Goodbyes in group therapy often allow more awareness of deeper feelings than would be acknowledged in our usual everyday lives. It’s a good idea to actually begin Goodbyes 3 weeks ahead of leaving, so there is enough time over several sessions for a few goodbyes, in addition to the usual therapeutic work in a weekly session. When members postpone starting [i.e. avoid the strong feelings] in important goodbyes, there may not be enough time in their last session for complete goodbyes. When that happens I strongly recommend coming one more session than planned, rather than leaving this critical emotional business unfinished.
Complete goodbyes allow putting into words and exchanging all the 1] Appreciations, 2] Resentments and 3] Regrets connected with each other member and with their experiences together in Group, with the therapist and with the Group as a whole. Saying aloud in words the closeness and depth of feelings that develops over time in good group therapy allows closing each relationship in it’s own idiosyncratic way. This greatly strengthens every member’s willingness to experience and skillfully express the emotions necessary for connectedness and support in everyday life.
Often our parents couldn’t teach these intimacy skills because their parents didn’t have the skills; they couldn’t teach what they didn’t get from their parents. Lacking experience, safety and support, people usually avoid feeling and saying these things in everyday life because the depth of intimacy and vulnerability are so unfamiliar and scary. So most people have little or no experience really feeling & saying the heartfelt things that would be said and need to be said for genuine intimacy. It’s also true that all important goodbyes are connected through their similar feelings – love, sadness, anger and scare. Past important goodbyes, both said and especially unsaid, come naturally to unconscious awareness, further complicating and intensifying goodbyes in Group. Unfortunately our culture tends to avoid deeply experiencing and talking about important feelings in relationships. Practicing feeling and actually putting these very human emotions into words greatly facilitates deeper, more satisfying and sustaining intimacy in future relationships. Goodbyes are a kind of final therapeutic exercise, an opportunity to put into practice all the therapeutic experiences which have led to “graduating” from Group Therapy. Dr Bob