16 Groups and Change

It is usually easier to change individuals formed into a group
than to change any one of them separately
Kurt Lewin

The usefulness of groups is nowhere more apparent than when groups are used to help their members change. Groups, by their very nature, provide their members with information, support, and guidance, and so many personal and interpersonal problems can be resolved when confronted in a group rather than alone. As Lewin’s Law suggests, changing people one by one is difficult; changing them when they are part of a group is easier.

  • What are some of the ways that groups are used to help members change?
  • How do groups promote change?
  • How effective are groups in bringing about change?

Chapter Case Study

Group treatment of trauma survivors following a fatal bus accident: Integrating theory and practice, by Andrew L.Turner, was published in Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, Vol 4(2), Jun 2000, 139-149. (Subscription required).

General Resources


Chapter Case: The Bus Group

  • “Group Treatment of Trauma Survivors Following a Fatal Bus Accident: Integrating Theory and Practice” by Andrew L. Turner (2000) details the methods used to help college students recover from a tragic bus accident that occurred during a semester-abroad program.

Group Approaches to Changes

  • The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling, edited by Robert K. Conyne (2010), contains 31 chapters dealing with all types of change-focused groups with entire sections devoted to change processes, empirical analyses of group effectiveness, measurement issues, leadership, and applications in specific contexts.
  • Psychological Effects of Catastrophic Disasters: Group Approaches to Treatment, edited by Leon A. Schein, Henry I. Spitz, Gary M. Burlingame, and Philip R. Muskin, with Shannon Vargo (2006), is a comprehensive compendium of group-based methods of dealing with traumatic events.
  • Understanding Self-help/mutual Aid: Experiential Learning in the Commons by Thomasina Jo Borkman (1999) examines the sociological bases of support groups, and includes in-depth case analyses of two such groups (Caring Group on Stuttering and AA).

Therapeutic Factors in Groups

  • “Group Process and Group Psychotherapy: Social Psychological Foundations of Change in Therapeutic Groups” by Donelson R. Forsyth (2010) provides a general overview of the social psychological processes operating in group approaches to treatment.
  • The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th ed.) by Irvin D. Yalom with Molyn Leszcz (2005) describes cases, theories, and syntheses of available research on Yalom’s basic principles of interpersonal group therapy that stress the therapeutic factors common to all group approaches to change.
  • Group Development in Practice: Guidance for Clinicians and Researchers on Stages and Dynamics of Change by Virginia Brabender and April Fallon (2009) reviews in detail previous theories pertaining to group development and identifies ways that therapists can both orchestrate, and adjust to, the inevitable changes that occur in groups over time.

Group Effectiveness

  • “Evidence Bases for Group Practice” by Sally H. Barlow (2010) reviews the evidence-based movement in group approaches to health and well-being, providing both historical background factors as well as emerging scientific procedures and standards.
  • “Small Group Treatment: Evidence for Effectiveness and Mechanisms of Change” by Gary Burlingame, K. Roy MacKenzie, and Berhard Strauss (2004) reviews 107 studies and 14 meta-analyses of the use of group approaches to treat six disorders and offers scientifically sound conclusions about the efficacy of group psychotherapy.


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