“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Encounter groups are a form of group psychotherapy where participants go through a process of opening up and sharing their emotional side and life experience with the other members of the group in order to develop self-understanding, get in touch with their own feelings, become aware of the feelings of others, receive support from the members of the group, improve interpersonal communication, and learn about themselves and others through their interaction with each other. Encounter groups are nonclinical groups and not intended for persons with severe emotional problems. While traditional therapy groups tend to attract sick people wanting to get well, encounter groups involve well people wanting to get better.

The most important aspects of encounter groups are the interpersonal interactions of the group and its focus on self-awareness and full self-discovery. Under the guidance of a skilled facilitator, in a truly honest and supportive setting, the group’s participants are encouraged to share their personal believes and life experience as well as strong emotions (such as, anger, fear, or envy) that arise in response to their fellow participants’ actions and statements. The groups focus on the here-and-now and encourage interpersonal honesty, emotional expressiveness, self-exploration, and self-disclosure. Encounter groups have only one ground rule: we share our emotions from the heart and keep judgments and conclusions to ourselves.

The WELL Program offers three types of encounter groups: existential group, transpersonal group, and philosophical inquiry group. Our existential group focuses on four universal concerns that are deeply rooted in the very nature of human existence: the inevitability of death, freedom and the responsibilities associated with it, existential isolation, and meaninglessness. The transpersonal group discusses the issues of non-duality, optimal mental health, self-transcendence, and nonreactive presence and awareness. In our philosophical inquiry group we are talking about our religious convictions, spiritual beliefs, and understanding of the nature of Self and the nature of God.

The main goal of all encounter groups is personal growth and the development of one’s full potential. Unlike behavioral and analytical therapies that focus solely on the conditioning and emotions, encounter groups involves reason, reflective powers and rational determinations. We take an honest look at our ideas and how they affect our lives; then we learn how changing our ideas can change our lives.