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Talk as an Avoidance

Talk as an Avoidance

Here are some of the people who use Talk as an Avoidance that you may encounter in group work:

Mr. Personal: This is a person who takes up slack with a long and sometimes highly personal discussion of himself during a question. While with some members this may represent an approach to seeking group help, it may be at best a rather indirect way of indicating a need. Even when an individual is revealing what appears to be significant aspects of self, he may either consciously or unconsciously be trying to control the group’s potential impact on him. As long as an individual is speaking, he holds the group’s attention, prevents interaction, and minimizes the probability of being confronted by the therapist. Since the discussion is personal, he runs little risk of evoking negative feelings from others. Since he may be speaking with considerable affect, he can probably elicit feelings of support, advice, and positive feelings from others. In a way, this behaviour is similar to that of a child who fears some unpleasant task (going to school), so he discusses a hurt or illness designed to evoke sympathy from his parents and siblings. The child, in a sense, is setting up the adult for the desired emotional response.

Mr. Topic: The trainer will also encounter other individuals who employ talk as an avoidance-resistance device. Mr. Topic, or the individual who searches for topics to discuss. He is characterized by such non-sequitur statements as: “What about the war?”, or “Do you think the President is doing a good job?” When such topics are brought up, the individual can avoid personal interaction.

Mr. Co–Trainer: This person is a frequent member to some groups. This is the individual who tends to follow the therapist’s cues, repeat his interpretations, performs a host of other group chores, and often wants to teach the group, too. While it is desirable as the group develops to share tasks, Mr. Co-trainer uses leadership techniques to minimize his involvement in the training process. Mr. Co-trainer also may appear as “Junior Shaun Brookhouse” or King Solomon.

Others: Other group members avoid personal involvement through joking, acting as a protector of others, and functioning as housekeeper—the individual who goes after missing chairs, opens windows, etc.

The therapist must be alert to these avoidance techniques, and the goals of such behaviour. The therapist’s role with the talking avoided could be one of personally helping the individual understand why his overt behaviour is really in opposition to his therapeutic outcome. This person probably desires feedback and help, and he wants to become liked and accepted by the rest of the group.

When rapport has developed and group cohesion exists, the therapist might also note that, “Some of us seem to want to talk all the time. Does anyone else have any questions?”


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