Anyone who has been in a properly run therapy group understands that members are not sitting within the sacred circle to impose their views of right and wrong on the experiences and dreams shared by other members. To do so would stifle the speaker's search for his or her truth as well as the best means of communicating it.
It is my nature to distrust writers critique groups because the frame of reference from which those in the group may view each writing sample they see is the world of "shoulds" and "oughts" of daily conversation. While it may be fun to converse over the backyard fence about the probable insanity of the mayor or the stupidity of those who made the latest popular movie, such opinions are just as detrimental to the writer and his/her work in progress as judgemental comments in a therapy setting.
I do not intend to put an overly dramatic spin on the art and craft of a writer and his/her muse bringing something new (the story, novel, or poem) into existence. However, the process, like alchemy, is that of birth or rebirth. It must proceed forward without unnatural interruptions (i.e. judgemental comments) or the work may be stillborn.
In "Garden of Heaven," my novel about the spiritual journey of protagonist David Ward, the alchemical dictum that "By fire is nature renewed whole" (Igne Natura Renovatur Integra)is one of my primary themes. Whether one is creating himself or creating a work of art (or doing both simultaneously) putting out the fire of passion and renewal stops everything.
It is difficult for me to find any separation between an alchemist and the material on which s/he works; likewise, I see little separation between a writer and what s/he writes. Dream and dreamer are one, so to speak. Neither is fulfilled or renewed unless the passions involved are allowed to naturally burn themselves out.
One doesn't even have to be an arrogant know-it-all to innocently extinguish the fire of creation within a fellow writer by innocently saying, "I really think your protagonist needs to be a man instead of a woman" or "No realistic person would react to the stress of a death in the family the way your main character reacts."
The objective truth or falsity of such statements is irrelevant within the context of a creation (writer + work) underway. In fact, the statements aren't (or don't belong) within the same sacred space as the act of creation. They don't compute.
Even a well-made soufflé will fall if it's disturbed while it's cooking in the oven. Likewise, a novel, story or poem. Staying with my alchemical theme here, you may have heard it said that the philosopher's stone is made in hell. Or, in one kind of fiery oven or another. That's how all that doesn't belong is burnt away.
In the world of a critique group, those who know how therapy works might actually be able to facilitate the process. Personally, I don't trust this to happen, so I never show my work to anyone until I consider it done (except for the editing process). This is my idiosyncratic view of going to others for help in creating something: you've heard the expression "too many cooks spoil the broth."
That's the danger, I think, of offering up one's work in progress for discussion too soon--that is, before it's complete.
You may also like The Muse Speaks: Sacred Space (a writing exercise)