Types of Therapeutic Groups
Group therapy is a popular mode of therapy for both therapists and clients. Group therapy is a highly effective form of psychotherapy that is based on interdependence and interaction among the group members who mutually disclose personal material (Laski & Riva, 2006). While group therapy is sometimes used alone, it is also commonly integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that may also include individual psychotherapy. Some of the common therapeutic groups that may be used either on their own or in conjunction with other forms of treatment include:
Self help groups
These groups are organised and led by clients or ex-clients who have learned ways of overcoming or adjusting to their difficulties. The group members benefit from such experience, while also benefiting from the opportunity to talk about their own problems, express their feelings and provide mutual support. Two examples of self-help groups include; self-help groups for alcohol dependence or self-help groups for parents with handicapped children, etc.
These groups have been used for the treatment of, for example, recurrent depression and bipolar disorder. The emphasis is on compliance with prescribed medication. The goals include increasing the client’s knowledge about their medication, increasing compliance, educating about the disorder, decreasing their isolation and helping them to express their feelings in a nonjudgmental environment.
Interpersonal group therapy
This approach was developed from the work of Yalom (1985; Yalon & Leszcz, 2005). Treatment is focused on the problems of current relationships and examines the ways in which these problems are reflected in the group. The past is discussed only to make sense of the present problems. The treatment is divided into three stages.
- First stage: In this stage it is typical of group members to try and depend on the therapist, seeking expert advice about their problems and about the way they should behave in the group. In this first stage some members may leave the group due to anxiety or the perception that group therapy may not be useful to their problems.
- Second stage: The remaining members begin to know each other better. They discuss their problems and try to seek answers to their problems. During this period maximum change can be expected. The therapist encourages members to examine current problems and relationships.
- Third Stage: The group in this stage can become dominated by the residual problems of the members who have made the least progress and show most dependency. These residual problems are discussed before ending the group.
In encounter groups the interaction between members is made more intense and rapid in the hope that this will lead to greater change. The encounter can be intensified through entirely verbal means, like using challenging language, or it can include appropriate forms of touching or hugging between the participants. Sometimes the experience is further intensified by prolonging the group session for a whole day or even longer. Care needs to be taken in deciding the suitability of clients for this type of group therapy approach.
In psychodrama, the group enacts events from the life of members in scenes reflecting either current relationships or those of the family in which the person grew up. This approach can provoke strong feelings in the person represented through the dramatic enactment. The drama is followed by discussion. The drama can also focus on problems that all participants share, for example, how to deal with authority.