Advice for Clinicians Preparing for Group Therapy

Clinicians who practice individual therapy have the responsibility of developing a therapeutic bond with their clients, tracking the progress of their clients throughout therapy, and measuring treatment outcome. Along the way, therapists must ensure that the measures they are using are delivering results, and if not, they must change their approach. These steps become even more daunting when they are undertaken in a group setting. Group therapists have the same responsibility to their clients as do therapists conducting individual therapy; however, they must maintain this responsibility with each and every client in their group.

A team of experienced group therapists recently published an article providing guidance for preparation, evaluation, and conclusion of group therapy for clinicians. Dallas R. Jensen, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Counseling and Psychological Services Department at Brigham Young University, spearheaded the effort and outlined several key components for effectively managing group therapy sessions. The first and most important aspect of accurately assessing group therapy progress is gathering practice-based evidence (PBE). Research has shown that clients are more accurate predictors of treatment outcome than clinicians’ assessments. Therefore, Jensen recommends that therapists use a variety of several well-established tools to determine group member eligibility, progress, and outcome.

The Group Therapy Questionnaire (GTC) is an excellent tool to determine group member readiness. This tool allows therapists to examine the level of willingness of the member, previous group experience, and other factors that could influence participation, such as suicidal ideation, substance dependency, therapy fears, and goals. The Group Readiness Questionnaire (GRQ) is a similar tool often used. Jensen suggests other measures, such as the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI), the Cohesion to Therapist Scale (CTS), Therapeutic Factors Inventory (TFI), and the Group Climate Questionnaire (GCQ) to accurately assess the level of cohesion within the group and gauge group fidelity, tone, trust, and acceptance. Although there are several outcome scales to choose from, Jensen notes that the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45) is the most commonly used and can be administered via computer or in person. Group therapy assessment is an area of research that is still relatively new, but is critical to group success. “We further encourage clinicians to share results and lessons learned in the literature and in professional settings, so as to continue developing this burgeoning effort,” concluded Jensen.

Jensen, D. R., Abbott, M. K., Beecher, M. E., Griner, D., Golightly, T. R., Cannon, J. A. N. (2012). Taking the pulse of the group: The utilization of practice-based evidence in group psychotherapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029033

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  • BethR

    August 1st, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Where can I find information to prepare myself for joining a group therapy session. Understanding how to host one is very important but getting my mind wrapped around what it will take of me to join the session is honestly just as important. Any advice or links would be desperately appreciated.

  • Kevin "the Turtle"

    August 1st, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    I think it is absolutely critical that we as therapist prepare ourselves mentally when walking into a group therapy session. In a singular session it is much easier to direct the flow and not have compounding feeds interfering with our targeted goal. In a group session the group mentality can put us into a bad situation and poor control.

    Thank you very much for suggesting these resources and putting us in the right direction.

  • Angel

    August 2nd, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    I’ve been in group therapy sessions before. A clinician participating in group therapy really needs to be proactive. He needs to hold control of the conversation while still allowing each participant to express his/her views. Also, the clinician will need to remember that each participant is different, although they may all be having very similar problems.

    Further, n biases or generalizations should be had in mind from the clinician’s POV. These is my assessment of what a clinician would need for group therapy.

  • Michael

    August 5th, 2012 at 6:13 AM

    it must be hard to balance all of the different issues that clients in group therapy will send your way.

    i can see that it would be hard enough to manage this when you are in a one on one setting, but add to this all of the different things that each individual will bring to group therapy, and to try to address those things in way that could potentially benefit everyone in the group has to be a tough challenge to manage.

  • Cole

    August 6th, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    It must take quite the special therapist or counselor to do this job and to do it well. Those who are a success in group therapy come away from it being changed for life for the better, and to be able to reach out to multiple patients at once is pretty remarkable, especially considering that everyone is so unique and has to be treated as such in a way that still encourages participation from the group as a whole.

  • Woodrow

    January 10th, 2017 at 10:17 AM

    I’m a group therapy facilitator for an intensive psychiatric group therapy program. However, I am having a bit of hard time finding resources/assessment tools that could be administered to potential group members as a way of gaining insight to if that individual is ready and/or will for group therapy. Are there such assessment tools out there?

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