train of thought?
It is our responsibility to ensure that this does not happen; no new understanding or change is going to come from a rehash of the already known facts.
It is difficult to refocus someone’s train of thought when they are telling their story in therapy because in social situations it is a very rude behaviour. It can be especially challenging when the person speaking is distressed or passionate and paying you to be a compassionate listener.
However the capacity to intervene and redirect the conversation is an essential skill for any therapist and it is absolutely crucial for every group facilitator.
When new people join my therapy group I always start by asking them, have you been in any kind of group before? And if so what were the good things and the not so good things about it? I do this as a way of orientating to and validating people’s prior experience and as a starting point to create group culture guidelines. Invariably the most popular ‘not so good thing’ that comes out of this discussion is the irritation of taking part in a group with someone who dominated the conversation and a facilitator who could not contain them.
It is easier to redirect a conversation if you forewarn the person that you will do so from time to time and negotiate how this could best happen.
Let them know that it is your responsibility to make sure the therapy session moves into new terrain so that the therapy is serving their therapeutic aims.
Listen for the pauses in the rhythm of person’s speech and step in when a pause no matter how slight occurs.
If no pauses are happening at all you will need to speak gently over the person and ask their permission to interrupt, a stop hand signal like that of a cyclist can help.
I use phrases such as “May I ask you to pause (hold that) for a moment?” “May I ask you about something you said earlier that caught my attention” “would it be OK if I just recap on what I have heard so far to make sure I am understanding you correctly?” "I'm curious about..."
Sometimes this will not be direct enough to interrupt a determined speaker who continues to talk over your attempts to redirect the conversation, so from time to time you may have to be quite assertive with your tone of voice, speaking more loudly and dropping the pitch at the end of the sentence.
Before the end of the session be sure to check in with how it was for the person to have their conversation refocused, and ensure they understand your motivation for doing so.