Why I Video Record Group Therapy Sessions

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Scottish poet Robert “Bobbie” Burns,  1786

People don’t usually see and hear themselves, so we have very limited awareness of how other adults actually experience us, how we come across to the outside world.  We really need to know how we’re experienced by other people, becoming familiar with the good parts, and changing whatever we didn’t know about that’s interfering with good relationships.  Seeing ourselves in the videos of weekly therapy group gives us the necessary data to consider, and when we see ourselves from the outside, we often realize for the first time, important things that we want to change.

Watching those videos when we miss a Group session also lets us see and hear what happened that we’d otherwise miss.  That vital information keeps us emotionally connected with the other members, a major goal in group therapy.  Without seeing the videos, we’d miss some very important happenings, like powerful emotional experiences, or hearing someone’s personal history.  At the beginning of the next session, telling the Group what we noticed brings our experience into the group, which greatly strengthens closeness, forwarding every members’ therapy.

The following list describes many uses and benefits of watching video recordings of a member’s group therapy sessions, whether present or absent.

1. A sense of immediacy and/or intimacy, especially from viewing a missed session.
2. Magnification of all or part of a person during social interaction (face, hand, fingers, foot, etc.).
3. An opportunity to simultaneously see [and remember experiencing] oneself as one is actually coming through to others, verbally and nonverbally during social interaction.
4. A second chance, or repeated chances to experience oneself as one was coming through verbally and nonverbally, alone and/or in interaction with others just previously or some time previously– that is, minutes, hours, days, weeks ago.
5. An opportunity to experience more objectively one’s self, group and therapist with an expanded observing ego, while not feeling the pressure of having to produce verbally during a psychotherapeutic session. There is a further opportunity for being with the self one is experiencing.
6. An opportunity to witness, experience and react to how persons believe they are coming through to others, and to how consonant or dissonant their inside picture is with the reality. Clients are confronted with how much of themselves has been observable and/or knowable by others, including aspects:
a. which they thought they were successfully concealing and keeping secret and unknown to others, and
b. which were unknown to themselves, but known and being reacted to by others.
The information revealed at such moments relate primarily to attitudes expressed through nonverbal behaviors, as well as through tone, pitch, rhythm, and other aspects of speech [analogical marking], which may be in harmony with, contradictory to, or otherwise implying something different from the actual words.

7. An opportunity to witness and become aware of our method of communication, i.e., how we telegraph to others messages about how they are to receive and react to our communications – if they are culturally at home with us, they will know whether to take our communication as playful, teasing or straight.

8. An opportunity to witness and experience how much of their mothers, fathers, and other significant figures they have incorporated into themselves during their childhood.
9. An opportunity to become aware of:
a. How much of what we communicate is done to express, and how much is done to impress in the service of our neurotic pride systems or idealized image of ourselves;
b. How much of what we communicate is done to prove we really are what we believe we are or should be, and how much is communicated to improve and express the persons we really are;
c. How much of our communication is consciously intended, and how much comes  without our conscious intent, from preconscious and/or unconscious sources.

10. Understanding the actual impact of words and interactions by noticing what followed.
11. Free associations: anatomical, psychological and emotional connections to incorporated and or repressed aspects of significant others in one’s self, and to aspects of self which were not yet in awareness.

12. A chance to capture through the pause or freeze-frame potential of the video playback machine a look, a movement, a behavior which is characteristic, repetitive and has clear-cut impact on other persons, but which has previously been elusive or unknown to the videotaped person experiencing the feedback. Such minute looks are highly significant in their capacity to serve as regulatory signals in family systems and relationships.
13. An opportunity to repeat and repeat observations of the verbal and nonverbal context of human behaviors, separately and together [either the sound or picture can be turned off independently], to reinforce experiencing, understanding and integration of new information.

Heavily edited, from M. Berger’s – Videotape Techniques in Psychiatric Training and Treatment, 1978.     DrBobDick.com  (919) 215-4703

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