Group Psychotherapy

Group Psychotherapy

“Group Psychotherapy is a type of psychotherapy which is based on the processes and the results that come about when the same small group of people meets regularly in a specific place, with a trained therapist, for a long time, with the aim to relieve their neurotic symptoms and change their personalities in some aspects.” Matthew Josafat


Using the group as a safe setting, group psychotherapy focuses on the intersubjective interactions that unfold between the members, as well as between the members and the group as a whole. It focuses on understanding the bonds between the individuals and the unconscious defense mechanisms that they use. The supportive atmosphere of the group helps each member to reevaluate reality and to acknowledge the appropriateness or inappropriateness of their behavior.

Group psychotherapy is a remarkably effective kind of therapy. The function of the group itself has power. In a therapeutic group the individuals find out that their feelings and thoughts and the challenges that they face are not unique. Sociological studies show that the personality of the individual is largely formed by society. Initially, this happens in the micro-society of the family, where the parents function as carriers of society’s culture. A small group is a similar environment. The members have a chance to reexperience their family. The difference in this case is that in the therapy group everything that is said and done is subject to thorough scrutiny.

The members of the group feel that they are starting to develop concern and care for each other as well as a sense that everyone is important for the others and the group, something that helps them to build up their confidence.

The theoretical background of group psychotherapy remains psychoanalytical. Most group therapists were psychoanalysts who were markedly influenced by other theories like Kurt Lewin's Field Theory and Von Bertanlaffy's General Systems Theory. The main representatives of theories and models of Group Dynamics are Bion, Foulkes, Ezriel and Whitaker-Lieberman.

In group psychotherapy, as opposed to other kinds of therapy, the desirable changes show up much faster and they tend to be more permanent. Furthermore, people who are treated in groups, significantly improve, compared to other therapies, their interpersonal relationships. Additional advantages include a lower cost, and the possibility of more people being treated simultaneously.

In conclusion, the function of group psychotherapy is described by Foulkes with the analogy of an orchestra, where every instrument generates its own sound, but all together they make up for a harmonious whole. The therapist’s task resembles the role of an orchestra conductor, who guides every instrument but, mostly, the orchestra as a whole, in order to create harmony.


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