MULTIPLE-GROUP INTERACTION TECHNIQUE

V. George Mathew

Copyright Reserved, 1990

INTRODUCTION

This technique is maximally effective when the number of participants is around sixteen(16). The applicants should be made to fill-in a form giving particulars like age, sex, educational level, occupation and annual family income and also the specific purpose for participating in this interaction program. One course of the MGIT consists of about four consecutive sessions of about one hour duration each, when there are about 16 participants. The organizer should group the applicants into groups of about sixteen persons similar in personal characteristics and purpose for applying. It is often convenient to have the four sessions arranged one after the other on a single day. For some special purposes it might be permissible to have heterogeneous persons forming a group.

PRELIMINARIES

1. The Holistic Integration Technique

As it is desirable to get the participants in the proper mood, if the participants are willing, the first hour can be devoted to learning and practising the Holistic Integration Technique (Mathew, 1989). If the participants have already learned this, only about 20 minutes will be needed for this.

2. Information Giving Session

The organizer should give the necessary information relevant to the purpose of interaction. For example, if the aim is general personal growth, the talk can be about principles of personal growth. If the purpose is vocational guidance, the talk should include occupational information and points to be considered while choosing a lob. Personality tests and questionnaries can administered in this session for collecting the relevant information regarding the subjects for their use. The Self-Analysis Form (Mathew, 1990), IAS Rating Scale (Mathew, 1990) and ready-made talks for various counseling purposes prepared by the present author can be considered for use.

If the organizer is preparing his own talk, it is advisable to have a printed or at least a written copy of the same beforehand, even if it is not distributed. There should be a clear demarcation between facts (to be supported by stated evidence, citing source) and personal opinions of the organizer. Where there is no clear agreement among experts all points of view should be given. Personal views and suggestions of the organizer should be stated as such and should not presented in such a way as would be confused with established facts. This is to ensure accountability by the organizer. There can be a brief question-answer session at the end of the talk.

THE MULTIPLE-GROUP SESSIONS

The members of the group (ideally around 16 in number) are seated in a circle. The organizer gives the following instructions:

"The M-G Interaction Technique requires each participant to present any genuine purpose or personal problem before the group for discussion and at the same time he should make an honest and sincere attempt to help every body else in the group also. A request is made to every body to keep confidential what ever is revealed here. But I cannot guarantee confidentiality and each person has to express his secrets if any, at his own risk. You may choose to reveal more and more details concerning yourself in the successive groups depending on your own judgement. Through this procedure you also learn to function in a democratic fashion in a group, and speak, listen patiently, help and be helped. The effectiveness of the procedure depends more on the degree of the mutual support and facilitativeness rather than on the details revealed by each person regarding himself.

Each session is of about one hour duration. During the first session each person in turn gets about 1.5 minutes for self-disclosure (self-introduction and statement of purpose). If the person who speaks stops before the end of 1.5 minutes, others may ask questions to elicit more talk or probe to get more details. The organizer will ring a bell at the end of 1.5 minutes. During the next 1.5 minutes the others should give their interpretations, comments, solutions and suggestions. Each person has to be brief so as to give everybody an equal amount of time. Try to be genuine and authentic, at the same time non-argumentative, friendly, helpful and supportive. The organizer will ring a bell at the end of 1.5 minutes. Like this a total of 3 minutes (1.5 for self-disclosure and 1.5 for response by other participants) are allotted in turn for each participant. The first session comes to a close at the end of approximately 50 minutes. The organizer can offer his comments, if any. There can be a break of about 10 minutes after which the participants reassemble. Then the group is divided into two on the basis of similarity of expressed purpose. The organizer can suggest two broad areas or subdivisions and point to the two corners of the room where the two groups can meet in circles. The division is voluntary on the part of the subjects and the organizer can make a suggestion that it is best to have the two groups of same size. It takes some degree of tact and skill on the part of the organizer to achieve a nearly equal division without being too much coercive. The procedure is the same in this session also, except that each person has a total of 6 minutes (3 for self-disclosure and 3 for response by others). A member in the subgroup can keep time or if the groups are nearly of the same size, timing can be done for both the groups by the organizer himself. This session is over by one hour. Then the groups are again divided into two. In the third session each person gets a total of 12 minutes and there are four groups meeting in the four corners of the room. During the fourth session we have 8 pairs. There will be 24 minutes for each participant in a pair in turn. Participants often ask for more time for the continuation of a certain group. They may be told that there is no objection for any of the participants forming informal groups and meeting elsewhere (or even in the institution, which may be charged) outside the course time. They can apply and come again for another course of sessions. They may be encouraged to pay home visits or visit the work place of those who need such help for environmental manipulation. When at any point the division of a group is not based on similarity of purpose, the participants may be told that they can form subgroups along with persons whom they feel they can help most and who they think can help them.

The above schedule is only a guideline and changes will have to be made when the number of participants is too small or too large. There is no objection for the organizer also participating as a member provided he has a real problem or purpose in line with the participants. There can be special situations where time limits can be liberal. In the exhaustive type, each group is allowed to continue as long as the members desire.

 

All the participants may meet as a group in the end for a final evaluation and another session of Holistic Integration practice, if the members so desire, and if there is time. When the participants cannot come for a whole day, the different sessions in one course can be on different days. The Facilitativeness Rating Scale (Mathew. 1990) can be administered before the sessions (for sensitizing people regarding how to function during the practice) or afterwards (in order to assess the performance during the sessions).

Advantages of the M-G Interaction Technique

1. The emphasis is on growth and so there is less stigma attached to this practice for participants compared to counseling or psychotherapy.

2. It combines the positive aspects of individual counseling, group counseling, buddy system, peer counseling, self-help groups, non-directive & directive methods and so on. It at the same time eliminates the disadvantages of many methods like self-help groups as the whole procedure takes place under professional supervision.

3. It makes possible mobilization of group power, community resources though group involvement, brain storming for solutions and use of different groups.

4. Each person gets the benefit of helper effect as he functions in the role of both helper and helpee. He can see many kinds of models - coping models and mastery models.

5. Since the participants in one course are similar in socio-economic and other personal characteristics, and have similar problems, identification with the group, rapport formation, empathetic understanding and sympathetic and authentic responses become easy. Understanding oneself becomes easy in the light of listening to other people like himself with a similar aim.

6. It is naturalistic in the sense of mobilizing and using man's need for group acceptance, belongingness and support.

7. It is more integrative than analytic in the sense of there being no insistence or compulsion to trace the origins or history of problems.

8. It is common-sense based and does not base itself on any one-sided theory like Freud's theory or Maslow's theory.

9. It is holistic rather than piece-meal as it emphasizes total personality growth for solution of specific problems.

10. The organizer is not emotionally taxed and his success lies in being an effective catalyst, eliciting a facilitating group climate. The method creates optimum conditions for the development of a healing psychic field' where similar people with similar problems try to help each other.

11. It separates the information giving, management and organizational responsibilities of the organizer from facilitation which is the sum total of emotional, supportive and other processes which are generated in the group itself. This prevents any possible emotional drain and burnout on the part of the organizer who has to be repeatedly performing the organizing function.

It makes for an objective, detached and professional attitude, warm and sympathetic but not involved on the part of the organizer and these characteristics of the organizer improve by training and experience. The MGIT method leaves the authentic, natural and emotionally involved responses which seem to decrease by training, experience and multiple exposure, to the participants themselves. Both are important for the success of the technique.

12. There is less danger of the organizer falling into traps of temptations to exploit people in this scheme. There will

be less risk of his being accused of exploitation also.

13. The role of the organizer is well defined and unique. It is different from the role of doctor in the medical model or teacher in the school counseling model. There is less chance of the organizer having role conflicts. This technique is not a substitute for psychiatric attention or teaching. It only optimizes conditions for holistic growth through human interaction.

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