The Emergence of Group Self-Energy

Hagit Zeev was recently featured in an article in The Foundation for Self Leadership’s monthly newsletter. You can view the original article here or read the full text below.

Having run Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and other mindfulness-oriented groups, as well as facilitating group therapy generally for the last 15 years, Hagit Zeev, MA, LMFT, has now turned her considerable skills to conducting IFS-based groups in her studio in California and online throughout the country. Come with us as we meet Hagit and gain some insight into what she sees as the advantages of a group-based approach when working with the IFS Model.

With a deep interest in spirituality and the role of Self-energy in healing, honed over years conducting a combination of Existential-Humanistic group work, Mindfulness, and IFS therapy, Hagit Zeev has developed a 10-week IFS course which introduces participants to the basics of IFS, ultimately providing a cradle for deep and abiding change. She acknowledges the important role of individual IFS therapy, noting that while it can take more time for protectors to trust the process, and sometimes longer to access the client’s Self, individual therapy works for almost everyone, can address most diagnoses, and provides a systematic approach to work through parts and unburdenings in a methodical way.

However, she reports with a laugh that many therapists and clients are apprehensive about group therapy because of the potential for conflict between participants, or between client and therapist. Interestingly, she shares that one of the main points of the group is development of a robust and cohesive bond between participants, and in that space, there arises the opportunity to allow conflict to come to the surface, be held, and then processed by group as whole. This dramatic intensification of Self-energy which is made manifest as a type of group Self-energy, is what Hagit harnesses in her group work to facilitate meaningful transformation.

“People are mirrors of each other,” observes Hagit, “so, when the group has been set up properly and someone goes deeply into the work approaching an exile, for instance, the other participants will tread the path of compassion and follow that participant into the deeper work.”

“People are mirrors of each other,” observes Hagit, “so, when the group has been set up properly and someone goes deeply into the work approaching an exile, for instance, the other participants will tread the path of compassion and follow that participant into the deeper work.” Hagit observes that when this happens and someone bares their soul and shows vulnerability, this engenders compassion in the group as a whole, which intensifies Self-energy even further, thus reinforcing the whole cycle.

She is meticulous in her screening of potential participants, ensuring that group members possess a baseline of compassion, curiosity, and the other Cs which will allow them to fully engage as well as offer support to others. She also investigates the participants’ history of trauma and previous experience with group therapy and, if they are not suitable for group work, will facilitate referral to an individual therapist for work which may act as a bridge to group work in the future. Hagit uses a potent combination of physical movement, psychodrama, and meditation—which she developed during her time working with Nitsan Joy Gordon, MA,—in conjunction with in-session demonstrations, to provide an ongoing invitation for participants to be self-aware, notice, and name their parts as they arise in the moment.

While Hagit acknowledges the advantages of group therapy in terms of providing clients with increased access to the Model, she shares a more nuanced perspective in terms of what else it offers. “There is something bigger than just reaching more people,” explains Hagit. “The notion of rugged individuality is a core value in the USA, but there is a hunger and thirst for group connection and group experience all across the USA—never more so than at the moment in the current political and pandemic environment, and group therapy can help meet this need.” In terms of relational trauma specifically, Hagit outlines that the provision of group therapy provides the opportunity for healing a family experience that has gone wrong, or as a reminder of a positive family experience with which the client has lost contact. “It’s about providing a much needed and ancient connection with others,” she summarizes.

“… but there is a hunger and thirst for group connection and group experience all across the USA— never more so than at the moment in the current political and pandemic environment, and group therapy can help meet this need.”

It is in this vein that Hagit notes that group therapy can lead to a harmonizing of frequencies and an emotional attunement that strengthens and reinforces the compassion and connection, weaving strands of consciousness that manifest as trust, hope, and belief in the possibility of a better world.

She explains that group therapists often have to hold a lot of energy, which can sometimes be difficult as it requires a lot of self-awareness and self-care. “Group work involves a lot of shadow work, which can be intense and tricky,” she says, “and the therapist needs to know how to hold that energy.” This can sometimes take its toll on the group therapist, but for Hagit, this is just a sign that she needs to engage in self-care or do some more of her own work. Her passion for applying IFS in psychotherapy groups is contagious. “I’m a big fan of the Model,” concludes Hagit, “and I see how it enhances truth and vulnerability in group work, which eventually creates a community of individuals who are open to themselves and others.”

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