Encounter Groups

What is an Encounter?


Encounter (Photo: Andrea Rippon, Combe St Nicholas/Somerset)

The word ‘encounter’ is a term from existentialist philosophy, and simply means a real meeting between people, where each treats the other as a full human being.

The aim of an encounter group is to make it possible for people to treat each other in that direct and undefended way.

It explicitly suggests that the encounter with one’s own real self is just as important as the encounter with other people.

The simplest form of encounter comes from Carl Rogers, and he calls it “basic encounter”. Here people sit in a circle, usually on chairs, and interact almost entirely at a conscious verbal level.

The role of the facilitators is simply to facilitate what is going on, to participate as full human beings, and to encourage people to be more honest and more self-disclosing.

The facilitators aim to provide an environment of empathy, genuineness and non-possessive warmth (acceptance).

If you would like to host an Encounter Group, please contact me.



Why be part of an Encounter Group?

Encounter groups are very good for working through interpersonal issues such as shyness, talkativeness, inability to express anger, difficulties in handling closeness, not knowing what to say to people and many other issues to do with relating to others.

In the challenge of being real with yourself and others, there comes an enormous sense of freedom.  Past participants describe the joy of being released from the roles that they are associated with (parent, partner, work colleague, etc) for a moment.  Underneath those roles, is the person at the centre of your life.  You.

The Encounter Group can teach you, how to be you with others.

How does it work?

We will all sit in a circle and the group will be unstructured; an open process with no agenda.  The Encounter Group can give you a chance to experiment.  Because of this it is important that you try to be as immediate and responsive as possible.

  • Bring whatever is there; whatever is affecting you, whatever you are aware of.

    I hear those voices that will not be drowned

    Maggi Hambling’s Scallop – ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’. (Photo: Andrea Rippon, Aldeburgh/Suffolk)

  • Share what you want with the group and the group will work with you.
  • Seek to clarify or expand, to understand more, either about yourself or others.
  • Avoid story telling and try to concentrate on what is happening in you, at the moment (thoughts, feelings, sensations).
  • You may want to check out how other people perceive you?
  • Perhaps you want to experience what it’s like to be more fully YOU, with others?
  • Try to be congruent (authentic, genuine, responding from a place that is aware of ALL of you).
  • You may want to see how people respond to you?
  • How do you relate to others, and how does this affect the way people respond to you?
  • Try to be non-defensive.   Try to be open.   Defensiveness keeps communication at a level of debate.
  • This is an opportunity to be different, to explore and express feelings which you might not normally express.
  • Try to own what you say by saying ‘I felt … when you said that’ rather than ‘You make me feel …’
  • If you’re not learning or contributing from/to the group, ask yourself why you are there.

Please note that these groups are not suitable for those wanting to explore deep personal issues, or who may already feel that they are emotionally stretched.  One to one counselling might be more appropriate for this.

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