The Group Oath in the Age of the Internet

By Sue Daniel

“The Group’s Oath” by J. L. Moreno was published in Group Psychotherapy, Vol. V111, December, No. 4, 1955, a quarterly journal of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

GROUP OATH* This is the group oath to therapeutic science and its disciples. Just as we trust the physician in individual treatment, we should trust each other. Whatever happens in the course of a session of group psychotherapy and psychodrama, we should not keep anything secret. We should divulge freely whatever we think, perceive or feel for each other; we should act out the fears and hopes we have in common and purge ourselves of them. But like the physician who is bound by the Hyppocratic oath, we are bound as participants in this group, not to reveal to outsiders the confidences of other patients. Like the physician, each of us is entrusted to protect the welfare of every other patient in the group.”

______________________________________________________________________________ “* Group psychotherapists and psychodramatists frequently feel the need to convey to the group members of their groups, in the beginning or in the course of the sessions, what responsibility is involved for them during the process of treatment. The suggested group oath is not to be taken as a ritual, word for word, or as a dogma, but tries to convey the spirit of such an oath which may be expressed or silent, or tacitly accepted by all. JLM

Following on from this he wrote “Code of Ethics of Group Psychotherapists”, which was published in the same journal, Vol. X, No.2, June, 1957. This article expounded upon the manifestation of the Group Oath.

TODAY

We are faced with conducting our individual and group sessions online, on the internet, via various platforms including Facebook, Zoom and Skype. It behooves us to take care as group leaders and individual psychodrama practitioners and trainees, to take care of confidentiality in our e-sessions. Moreno, writing in 1957 (reference above), mentioned that the communication of mass media such as television, to group psychotherapy and psychodrama, “may produce “leaks” of the confidence pledge difficult to control.” p.144. He posed the question “How can we utilize them without taking risks?”

This question is doubly significant today, due to the coronavirus incursion, and the fact that the world over most of us are choosing electronic communication for teaching, therapy and medical consultations – Telehealth*.

* The Australian Department of Health define Telehealth as “The International Organisation for Standardisation defines Telehealth as the ‘use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance’, while drawing a distinction between this and telemedicine, which is defined as the ‘use of advanced telecommunication technologies to exchange health information and provide health care services across geographic, time, social and cultural barriers’. To Digress for a moment: I am struck by the concept of ‘Telehealth’, and part of its definition as being “over a distance”. The definition of ‘Tele’ in psychodrama was derived from the Greek, meaning “far” or ‘”distant” (Moreno, 1946, Psychodrama, First Volume, Beacon House, New York, p.84)

ENSURING SAFETY IN OUR GROUPS AND SESSIONS One way we can create safety in our groups and sessions, in any of our e-communications is to take care in specific moments of personal discovery or revelation, to ensure each and everyone in our groups, of the spirit of confidentiality, and to make sure we include the sharing phase in our sessions. Sharing being, ‘to give the love back to the protagonist or a group, as they have shared themselves and given us their love in so doing’. It’s not a time for criticism, advice giving or analysis. Moreno’s pledge lives on, ensuring safety not restraint. Questions may arise, or may have already arisen, given the range of webinars, videos and even group photos being shared on various platforms. If you have questions reach out to your trainers and supervisors and keep the discussion on this alive. I wrote an article related to social networks and communication, and the power of the “click”. If you would like a copy for education purposes please contact me through the PIM website: ‘The social collective and the social and cultural atom in the age of the social network’, Springer, 2016.