Principles of Group Therapy
In “The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy”, Irvin D. Yalom outlines the key therapeutic principles that have been derived from self-reports from individuals who have been involved in the group therapy process:1
- Instills 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.
- 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.
- Imparting information: Group members can help each other by sharing information.
- Altruism: Group members can share their strengths and help others in the group, which can boost self-esteem and confidence.
- The corrective recapitulation of the primary family group:The therapy group is much like a family in some ways. Within the group, each member can explore how childhood experiences contributed to personality and behaviors. They can also learn to avoid behaviors that are destructive or unhelpful in real life.
- Development of socialization techniques: The group setting is a great place to practice new behaviors. The setting is safe and supportive, allowing group members to experiment without the fear of failure.
- Imitative behavior: Individuals can model the behavior of other members of the group or observe and imitate the behavior of the therapist.
- 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.
- Group cohesiveness: Because the group is united in a common goal, members gain a sense of belonging and acceptance.
- Catharsis: Sharing feelings and experiences with a group of people can help relieve pain, guilt, or stress.
- Existential factors: While working within a group offers support and guidance, group therapy helps members realize that they are responsible for their own lives, actions, and choices.
The principal advantages of group therapy include:
- Group therapy allows people to receive the support and encouragement of the other members of the group. People participating in the group can see that others are going through the same thing, which can help them feel less alone.
- Group members can serve as role models for other members of the group. By observing someone successfully coping with a problem, other members of the group can see that there is hope for recovery. As each person progresses, they can, in turn, serve as a role model and support figure for others. This can help foster feelings of success and accomplishment.
- 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.
- Group therapy offers a safe haven. The setting allows people to practice behaviors and actions within the safety and security of the group.
- By working in a group, the therapist can see first-hand how each person responds to other people and behaves in social situations. Using this information, the therapist can provide valuable feedback to each client.