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An evaluation of the effect of a directed Gestalt group programme on an entire year group of 8-year-old children?s impulsivity and empathic behaviours.

By January 1, 2010No Comments

This study was designed in response to the researcher’s observation and growing concern that many children struggle to recognise and respond appropriately to their feelings, which often leads to problems managing difficult feelings, forming and sustaining relationships, managing conflict and focusing on academic tasks. The design of the study was informed by a number of discrete but related schools of thought. Gestalt Theory, Play and Group Therapy; Group Processes and Dynamics; Neurology; the Socio-Political climate and Interpersonal Perspectives of Development and Learning were carefully interweaved to produce an experiential, phenomenological Gestalt six-week programme. This was offered to an entire year-group of 8-year-old children who had been identified by their Head Teacher as in need of such an intervention, by sending information and consent forms to both them and their parents and offering open meetings in school to ask about the study. 50% of the year group attended six 75-minute sessions, in groups of six children. Session activities included: perspective-taking, role-play, art-making and group discussions on socio-emotional subjects and situations. Children’s empathic and impulsive behaviours, along with a battery of personal and interpersonal faculties, were tracked by an Independent Observer in each session. The children’s Class Teacher scored their empathic, impulsive and group social skills at the start, middle and end of the study. At the same intervals, children individually drew a Kinetic-House-Tree-Person picture. Results revealed pronounced improvements across all faculties measured, especially empathy and impulsivity, self-awareness and social/interpersonal ability in groups. Descriptive statistical methods were employed to examine the results more closely. The strength of the results has resulted in an invitation to extend the programme into other schools.