Whether from an educational or therapeutic point of view, effective learning occurs in an environment where what is learned can be put into practice and the individual can receive feedback and reinforcement. Learning experientially in groups is particularly effective in encouraging and supporting individuals who are developing new approaches and behaviors in their lives.
An essential component for learning is a person’s conscious decision to achieve some particular goal(s) during the experience. By using a goal setting process and developing individual personal action plans, group members help to define what they want to achieve, how they are going to accomplish this, and what evidence will serve to demonstrate that they have achieved a specific goal.
The use of the Full Value Contract is a very effective device to stimulate learning and help people achieve their goals while participating in a group. Basically, this contract is a statement (written or oral) made by each group member concerning what s/he is willing to do during the group experience, and possibly extending outside the group sessions. The purpose of this contract is to facilitate individuals to define what areas they want to explore, what behaviors they want to change and what skills they want to learn. Using the Full Value Contract is a way of stimulating each group member to think about the group and about their own roles and behaviors in it. In essence, the Full Value Contract is a group contract insofar as it covers some of the general rules of operation, and presumes specific expectations for all group members and the leaders.
The FULL VALUE CONTRACT asks for the following commitments:
- An agreement among the group members to work together to achieve both the individual goals and the group goals that have been developed and shared during the group experience.
- An agreement to adhere to certain safety and group behavior guidelines. These guidelines must be discussed and agreed upon by the group or they will be meaningless. This is an important part of the process for groups to engage in, for no longer are the “rules” coming from only the leaders in charge, but from one’s own peers.
- An agreement to give and receive honest feedback. Each person agrees to be confronted when their behavior does not match the behavior they identified as a goal. Similarly, each person agrees to confront others when their behavior does not match what they identified as goals. The word “confront” used here has an intended meaning that one cares enough about self and others to communicate and provide feedback in a fashion that will be productive and facilitate growth. Inherent in this process is:
- the belief that every group member has value.
- by virtue of having value every member has both a right and a responsibility to give and receive open and honest feedback. Withholding feedback or refusing feedback may be viewed as an example of devaluing one’s own self and/or others.
- An agreement to increase one’s own awareness to when we are devaluing or discounting ourselves or others; and to make a direct and conscious effort to confront and work toward changing this behavior. Again, the use of appropriate confrontation is an essential ingredient in using the full value contract. However, group members must learn how to confront self and others in an open and responsible manner. Essentially, confrontation is a challenge to one’s own self or from another to look at one’s own behavior, or to look at the discrepancy between what one says and what one does, or to view the degree to which we are being honest with ourselves and with others.