What the Heck is a Process Group?

With the newfound popularity of Christie Tate’s book, “Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life” conversations are happening about group therapy, individual therapy’s cool elusive cousin. Because I tend to facilitate process groups, I want to break down some components of what a process group looks like. To try and explain how you can use it. To try and help you understand the ways in which it is meaningful and challenging. To convince you that you should give it a go!

Comparing the Support Group and the Process Group

First, a brief comparison between support groups and process groups. Support groups are simply that, groups of support. A group of people come together with the intention of providing support, of hearing each other and validating each other’s pain and struggles. Sometimes support groups can get into the advice giving. Sometimes they might dig into a deeper understanding about a pattern, but typically a support group focuses on the “there-and-then” concept, not the “here-and-now.” There-and-then is talking about last week, last night, 10 years ago.


One component of a process group is the intention to try and stay focused on the here-and-now. How am I feeling in this group right now? Who am I feeling most connected to in this group? Why am I wanting to disconnect from this group of people? What do I want from this group of people? What am I needing/craving right now?

Some group member backstory and history is shared for context and understanding, but overall this new experience of being with our current experiences in a safe, supported way is unique. Many times, in life, we save those moments of awareness for when we’re alone or with one trusted person or maybe never. To pay attention to the here-and-now in a group of people can sometimes feel like a lot, but people who tend to join groups are willing to take that risk. Ideally, the group facilitator is working to foster a sense of safety so that we can feel comfortable enough to approach those experiences that feel intense. That’s what we’re after, are we not? To feel. To understand our feelings. To be able to find the words. To articulate ourselves. To understand what impacts us. To grasp who impacts us. To be seen.


Patterns and Connections

When we’re paying attention to what’s happening in the moment inside of ourselves in the context of a group, we naturally also start to think of the ways we have felt this way before. People who made us feel comforted. People who angered us. People in our lives who we were curious about, but never really knew. People we felt disconnected from and didn’t know why. Group is a microcosm of our world. What happens in group, happens in the world . . . this time we’re paying attention and learning.

Feeling and Voicing

As someone who has been in group myself, it can been an intense experience to feel your feelings and try to articulate them and in a group of people. You know what? That’s okay to struggle with it. That means you’re doing some new work. Group isn’t neat and orderly where everyone can express themselves clearly and succinctly. Sometimes, as a group member, we might struggle to know what we’re feeling. Sometimes we might struggle to know the word that captures it. All of this is okay. All of this is expected.

The Development of a Process Group

Just like any organism or living thing, there is a developmental growth of a group. Initially, and typically, everyone is anxious when the group is new and just warming up. Everyone is in anticipation about everyone else and what this experience might be like. After a while, assuming I’m doing my job as a group facilitator, there is connection, safety, a sense of looking forward to being together as a group. Later, as with any normal relationship, there can be tension, worry, anger, jealousy and other intense feelings. That’s where things get good! Seriously. Because unlike the outside world where we might push away, disconnect, or run from the discomfort, here we explore it with gentle curiosity. We name (or at least try to name) these difficult feelings. We work to allow them to have a voice, to explore them with openness and willingness, so that group members have a deeper understanding of themselves.

Choose Your Own Adventure:

To explore the current 2021 groups that I offer for people in Florida, click here to go to my Fees page, which includes links to flyers.

To chat with me more about whether group is right for you, call me for your free 15-minute consultation.

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Karin Lawson

2312 Wilton Drive, Suite 22
Wilton Manors, FL 33305