In group work, pressure on the individuals involved is inevitable. However, there are distinctions between therapeutic pressure as well as undue pressure. Therapeutic pressure results in adaptive anxiety. The mere presence of others will put pressure on each of the individuals in the group to behave in a certain way during each session. This is acceptable. Pressure is said to be therapeutic when it contributes to that individual’s resolution of what issues he or she wanted to be resolved.
However, undue pressure enters a group session when the individual is no longer able to utilize his or her right to refuse certain aspects of the therapy or to stop at particular points of a task designated to him or her. (Corey et al, 2007) There might not be outright revocation of this right but rather a subtle coercion as a result of undue pressure on the said participant of the group therapy. Thus ethical boundaries are overlooked and the situation is no longer adaptive to the individual’s welfare and needs.
In the case study (Herlihy & Corey, 2006), Ryan was unethical in the way he had two members of the group explore their feelings through role playing. Personally, I believe he was overstepping his boundaries as the group leader. Also, he was acting without thinking of what would be best for both individuals. I found it highly questionable that he asked Kevin, one of the participants, to role play by telling his intimate feelings about a member of the opposite sex.
This task of disclosure without prior consent was a clear example, in my point of view, of how a group leader can sometimes abuse his moral ascendancy over the other members of the group. Also, the added task of having Kevin ask Linda on a real date and then telling him personal opinions about his girlfriend was very much out of line. As a group leader he should have acted more appropriately and thought of other tasks that would have been less demanding and less coercive in nature. The group leader, in this case, was most certainly acting unethically.
He was asking Kevin to change by having him ask Linda out and by telling him speculations about his girlfriend. Kevin should have the decision on who he wants to ask out and on what he wants to conclude about his girlfriend. Especially with the task of the assignment, Kevin should have first been informed of the details before he was asked to agree to it. However, undue pressure made Kevin agree immediately and might thus have caused damage or trauma which the group leader was supposed to protect him from.
Having Kevin confess his fantasies about Linda in front of the group may have also caused Linda trauma and psychological harm. Ryan should have considered what things Linda would find complimentary. Thrusting her in a situation might have caused her discomfort. Ryan’s assessment only of how Kevin felt afterwards was inconsiderate of the other member of the group involved in the activity, Linda. (Herlihy & Corey, 2006).
If I were the co leader of the group, I would have intervened when Ryan asked Kevin to role play with Linda and again when he gave him an assignment. As a leader, one should always take into consideration the effect one has on the others in the group. The pressure one puts with such requests as role playing and assignments, should always be considered. Also, I would remind Ryan to consider the diversity of those in the group and to consider first that what he thinks would help Linda’s self-image might not be what she would consider to be helpful herself.
I would most certainly have intervened and reminded Ryan that he was responsible for the psychological well-being and the lessening of the discomfort of these individuals as they exposed themselves to the activities of the group. They should not be placed in inappropriate positions wherein they are forced to divulge more about themselves than they are willing to. The members must always be clearly shown that they have an option to refuse or to cut off any activity they have been asked to perform. (Corey et al, 2007)