Among his many books, both scholarly and fiction, the distinguished existential psychiatrist Irvin D. Yalom, MD, wrote The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, in which he described eleven therapeutic factors that promote personal growth for group members. Granted, a writers critique group isn’t a therapy group…or is it?
As I think about the ways I benefited from my five years as a member of New Providence Writers, Yalom’s therapeutic factors seem to hit the mark. In a two-part post, this week and next, I’ll describe how.
Here are the first six of Yalom’s eleven therapeutic factors and some observations on how they applied for me as a critique group member.
Universality. Writing can be lonely work. Sharing experiences and feelings with other writers was validating, encouraging and fun. Nobody gets the challenge of writing like other writers.
Altruism. It feels good to be able to help other writers with feedback and suggestions. Contributing to others’ development expanded my critical faculty and made me more confident about my own work.
Instillation of hope. It’s helpful to be in a writers group where people are at different levels of development. You learn how others have handled problems you are facing. And when members can point out each other’s progress, it’s inspiring.
Imparting information. I learned an astonishing amount of helpful stuff from the members of my group. They taught me about point-of-view, show-don’t tell, self-publishing, social media, writers conferences…and so much more.
Corrective recapitulation of the primary family experience. Well, okay. This one is a stretch. Even if members do act out childhood relationship patterns in critique groups, we’re not there to talk about it. But still, it can be instructive to pay attention to who pushes your buttons, and why, who you’re drawn to, etc. If you’re always the talker, it’s a chance to listen more. You get the picture.
Development of socializing techniques. In a critique group, I think this translates into learning skills for giving and receiving feedback about our work. It’s a gift to get feedback, as I often did, that makes you want to rush back to your computer and make changes.
Next week, the final five therapeutic factors.