do not go after him. After three years, chance or Providence brought new light and comfort to one member of S.G. Gospel concerned with cure for one lost sheep rather than the ninety and nine in security.
Present: Harold Beck (Chair) The Revd. Canon Dahl
The Revds. G. Austin. Kenith David, R.W. Dray, P. Graham.
The Revd. Laurence Reading, by invitation.