The leadership structure of a group therapy environment has a direct influence on how the participants respond, according to a new study led by Dennis M. Kivlighan, Jr. of the Department of Higher Education and Special Education at the University of Maryland in College Park. “Co-leadership describes a group therapy leadership structure in which two therapists are partnered to facilitate meaningful interactions among group members,” said Kivlighan. “Today, co-leadership is a widely used leadership structure across various mental health, and is often utilized in the training of group psychotherapists.” Leadership structure can have advantages for a group, but can also have disadvantages. Kivlighan said, “For example, large groups often out-perform small group including time, energy, and expertise. Unfortunately, in larger groups, there is also more conﬂict, absenteeism, and less cooperation than in smaller groups.” He added, “Finally, members of large groups are less satisﬁed with their group.”
In an effort to identify which structure best supports positive group therapy outcomes, Kivlighan and his colleagues evaluated the interaction between leaders and adolescents in 32 group therapy clusters. The groups had as little as 3 members and as many as 12, and were assessed based on participant satisfaction and overall climate. The team found that members of larger groups participated less than members of smaller groups, except when they were co-led. “In the current study, consistent with our ﬁrst set of hypotheses regarding group leadership structure, we found some potential advantages of co-leadership over leadership by an individual therapist,” said Kivlighan. “Speciﬁcally, group members in co-led groups reported greater beneﬁts of therapy than those in individually led groups, as well as signiﬁcant interactions of group leadership structure and group size in relationship to avoidance and relationship with the group.” Kivlighan added, “These results suggest that co-led groups have several advantages over individually led groups.”
Kivlighan, D. M., Jr., London, K., & Miles, J. R. (2011, November 21). Are Two Heads Better Than One? The Relationship Between Number of Group Leaders and Group Members, and Group Climate and Group Member Benefit From Therapy. Group dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026242
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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