Sensitivity training

Last updated
Sensitivity training
MeSH D012681

Sensitivity training is a form of training with the goal of making people more aware of their own goals as well as their prejudices, and more sensitive to others and to the dynamics of group interaction.

Contents

Origins

Kurt Lewin laid the foundations for sensitivity training in a series of workshops he organised in 1946, using his field theory as the conceptual background. [1] His work then contributed to the founding of the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine in 1947 – now part of the National Education Association – and to their development of training groups or T-groups.

Meanwhile, others had been influenced by the wartime need to help soldiers deal with traumatic stress disorders (then known as shell shock) to develop group therapy as a treatment technique. Carl Rogers in the fifties worked with what he called "small face-to-face groups – groups exhibiting industrial tensions, religious tensions, racial tensions, and therapy groups in which many personal tensions were present". [2] Along with others drawing on the ideas of the Human Potential Movement, he extended the group idea to broad population of 'normals' seeking personal growth, [3] which he called encounter groups, after the existential tradition of an authentic encounter between people. [4]

Other leaders in the development of encounter groups, including Will Schutz, worked at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Schutz himself stressed how "the terms 'T-group' (T for training) and 'sensitivity training group' are commonly used...synonymously with 'encounter group'". [5]

Focus and legacy

The focus of the sensitivity training group was on here-and-now interactions among the group members, and on their group experience; [6] and worked by following the energy of the emerging issues in the group, and dramatising them in verbal or non-verbal ways. [7] An atmosphere of openness and honesty was encouraged throughout; [8] and authenticity and self-actualization were prominent goals. [9]

The heyday of the encounter groups was the Sixties and Seventies: thereafter nonverbal interaction was increasingly discouraged, in favour of a more modest emphasis upon following group processes as they emerged. [10] The techniques of T-Groups and Encounter Groups have merged and divided and splintered into more specialized topics, arguably seeking to promote sensitivity to others perceived as different, and seemingly losing some of their original focus on self-exploration as a means to understanding and improving relations with others in a more general sense.[ citation needed ]

Research

Another legacy of sensitivity training, prompted in part by controversy, has been a new rigour in research methods for the study of group work, and of its outcomes. [11]

In media

21stC sensitivity training was mocked on TV in 2008 by the program Penn & Teller: Bullshit! . [12]

Criticisms

Criticisms of modern sensitivity training have repeatedly surfaced over the decades.

See also

Related Research Articles

Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual's well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills. Certain psychotherapies are considered evidence-based for treating some diagnosed mental disorders. Others have been criticized as pseudoscience.

Group psychotherapy or group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists treat a small group of clients together as a group. The term can legitimately refer to any form of psychotherapy when delivered in a group format, including Art therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy, but it is usually applied to psychodynamic group therapy where the group context and group process is explicitly utilised as a mechanism of change by developing, exploring and examining interpersonal relationships within the group.

Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective that rose to prominence in the mid-20th century in answer to the limitations of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory and B. F. Skinner's behaviorism. With its roots running from Socrates through the Renaissance, this approach emphasizes the individual's inherent drive toward self-actualization, the process of realizing and expressing one's own capabilities and creativity.

Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is a method of psychotherapy based strictly on Gestalt psychology. Its origins go back to the 1920s when Gestalt psychology founder Max Wertheimer, Kurt Lewin and their colleagues and students started to apply the holistic and systems theoretical Gestalt psychology concepts in the field of psychopathology and clinical psychology Many developments in psychotherapy in the following decades drew from these early beginnings, like e.g. group psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy, or Katathym-imaginative Psychotherapy. In Europe Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy in its own right has been initiated and formulated on this basis by the German Gestalt psychologist and psychotherapist Hans-Jürgen P. Walter and his colleagues in Germany and Austria. Walter, a student of Gestalt psychologist Friedrich Hoeth, was influenced to form the core of his theoretical concept on the basis of the work of Gestalt theorists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, Kurt Lewin, and Wolfgang Metzger. Walter’s first publication on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy came out in 1977 Gestalttheorie und Psychotherapie, which is now on its third edition (1994). The majority of the extensive literature on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy which has been published in the decades since then is in the German language. However, Walter's articles Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Gestalt-Theoretical Psychotherapy and What do Gestalt therapy and Gestalt theory have to do with each other? have been published also in English, as well as Gerhard Stemberger's more recent introductory article Diagnostics in Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.

Gestalt therapy is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy which emphasizes personal responsibility, and focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist–client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation.

Hakomi Method is a form of mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy developed by Ron Kurtz in the 1970s.

Existential psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience developed by the existential tradition of European philosophy. It focuses on concepts that are universally applicable to human existence including death, freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Instead of regarding human experiences such as anxiety, alienation and depression as implying the presence of mental illness, existential psychotherapy sees these experiences as natural stages in a normal process of human development and maturation. In facilitating this process of development and maturation, existential psychotherapy involves a philosophical exploration of an individual's experiences stressing the individual's freedom and responsibility to facilitate a higher degree of meaning and well-being in his or her life.

A T-group or training group is a form of group training where participants learn about themselves through their interaction with each other. They use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups.

Body psychotherapy, also called body-oriented psychotherapy, is an approach to psychotherapy which applies basic principles of somatic psychology. It originated in the work of Pierre Janet, Sigmund Freud and particularly Wilhelm Reich who developed it as vegetotherapy.

Individual psychology is the psychological method or science founded by the Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler. The English edition of Adler's work on the subject (1925) is a collection of papers and lectures given mainly in 1912–1914, and covers the whole range of human psychology in a single survey, intended to mirror the indivisible unity of the personality.

Irvin D. Yalom American psychotherapist and writer

Irvin David Yalom is an American existential psychiatrist who is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, as well as author of both fiction and nonfiction.

Mental health interventions for children vary with respect to the problem being addressed and to the age and other individual characteristics of the child. Although such interventions share some approaches, treatment methods can be quite different from each other.

Maintenance actions, historically referred to as socio-emotive actions, are those leadership actions taken by one or more members of a group to enhance the social relationships among group members. They tend to increase the overall effectiveness of the group and create a more positive atmosphere of interaction within the group.

Attack therapy is a type of psychotherapy evolved from ventilation therapy. It involves highly confrontational interaction between the patient and a therapist, or between the patient and fellow patients during group therapy, in which the patient may be verbally abused, denounced, or humiliated by the therapist or other members of the group.

History of psychotherapy

Although modern, scientific psychology is often dated at the 1879 opening of the first psychological clinic by Wilhelm Wundt, attempts to create methods for assessing and treating mental distress existed long before. The earliest recorded approaches were a combination of religious, magical and/or medical perspectives. Early examples of such psychological thinkers included Patañjali, Padmasambhava, Rhazes, Avicenna and Rumi.

The Palo Alto Mental Research Institute (MRI) is one of the founding institutions of brief and family therapy. Founded by Don D. Jackson and colleagues in 1958, MRI has been one of the leading sources of ideas in the area of interactional/systemic studies, psychotherapy, and family therapy.

Systems-centered therapy (SCT) is a particular form of group therapy based on the Theory of Living Human Systems developed by Yvonne Agazarian. The theory postulates that living human systems survive, develop, and transform from simple to complex through discriminating and integrating information. Corresponding to the small and rigorously defined set of concepts, SCT defines a set of methods, techniques and instruments. SCT practitioners use these with individuals, couples and groups to explore the experience of their differences and work with these to integrate them. Using the method of functional subgrouping, these living human systems increase their ability to see both sides of their issues and resolve them productively. The theory was first developed in Agazarian's 1997 book, Systems-Centered Therapy for Groups, and grew out of her earlier work in group psychotherapy under the influence of such figures as W. R. Bion and John Bowlby through the further input of the general systems theory of Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

Common factors theory, a theory guiding some research in clinical psychology and counseling psychology, proposes that different approaches and evidence-based practices in psychotherapy and counseling share common factors that account for much of the effectiveness of a psychological treatment. This is in contrast to the view that the effectiveness of psychotherapy and counseling is best explained by specific or unique factors that are suited to treatment of particular problems. According to one review, "it is widely recognized that the debate between common and unique factors in psychotherapy represents a false dichotomy, and these factors must be integrated to maximize effectiveness". In other words, "therapists must engage in specific forms of therapy for common factors to have a medium through which to operate". Common factors is one route by which psychotherapy researchers have attempted to integrate psychotherapies.

Existential counselling is a philosophical form of counselling which addresses the situation of a person's life and situates the person firmly within the predictable challenges of the human condition.

Dynamic deconstructive psychotherapy (DDP) is a manual-based treatment for borderline personality disorder.

References

  1. K. Back, Beyond Words(1987) p.97. Lewin's work also influenced the Tavistock Clinic, ibid p. 4
  2. C. Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961) p. 334
  3. R. Gregory ed., The Oxford Companion to the Mind (Oxford 1987) p.221
  4. I. Yalom, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (2005) p. 530
  5. William Schutz, Joy (Penguin 1973) p. 21
  6. I. Yalom, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (2005) p. 526
  7. J. Rowan, Ordinary Ecstasy (2013) p. 110-1
  8. William Schutz, Joy (Penguin 1973) p. 21
  9. R. Gregory ed., The Oxford Companion to the Mind (Oxford 1987) p.221
  10. S. Mailick, Learning Theory in the Practice of Management Development (1998) p. 41
  11. I. Yalom, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (2005) p. 525-6
  12. Sensitivity Training
  13. S. S. Fehr, Introduction to Group Therapies (2003) p. 24-5
  14. E. Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (Penguin 1976) p. 296
  15. Seduction of a Generation (1969)
  16. I. Yalom, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (2005) p. 536