Encouragement of Affect

Learning awareness of internal feelings leads to learning to express, accept, and understand what such feelings mean. Two specific techniques available to this end include prompting the member (1) to acknowledge and accept painful affects, and (2) to use his or her affective experiences to bring about desired interpersonal changes. The group facilitates the first technique, providing an environment where group members can express their feelings. Group members may be unassertive and not feel anger when their rights are violated, or they may be unassertive and feel anger but lack the courage to express it directly. In such cases, it is important for the therapist to facilitate such affective expression.

The second technique involves teaching group members how to use affect in interpersonal relationships. The therapist can assist group members in identifying their feelings and in understanding the catalyst for such feelings. For instance, when a group member expresses frustration towards a coworker regarding a contentious interaction that day, working with the member to identify the specific feelings associated with that interaction and to understand what it was about the interaction that led to such feelings can be particularly useful. By learning to identify, understand, and acknowledge their feelings, members can learn to distinguish between real-life situations that are best managed by expressing affect and those best managed by suppressing affect.

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