What is group psychotherapy or group therapy?

What is group psychotherapy or group therapy?

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy which involves one or more therapists working with several people at the same time. As Cartwright and Zander (1968) explain a group is a collection of individuals who have relations to one another that make them interdependent to some significant degree. Therefore according to this definition, these individuals are not a group unless an event that affects one of them affects them all. When considering the availability of where group based therapy can take place this can include private therapeutic practices, hospitals, the correctional systems, mental health clinics, and community centres.

In relation to group based therapy treatment the mode of delivery is either open ended (rolling) or closed groups. Manor (1994) described how open or rolling groups involve the continuous intake of clients whereby a new member joins the group when another is discharged, resulting in group members being at different stages of treatment. Whereas closed groups, on the other hand, involve all group members starting the program and working through each component/module/target together

In The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Yalom and Lesczc (2005) outlines the benefits of utilising group based intervention as self-reported by individuals who have engaged in this process:

1. The instillation of hope: The group contains members at different stages of the treatment process. Seeing people who are coping or recovering gives hope to those at the beginning of the process.

2. Universality: Being part of a group of people who have the same experiences helps people see that what they are going through is universal and that they are not alone.

3. Imparting information: Group members can help each other by sharing information.

4. Interpersonal learning: By interacting with other people and receiving feedback from the group and the therapist, members of the group can gain a greater understanding of themselves

5. Group therapy is often very affordable: Instead of focusing on just one client at a time, the therapist can devote his or her time to a much larger group of people.

In relation to group based intervention there are some limitations which OccupyTherapy (2014) and McRae (2013) outline some of these issues:

1. Therapy sessions are commonly unfocused and impersonal: Therapists encourage members of the group to communicate with each other, however only provide guidance on the flow of the conversation and not offer actual treatment of the problem.

2. Limited Privacy: Partaking in group therapy with people not known to the client may give the person the sense of loss of privacy. Some people may not feel comfortable sharing certain issues from the past, thoughts and feelings with other people. Large group discussion may break the confidentiality of some personal information

3. Personality Clashing: Group therapy comprises of different people with different personalities. Group discussion may cause clashing of different opinions and ideas. Group therapy may not cause positive outcome for some people who are having a hard time to interact with other people.

4. Loss of trust: A person may have a difficult time sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings which may lead to them to having difficulties engaging meaningfully in treatment.

Tanya Jordan is an experienced Forensic Social Worker and an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with T n J’s Consulting and Support Services


Reference List

Cartwright, D. & Zander, A. (1968) Group Dynamics: Research and Theory (3rd ed.) New York: Harper & Row.

McRae, K. (2013) What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Therapy found online 30/10/2017 http://www.connollycounseling.com/advantages-disadvantages-group-therapy/

Manor, O. (1994). Group Psychotherapy. In Petrūska Clarkson & Michael Pokorny (Eds.), The Handbook of Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Routledge.

OccupyTherapy (2014) Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Therapy found online 30/10/2017 https://occupytheory.org/ADVANTAGES-AND-DISADVANTAGES-OF-GROUP-THERAPY/

Yalom, I. D., & Lesczc, M. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tanya Jordan is an experienced Forensic Social Worker and an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with T n J’s Consulting and Support Services