What words do you use to describe your most difficult and resistant clients or groups? Sarcastic, demeaning, stubborn, obstinate, aggressive, uninvolved, defensive, sleepy, passive, etc. . . .you know which ones you have experienced and which are the hardest for you personally to deal with.
Most of us who run therapy groups with adolescents, substance abusers and/or mandated clients know all too well what a resistant group is like, how one or two strongly resistant members can waylay an entire group without careful intervention.
So what is resistance and where does it come from?
There are many good articles and books written on the topic from a variety of philosophical and treatment orientations. Psychodrama and its related fields of Sociometry and Sociodrama offer us valuable interventions for working with these most difficult groups and individuals.
Jacob Levy Moreno, MD, the founder and developer of Psychodrama and Sociometry, saw resistance in an individual or group as a lack of warm-up. Moreno believed an individual and/or group needs to warm up to change, as change often brings anxiety. He believed that resistance was primarily a lack of warm-up to a new role. Psychodrama and related action methods help people increase their spontaneity, which leads to a decrease in anxiety, a lessening of defensiveness and an openness to creativity and new ways of taking roles in our lives in a more adequate way. In addition, Moreno believed that attacking defenses related to people’s sense of survival was counter-productive and that instead we should look for the handles that would open doors, to help people find more adequate and creative ways of interacting with their worlds.
Robert Wubbolding, director of the Center for Reality Therapy in Cincinnati, states that “resistance is a client’s best attempt to meet their needs, especially their need for power or accomplishment. . . . Clients are sometimes resistant because the counselor is asking them to deal with an undesired agenda.” Wubbolding continues: “Resistance means we’re working on the wrong problem a problem that the client doesn’t care to work on.” In other words, they are not yet warmed up to the role of client, to the role of productive group member and/or to the process of change. Or they haven’t warmed up to work on the “problem” for which they are in treatment.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and other therapeutic methods encourage the importance of time spent on developing commitment to change. Psychodrama and Sociometry offer valuable ways to develop group cohesion around shared concerns, reduce anxiety within the individual and the group, address possibilities for change in a way that allows the locus of control to remain with the client and to provide opportunity to practice new skills.
Moreno believed that attacking defenses related to people’s sense of survival was counter-productive.
Rebecca Walters Founder and Director at Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute