Group therapy is conducted with as little as 3-5 and as large as 10-15 individuals. Typically, there are one or two facilitators (depending on the size of the group), who are licensed practitioners. Irvin Yalom is one of the most known expert for group therapy.
He has identified several therapeutic factors that exist within group therapy:
- Universality: all group members realize the universality of their issues/problems.
- Altruism: by helping others, individuals begin to feel better about themselves.
- Instillation of Hope: by seeing success with others, individuals become optimistic for their improvement.
- Imparting Information: what the facilitators say to members at the end of the sessions.
- Corrective Recapitulation of Primary Family Experience: the possibility of re-creating the family dynamics with group members.
- Development of Socializing Techniques: effective communication learned through the group interaction.
- Imitative Behavior: by observing others and how they deal with their issues, individuals gain more knowledge and skills.
- Cohesiveness: group members feel close to each other and have increased trust.
- Existential Factors: individuals feel responsible for decisions made about their lives.
- Catharsis: individual experience a release of strong emotional feelings.
- Interpersonal Learning: through interpersonal interactions, members gain insight into their own interpersonal problems (input) and instill insight into other group members (output).
- Self-Understanding: individuals learn about motivations behind behaviors.
Yalom’s formative stages of group therapy include:
- Orientation: characterized by hesitancy in participation, searching for meaning, and a level of dependency. There is limited exploration of alternatives and therapist is relied upon as a guide while everyone gives advice to solve problems.
- Conflict/Dominance: characterized by rebelliousness and attempts to dominate. There is high level of defensiveness and conflicts within group members. Some group members may begin to form coalitions and even become hostile towards the facilitators.
- Cohesiveness Development: characterized by open communication and disclosure. This is the stage of therapeutic change. Members provide feedback to one another and accept feedback without defensiveness.