A question from a reader last month was related to time management in facilitating expressive therapy groups.  To be honest, I am terrible at time management as a facilitator.  How long a group takes depends on multiple factors, including how chatty or reserved the group is, and how chatty or reserved you are!  Basically, I try to figure out how much time I have to fill, including any breaks, set up or clean up time, or introductions/ instructions at the beginning of the group and modify the activity to fill the right amount of time.

For example, for the Perfect Imperfections activity (Number 29 on the Group Activities page), I seem to remember having a group of about 10 and running out of time within one hour, since there would be many pauses and giggling, including when someone’s staring contest had to be restarted when someone laughed.  One way I would modify it if I had a big group is I would have each person write only three sentences instead of five and just do three rounds of the staring contests.  Or if I had more time, I might increase the time of the staring contests on the later rounds as the game got more challenging.  For example, for the last round, they have to stare at someone for 15 or 20 seconds without laughing instead of just 10. 

Generally, a good rule for me is to plan the activity on the short side, and aim to finish early, so that way if the activity runs longer, I don’t actually go overtime. Then have another short activity planned for the end of the group in case you actually finish early, such as leading an open discussion about what people noticed about the activity, such as what was easy or difficult about the activity, or how judgments about imperfections can be limiting.  Depending on the group, you might suggest a free-write on the sentences they wrote, or have them make an artistic image about their favorite sentence that expresses self-acceptance.

I am starting to suspect that finding ways of encouraging others to access meaningful material within a short time frame is one of the most challenging things about this work.  It is certainly an ongoing learning process for me.  Good luck! 


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