No Fine Print-Part Two: Sample Group Contract
by Marc G. Schramm, Psy.D., C.G.P.
Having talked about basic contractual issues, today we look at a sample group contract. Below is one I have used in a clinical mental health center setting, but is similar to my private-practice version. Comments about items in the contract are in brackets.
- The group member agrees to a minimum commitment of eight (8) group sessions. If the member terminates before fulfilling this commitment, he or she will be assessed the applicable missed-appointment charge for the unattended meetings. [Eight sessions seems the minimum to allow most people to bond with the group. But it is worth asking for more with populations who are not intimidated by longer commitments.]
- Regular weekly attendance is expected unless there is an emergency or serious illness. The group member will come on time, and remain throughout the meeting. If the group member is unable to attend, he or she is to call with a minimum of twenty-four (24) hours notice, and give the reason for their absence. If the reason is acceptable to the therapist, then the missed-appointment charge will not be assessed. The group member is asked to tell the group of planned absences at least one meeting ahead. This might include out-of-town vacation, which are excused absences if not too frequent. Temporary leaves of absence from group may be arranged with consent of the rest of group, and of the therapist(s), if circumstances warrant. Irregular attendance or frequent lateness may be grounds for dismissal from group. [In practice this clause serves less to help boot people out of group than to provide a framework for confronting and exploring attendance problems.]
- It is very important that things talked about in the group are not repeated outside. A member may want to discuss their experience with people close to them, but even in that case it is important not to use other members' names or specific information. Please respect the confidentiality of others as you would want them to respect yours.
- The group member is expected to work actively on the problems and issues that brought them to group. Feelings should be put into words, not action: Physical violence against self, others, or property, is not acceptable.
- Socializing between group members outside of group is discouraged, as it tends to lessen the effectiveness of group therapy. If there is contact between members outside of group, it is expected that this will be shared with the group at the next session to maintain openness.
- The group member agrees to go through a "graduation process" when he or she feels ready to end therapy. Graduation will be announced by the member with four (4) weeks notice, and he or she will remind group about their graduation each of the four weeks. This will give everyone a chance to say goodbye, and to work through this very important aspect of any meaningful relationship. If a member skips the graduation process, he or she is still liable for missed-appointment charges for those weeks. It is possible that missed-appointment charges will be assessed for more than four weeks if the therapist is not aware of the member's intention not to return. [As with attendance, the addition of the missed-fee consequence strongly improved compliance with the contract.]
- Group work is understood to involve reference not only to past history, but to the "here and now" of the group process.
- Just as in individual therapy, the group member accepts responsibility for regular payment, on at least a monthly basis. Neglect of this responsibility is an issue that effects group and will be treated as such. [I neglected this oft recommended contractual item due to discomfort with money issues, till I heard of a non-paying group-member who became angry at her therapist for broaching the subject in group. The member claimed her confidentiality had been violated.]
- The group member will trust the therapist's discretion concerning bringing up information in group known by the latter from outside group. In practice, however, the therapist will not do the member's work for him or her. It is the member who is responsible for bringing issues up in group. Confidentiality issues between therapist and the group otherwise remain the same as in individual therapy. [I added this item so as not to worry about keeping track of where I had heard which bit of information, or if the member remembered otherwise.]
I FULLY UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THIS CONTRACT FOR MY MEMBERSHIP IN THE GROUP.
Marc G. Schramm, Psy.D., is a Founding Certificant
of the National Registry of Certified Group Psychotherapists, a clinical member
of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and President of the Tri-State
Group Psychotherapy Society. He is currently Cincinnati-Dayton Regional Director
for Counseling Consultants, Inc. Call Dr. Schramm at 513-984-9222