This section of the site was intended to be, first and foremost, a history of how it came about and what happens in an ‘encounter’ group. I quickly abandoned the idea of a formal text, realizing that no matter how much I searched in the history of the Person-Centered Approach for information about ‘encounter’ groups, most of the writings are about personal experiences, how one lived the interaction with the other and the meaning. meeting with three entities: with ourselves, with the other, but especially with the group.
From the beginning of these meetings, an attempt was made to answer a few questions: how do you live or what does it mean to be yourself and how are others when they are themselves? The more general these questions are, the more specific they turn out to be once the group meets and begins its process.
Stanley Kramer described the group in “Journey into self” as “a lot of people sitting in a circle and exchanging truths.” Carl R. Rogers (founder of the Person-Centered Approach) mentioned in his book “On Encounter Groups” about how skilled we are at keeping the secret of our loneliness and how these groups open a door to discovering the secret of being together.
In the 70’s the group ‘encounter’ was considered one of the most important social inventions of the century, laying the foundations for such meetings since then, which now celebrate decades of existence and countless editions. Internationally, there are several such traditional events, attended by dozens of people, even hundreds. Some of them pursue this, this cross-cultural experience, being organized each time on a different continent, in a different country, by a different team. Others, on the contrary, work in small numbers, which gives the group more space and time, more intimacy with itself in order to later create paths with two meanings: what I let receive from the other, what and how much I offer from me , but especially what new understandings about me in interaction with the world I let be revealed and discovered while others look at me.
Features of an ‘encounter’ group
One of the most important aspects of such a group is the challenge for each participant to adapt to change. For a while we stop being alone, the relationship with the other becomes intense and significant enough to the point where new understandings about who we are, how we are, how we approach relationships with those close to the surface.
It is a type of group that has not been defined concisely and that has not been promoted over time other than through a significant encounter with the other, but it is a type of group that has been written about in terms of relationship, process, change. personal and relational.
Carl Rogers in his writings approached the group from the perspective of the one who facilitated the group process trying to shed light on both those attitudes that helped the group process, but also those that rather confused or blocked it. In his paper “My Way of Facilitating a Group” he emphasizes the difference between facilitating and directing a group, while describing both the process of each member of the group and the group in terms of ‘developing their own potential’:
“the group is like an organism, having a sense of its own direction even though it could not define that direction intellectually. A group recognizes unhealthy elements in its process, focuses on them, clears tem up or eliminates them and moves on toward becoming a healthier group. I have seen the wisdom of the organism exhibited at every level from cell to group”.