|THERAPEUTICGROUP OF SEVERAL FAMILIES FAMILIES|
Some families are invited to participate in the meetings of a group of several other families [Bogacz & Wojnar 1995]. The meetings are held every fortnight, with the same participants. Each family included in the group has the same structure: it consists of the patient, who is a grown-up child, and the parents or one parent. Such a group then does not include families in which important personages, who create the family systems of meanings, are the grandparents, siblings or other relatives.
As compared with counselling provided to individual families, the potential of such a group is enriched with the experiences contained in the stories of other families participating in the meetings. Because of the uniform composition of the group, as mentioned above, some common motifs will appear in group discussions. They are connected with a wide range of topics referring to self-reliance and leaving the family home. But this issue, as well as other common issues emerging during the meetings of the group, has a different content and poses a different problem for each of the participating families. What is experienced as a problem by one family was perhaps successfully solved in another family that takes part in the meeting. And although the methods of solving the problem may be directly inapplicable in the situation of a different family - as each family has its own stories and its own, unique system of meanings - the fact that somebody else managed to overcome the difficulty and to solve the problem, that somebody tracked the same route before us brings comfort and hope that we can manage just as well.
The therapeutic group assists in problem solving, supplies alternative stories and provides inspiration in the search for new meanings that could be considered a solution to the problem. Moreover, it also is a source of invaluable support and comfort in various difficult times in the life of a family. These are the moments when acute symptoms occur in the patients (grown-up children), or when the patients are sometimes repeatedly hospitalised. What is important here is the sense that there are people to whom one can talk about it, who went through similar experiences. The meaning of the recurring symptoms can be looked for together, especially when a group member with acute symptoms is present at the meeting. In such a situation the remaining members of the group who have already had an experience of psychosis can be asked to share their experience of such a period; they can say how they evaluate this experience now, what was helpful for them then and what was felt to be extremely hard, how they understand the experience of the patient who now displays the symptoms, whether they think the person can be helped somehow, and who could help.
The meetings of a group of several families can provide support in the matters that are not directly connected with the psychiatric therapy of the children but are equally difficult for the family to cope with. The groups discussed such matters as, for instance, the cancer condition in one of the parents, the alcohol addiction of a psychotic patient's brother, the collapse of the marriage of a patient's sister and the parents' feelings about it. When we meet the families, we can observe how various motifs in one family story are intertwined and interrelated. This is why whatever happens to one family member influences all the other ones. Systems of meanings are always formed in the interpersonal space.