Group therapy has evolved so much that the participant are learning how to help themselves and others. Self-help groups are one of the most popular forms of group therapy. One of the most known self-help groups is Alcoholics Anonymous also known as A.A. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international organization produced to assist alcoholics to recover and live alcohol free lives. It was founded by Bill Wilson and Robert Holbrook Smith in 1935. It is a program, complete with twelve steps and twelve traditions, that was put together to help addicts recover from their addictions and inspire them to remain sober. Robert Holbrook Smith was a doctor who struggled with an alcohol problem since his teens. He tried unsuccessfully for many years to overcome his addiction. His alcoholism had impacted his personal life and profession in a negative manner. He could not function properly without alcohol. In quest of finding help, he found in Bill Wilson. Bill Wilson was a part of the Akron Oxford Group that Smith joined in efforts to sober up. Bill Wilson saw how detrimental alcoholism affected his life and spoke to other alcoholics to try to help them. He helped Smith to completely abstain from alcohol and dedicated his life to assist alcoholics to remain their sobriety. The main idea to their approach was to recognize alcoholism as a disease and to realize that recovery could be maintained through working with others who were experiencing the same problem, alcoholism. I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting called A New Day.
This group was held in a shopping center where two sports bars are located. I thought that the location was not an ideal place to have an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There were about twenty-five people at each meeting that I attended. They were all very approachable and welcoming to me as an observer and everyone was very open about their situation and dependence on alcohol. Overall, the participants were of all ages, ethnicities, and there was an even amount of men and women. I noticed that the participants did not look like what I perceived someone who was suffering from alcohol dependence would look like. They looked like productive law-abiding citizens. I am embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me that these individuals could live positive lives while battling alcoholism. I assumed that they would be dysfunctional and incapable to participate in the meeting. Instead many of them looked healthy and were eager to engage in the group discussion. We began the meeting by introducing those who are new to AA or those who were visiting from a different group. If a person did not want to introduce themselves, they were not made to do so.
The meetings were very calm and were conducted in an orderly fashion. In a support group, the leader should create a safe environment where members can share (Jacobs et al., 2012 p. 43). I felt very comfortable being there and even though I was there as an observer, the group leader always encouraged me to ask questions or comments. Regardless of the topics that were discussed, no one was judgmental. I believe the positive energy I felt while in the group was because everyone truly cared about each other’s sobriety. There was one occasion in the group that I felt changed the momentum of the group because of a conflict. The group leader asked if there was someone who had a “burning desire” that they needed to talk about. A burning desire is an issue that a person is going through that may cause them to drink. It was a young man by the name of Jason who was been sober for about sixty days. He expressed how he was experiencing some trouble at work and at home. He received his quarterly evaluation from his supervisor and he thought that he was evaluated unfairly. When he brought this issue to his supervisor, his supervisor started to curse at him. Then when he went home, he found out that his wife was secretly spending their savings on gambling.
While he was sharing, another man interrupted him by saying, “let’s talk about something other than this crap!” Jason was very offended but before he could respond the group leader stepped in. Conflict will arise sometimes in group sessions, Forsyth states, it “seems to be an unavoidable consequence of life in groups” (Forsyth, 2014, p. 435). Our texts, workbook, and DVD all points out that as leaders, we do not have to be afraid of conflict and dealing with it. The group leader did an excellent job in dealing with the rude participate by encouraging Jason to continue his burning desire. The stage that I believe the group was in was the working stage. The middle, or working, stage is the stage of the group when the members focus on the purpose (Jacobs et. al., 2012). Throughout the meeting, group members discussed different topics and shared their personal experiences. They also realized why they were there and did not stray from the topic. Even though there were newcomers in the group, it was easy for them to participate because they could relate to what was being said by other members of the group.
The natural leader of the group was a woman by the name of Beverly. Beverly has been sober for thirty years as of September 5, 2014. She is a teacher by trade and she continues to attend meetings. During the meeting, she reflected on her journey on staying sober. She came from a family of alcoholics. Alcohol has caused a strain on her relationship with her son and she feels that her being an alcoholic added undue stress to his life. She said something that I thought was profound during her testimonial. She stated that in order for her to stay sober, she had to look for the lesson that God was trying to teach her. Instead of complaining about life’s sad state of affairs, learn what need to be learned, change what needs to be changed, and move on. What I learned from her testimonial was to view failure as an opportunity to reassess God’s will for your life. I do believe that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are effective ways to treat alcohol. Alcoholism is not something that can be treated alone. It is important to maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health while achieving sobriety. In each testimony given, everyone had a different way they initially made their approach to get better. Those who attend AA meeting realize that they have lost the capability to control their drinking. Because of this, they need the help and support of other alcoholics in A.A.
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Haynes, R. (2014). Groups in action: Evolution and challenges (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Forsyth, D. (2014). Group dynamics (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing. Jacobs, E. E., Masson, R. L., Harvill, R. L., & Schimmel, C. J. (2012). Group counseling: Strategies and skills (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
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