Now Damon Albarn and the rest of the group are walking around, singing their little hearts out, and it’s making me think about therapeutic groups here. And the fact that they can degenerate into a blur.
See what I did there?
What you need to understand about groups here is that they are designed to fill time. It’s not a therapeutic programme as such. This EDU is a place designed for re-feeding people who can’t think straight due to malnutrition. It’s not really the right time for psychological input but, at the same time, you don’t want to leave people high and dry while they go through massive stress and change.
I believe there’s a role for some therapy during the re-feeding process – to explain what’s going on in your head and to give a taste of what’s available when you get to the point of being able to engage in therapy.
Instead, we have a round of discussion-based groups and activities to break up the eating and sitting. I don’t find them massively helpful, but I am a picky bugger and I am used to ‘proper’ one-to-one therapy.
Anyway, here’s a taste of our week…
Monday kicks off with community meeting, where we air grievances and talk through housekeeping details like the fact the showers are not working properly AGAIN. It’s pretty pointless, because nothing ever changes. And it can get heated because the powers that be thought it was a smart idea to do it shortly after we’ve all been weighed and are as tense as hell.
Then, in the afternoon, we have a discussion group with the food psych (MY food psych). It’s our only contact with him all week apart from ward round on a Tuesday. I think it’s an opportunity for him to take the temperature of the ward, to feed (ha ha) into his ward round deliberations. He says it’s a chance for us to discuss issues that have cropped up for people during the week. We have a tin that we can put anonymous questions and issues into. I like this group. It’s thought provoking and has often revolved around issues I want to talk through, because I like to use this resource and come up with questions.
Tuesday is ward round day – and I mean day. It takes from 10am to often gone 6pm for the food psych and a member of the senior nursing team to review each patient. We have creative group in the morning, where you can do anything you fancy, just all together in the art room. I usually write or fold cranes.
Later, at four, we have menu group, where we all fill in our menu choices for two weeks ahead. I find this easy and just tick options, and hand it in. Others agonise over choices for EVER. Even though, over the week, the calorie content of the menu works out the same.
Wednesday is dreaded therapeutic writing group all morning (with a break for snack). I think you all know my opinions on that by now, so we’ll move on to goal setting, later at four. Here, we fill in a sheet that looks at what’s gone well and not so well over the week, and we set ourselves goals for the next week. We share what we’ve written, and give each other feedback. I find this accountability helpful, and always look back at the previous week’s sheet to see what’s changed and how I’ve done in achieving my goals.
Thursday is a bit of Russian roulette: sometimes there’s nutrition group, sometimes there isn’t. At the moment we’re between dieticians, so the head of dietetics for the Trust is covering and, when he can’t make it, the OT is supposed to cover – but she’s as flakey as dandruff, so we never know. Nutrition group can be thought provoking and I generally find it useful – as long as it’s not derailed into lengthy and circular discussions about what’s on the snack list.
In the afternoon we have a group with the other consultant here at the EDU. She mainly looks after the community side of the programme but, once a week she comes to talk to us. The group is about connections, and involves us preparing things in advance to share, and then the consultant and a psychologist turn their chairs towards each other and ‘reflect’ out loud on what they’ve heard. It’s weird and freaky to hear yourself discussed in the third person WHEN YOU’RE SITTING IN THE ROOM. But it can be interesting, and it’s not one I try and duck out of.
Friday kicks off with emotional regulation group, when various psychologists take it in turns to run a small block of sessions. So it’s variable. I’m really interested in finding out and discussing strategies for during and after crisis; less than wild about smelling things and exploring ways to use senses to ground yourself.
Friday afternoon and all weekend are free from groups. Although over the weekend we often have access to the art room to do things like tie dye and papier-mâché, which help to pass the time if you’re not going out or having visitors.
In between all these groups there’s obviously all the structured eating, as well as one-to-one key work sessions with your key worker team, where you work on individual issues. Plus there are all the “can we have a brief chat?” conversations that can come out of the blue. Normally when you’ve just got into something else. And you can always seek out a member of staff to talk to – if you can find one you feel able to confide in.
So, who’s up for a group to discuss how we feel about groups?