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'Train group' - unique characteristics and stages

by Tamir Ashman

I   find that one of the most frustrating things in the professional world of the group leader,   are the processes of establishing and closing a group.  The establishment process is  a long process and in my opinion also tedious which includes  the _cc781905- 5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_Identifying the needs of the population, forming a unit The guideline,  defining intervention goals, advertising the group inside and outside the organization, recruiting and interviewing candidates, and creating initial motivation among group members to participate in the group.

The process of setting up a group takes on average about a month and a half of intensive work, and is not necessarily rewarding. In a train group, this description is not spared from the group's facilitators, but they experience it only once in the group's life - during the creation phase of the group's 'generation of founders'.  Then the energy will be invested in guiding itself and maintaining the train group.

In those cases  in which the short-term group facilitators managed to safely cross the pre-group stage, they approach the action itself, and then they face the crises of the second and third meeting, experiencing the  anxieties disintegrated and of the group , crises surrounding criticism and opposition, difficulties surrounding the processes of group cohesion, difficulties surrounding the dependence of the group members on the facilitators, and only towards the last meetings can they sit comfortably in the facilitator's chair, and see the group working in a more intimate environment, and experience the magic of group work.

Then, in one, admittedly expected,   prearranged meeting, the group disperses and disbands.

A skilled facilitator will turn the great frustration   of the end of the group into an act of processing the processes of separation and ending in the lives of the participants. And that's it, the short term group is over. Preparation work of one and a half to two months   and the guiding work of about three months have been completed.

A certain number of months of 'processing and recovery'   will pass with the facilitator and he will once again begin the path of agony of the   process of establishing a new group, and going on the group trip, and then again the disintegration of the group.

It is important to note that, in my opinion, there is significant activity in the short-term groups, and the group members and facilitators   are hired from this activity. But the attrition among the facilitators is great.

During the years that I have been handling groups, I find that change processes are processes that require a lot of time and patience, and in this sense, short-term groups are an effective tool mainly for flooding conflicts, and for creating internal motivation for change, but is this the right and effective tool for accompanying people in change processes?_cc781905-5cde -3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_
In my opinion, once we understand the price that we the facilitators and the group members pay for the short-term groups, and experience the frustrating experience of the process of setting up and dismantling a group, we will be able to understand on an emotional level the importance of the train group compared to the short-term groups.

The change that took place in the transition from short-term groups to the train group is partly cosmetic and partly psychological, and its simple essence is the creation of a group that has a birth date, but no end date, a bit perhaps similar to life itself, which begins at a certain point but the date of their death is unknown.

  The essential difference between train groups and short-term groups is   in the SETTING   of the group, which _cc78 1905-5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_a structural array that distinguishes between the inside and outside of the therapeutic group.  I find that the difficulty that discourages many guides to guide train groups is the commitment of the guides to long-term work in the group. (The fear of a Catholic wedding).


Stages in the development  train group:

In contrast to the short-term therapeutic groups, the theoretical models of linear development in the group   (written in detail in the article - Stages in the development of a short-term group) do not describe what happens in the train group, the staged developmental models will only describe what happens in the "generation of founders" phase .

To understand the movement and development of a train group one must recall the basic 'moods' of Bion and the 'communication network' of Fox. A train group has a kind of changing moods, it can be dependent,  aggressive, running away from observation, observant, emotional, rational, in control, out of control,  contracting A and expands, sometimes the movement of The train group reminds something of the 'Tango' dance where there are three steps forward and two steps away, but it has no clear stages of development.

I divide the development of the railway group into three basic stages: the pre-group stage, the 'generation of founders' stage   and the 'group maintenance' stage.


Pre-group phase - the phase of planning the group and setting it up

This step is similar to any process of setting up a group, but special emphasis and attention must be paid to the following steps:


1. Locating   the target population - one of the advantages of the train group is that it constitutes  a framework that exists regularly and does not change, which comes to respond to the needs and goals of the population that needs the group. In order for a train group  to be able  to exist  it must answer social problems with a wide population scope (men beat , drugs, unemployment, criminality, loneliness , etc.), in order to create a turnover of people in the group and for the ongoing maintenance of the train group.

 2. Careful planning of the SETTING. 

As a result of the transitory and changing nature of train groups, it is very important to consider in depth and awareness the structure of the group (times, the purpose of the group, rules of payment, minimum and maximum forum for holding a meeting and holding the group, arrangement of chairs, seating arrangement, employment contract, Secrecy, nature of the group, stations   entry and exit of members, entry and exit ceremonies of group members.)

The SETTING   in a train group is one of the most significant factors   in the planning phase of the group,   and maintaining it during the life of the group is critical to the existence of the group. The constancy of the structure of the train group   creates a kind of 'skin' that protects the group members   and the facilitators from the changes _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf5 8d_ the many _cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_passing the group.

3. Determining the group's goals and creating a 'group language' (basic intervention model).

The group's central goals and the group's basic intervention model are part of the group's spirit and structure. The goals of the group should be formulated in a purposeful and simple manner, the goals and objectives of the group are intended to provide a 'compass' for the group facilitators and participants on their long group path. Knowing the way (the goals of the group) drives the group leader to hold the group during periods of exit and entry of participants.

4. Interview and screening of participants. (Testing motivation to integrate into the group, mental state, proximity to traumatic events, visible and hidden reasons for integration into the group, level of commitment and ability to integrate into the group, verbal level and level of abstraction (basic ability to leave concrete language), ability to dialogue with an inner world This stage in train groups is no different from any other group selection process, but it is important to find in the 'generation of founders' a relatively 'strong' population that is aware of the need and the difficulty that led them to the group.


Founders' Generation Phase -   The opening of the group

Unlike the short term group, the railway group opens once in its life, this fact requires a special investment in the first round of group members. The foundations that will be created with the first members of the group, the 'pioneers',   will influence future generations.

It is usually desirable in the first cycle (12-16  meetings) to invest in group formation, in my opinion the recommended intervention model is a flexible guidance moving from a structured relational style to a style of a more dynamic nature. That is, guidance that ranges from full control of the supervisor during the group time at the beginning of the process, partial control of the group time later in the work, and later on the group to a guidance that does not have control over the group time, towards the end of the process with the generation of founders.  
The main goal of the work in the first cycle is the conceptualization and internalization of the group language, a language that will be passed on to future generations, another goal - a transition from a concrete language   to an abstract language (a transition from structured work to dynamic work).

The Founders Generation phase   ends at the first exit/entry station of the train group.


The advanced stage -  stage 'maintain the group'

This phase begins after the first parting station from some of the members of the 'Founding Generation' and receiving new members. This stage will actually accompany the group until its (unknown) end.

The role and responsibility of the facilitator in these stages is to strictly maintain the boundaries of the group (handling members who arrive inconsistently to the group, handling latecomers, creating waiting lists for new members, creating exit and entry stations, creating rituals in the group around the entrances and exits of group members.)

Special events   in the advanced stage:

Acceptance and departure ceremonies of members

One _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3B-136Bad5c58D_ its disadvantages _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3B-136Bad5c58D. Ved that, unlike short groups, the group members do not parting from the group, these are the group saying goodbye to its departing members.

To these transit stations, of entry and exit of participants, a great directive meaning should be attributed. I find it useful to create ceremonial elements during the entrance and exit of friends.

Farewell ceremony of a participant from the group - it is important to establish in the SETTING of the group relatively strict rules regarding the process of leaving a participant from the group. In my opinion, it is desirable at least a month before the member's departure to let the group know of his desire to leave the group, and it is important to allow the group to respond to the group member's decision. On the day of his departure, the group member is responsible for providing symbolic refreshments at the meeting and the last half hour of the meeting is designated for saying goodbye to the departing member. The farewell includes a 'farewell speech' by the participant   in which he summarizes the process he went through, closes open ends at the interpersonal level in the group, says goodbye to the facilitators, and in the second stage   of the 'ceremony' The group members and the moderator say goodbye to the departing member. 

At this stage it is important to encourage the group to give the departing member   a kind of way to tell him how he experienced in the group, points for improvement and retention, and at the end if possible raise a glass to the life of the departing member.

Part of the unique nature of the train group is that it can in many cases allow the participant who left   to return to the group and there is room in my opinion for the facilitators to remind the participants of this. - The 'open door' principle.


Induction ceremony for new members

The emotional experience of the group member joining a train group is an experience reminiscent of the experiences of a newcomer among an old population. The participant enters a group whose members have already undergone a process of formation in which group norms and culture were created. 

In the short-term group, the experience of being recorded in the group is a collective experience for all the participants (and also for the group facilitators) and in a certain and paradoxical sense the alienated experience of the beginning of the process   consolidates the short-term group, the frustration   and the anxiety arising from the alienation The interpersonal and the ambiguity is the only experience shared by all members of the group.

In the train group, the estranged experience is with the individual who is absorbed and the experiences of loneliness and lack of belonging. .

I find it important to carry out a movement of recognition in which the old members of the group tell about themselves     (the reasons and problems that led them to join the group, and about their personal experience of participating in the group). After this round, the incoming member should be allowed to tell about himself, and the reasons that led him to enter the group. I also encourage the old group members to be interested and ask questions of the incoming member.   It is important at this stage to protect the joining members   from the aggression and intrusiveness of the group.

I find a great therapeutic meaning from the entrance ceremonies of the new members, this group moment creates a kind of 'freezing' of the group image, and there is an opportunity to see the progress process of the old group members, in the way they build their personal narrative in the group. To Doge a man in a group of violent men in the first three months said in the group 'I am whole and I am here because of the court', after that he will say 'I am whole and I   here because of the court and mainly because of my wife' at the next entrance of friends to the group he He will say 'My name is Shlomo and I'm here because of my wife' but you will be able to see an embarrassed face when he says that and the old members of the group will laugh and then Shlomo will correct 'well and also because I have a problem with violence' at the next meeting of friends Shlomo will already say that he is in the group because of his problem with violence. This small ceremony of course shows a transition from an external control focus to an internal control focus, and without this transition in the construction of the personal narrative the process of change will not begin.

In the   phase, the entry of new members into the group can be seen as an inhibiting factor or as a factor that prevents group intimacy from forming. But I find that the entry of the members and the reunification of the group reinforces   parameters of faith and hope in the therapeutic power of the group and the ability of group members to go through processes of change.


Ceremonies marking holidays, birthdays, and special events

One of the advantages of the train group is the extended time that the group accompanies its members. I find great importance in connecting the members of the group with events that occur in life outside the group. I often find group members detached and isolated   from these events. That's why I find it significant to celebrate birthdays in the group, to encourage a member of the group to symbolically celebrate his birthday, to note and talk about the meaning of holidays and festivals, to toast this year and Passover, etc.

Many group members are deprived of social systems in life outside and the experience of disconnection and lack of belonging is prominent in their lives and from this point it is important to note these events and give meaning to these events.


Refreshing the intervention model taught with the admission of new members to the group

The first meetings in the 'generation of founders' phase   went through understandable to semi-understandable group work, and they learned almost as in a study course   material and knowledge about the problems that characterize the members of the group. When a new member is absorbed in the advanced stage,   the group is no longer in the structured place,   but it is important that the new member understands the group language and the theoretical models of group intervention.

When more than two new members are accepted into the group, there is room to go back and study the intervention model but in a different way. It is important to explain to the veterans   that for them this will be another round of deepening the model   and it is equally important to empower the veteran members and allow them to take an active part _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-13 6bad5cf58d_Instructing the model for the new members . Usually  after the absorption of new members the second half of each meeting  is dedicated to relearning the model, but the form of learning will be less rigid, _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b -136bad5cf58d_and be Learning theoretically any other group agenda will allow this.


 In conclusion, the train group allows   its members to integrate into treatment for extended periods. It allows flexibility in the entry and exit of members.   During her long journey   many friends enter and leave her who need a group for a certain period of time in their lives.

And perhaps most importantly to me, the railway group becomes a therapeutic institution rooted within the organization, which meets a real social need, and at the same time provides an answer to a large number of people.  And as a desirable byproduct, the train group leaders work for an extended period of time with  the group, thus becoming experts in knowledge and intervention in the treatment of the problem _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-13 6bad5cf58d_a certain social within the organization, and in the community the whole

Format for bibliographic citation (APA):

Ashman, T. (2006).Key issues in working with a 'train group' . Nadela on 10/24/2006, from the website  articles -

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