The Group Monopolizer. A serious challenge in group therapy by Henrik Lund-Jacobsen, physician, Specialist in family medicine, Group analyst (iga/cph).
Tensions and conflicts between group members can usually be improved by the conjoint effort of the conductor and the group.
However with a monopolist in the group, it is the task of the conductor to interrupt the behavioral pattern, to avoid isolation and eventually scapegoating of the monopolist.
The Monopolist is the name of a group member, who speaks constantly, and accordingly inhibits work in the group. It was Yalom, who in 1970 introduced “The Monopolist”, as one of eight problem patients. Yalom describes the monopolist by three distinctive traits:
A behavior. The monopolist speaks constantly, responding to every statement in the group, and is very difficult to silence.
The behavior is pervasive, repeating itself meeting after meeting, irrespective of the focus of the group.
Working in the group is severely inhibited, partly because the monopolist is blocking free speech with words, partly because of the strong emotions elicited in group members and/or therapist.
Al three traits must be present. Yalom emphasizes, that it is important for the therapist to interrupt the behavioral pattern of the monopolist, before he or she is getting isolated in the group. After the initial intervention, the cause of monopolistic behavior is explored, and therapy is refocused.
Behr and Hearst introduces the concept of Monopolizing behavior into group analysis in their text book ”Group-analytic psychotherapy”, “a meeting of minds” from 2005. Behr and Hearst describes the monopolist by the same three traits as used by Yalom, but they exclude attention-seeking behavior from monopolizing behavior, mainly because attention-seeking behavior is more accessible to consciousness, and therefor can be more easily handled.
The need of attention, present in most group members, have been covered by Sigmund Karterud in his text book on group-analysis from 1999. He refers to Kohuts theori of narcissism and selfobject transference, and especially to the universal need of mirror transference. Karterud describes how, the mirror transference of a single group member, can take such proportions, that group work is impeded. Mirror transference lies within Yaloms broad definition of the monopolist, but outside the narrow definition of Behr and Hearst. The encouraging intervention proposed by Karterud is different from the intervention proposed by Yalom, emphasizing the importance of using the correct definition.
Monopolizing behavior can be provoked in certain group members in special situations. In this case you can talk about occasional monopolizing behavior. The word monopolist however, is linked to a profound characteristic of a person.
Irrespective of the cause of monopolizing behavior, the monopolist will be very susceptible to any attempt to restrict his or her behavior, and strong emotions may be released. If the conductor and/or group members have had time to build up resentment, a clash of emotions will take place. It is therefore important, how the conductor presents the intervention. The conductor has to avoid showing irritation or sounding forbidding when trying to bring the avalanche of words to a halt. This is not easy. Can the conductor identify with the needs of the monopolist, the negative emotions directed at the monopolist are much more easily controlled and concealed. By identification with the monopolist, also the conductor will be able to help the monopolist adjust and down regulate negative emotions resulting from the intervention, and help the group members understanding the position of the monopolist, eventually helping both sides to gain insight.
Ex, conductor to monopolist: Yes, it is important to get many views in this case, and you did make your contribution, - but I sense the group now need a pause for thought, in which everybody try to reflect on their own position in this matter.
Behr and Hearst 2005
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