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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Group Therapy for the Mentally Ill

Q. Do you have information/literature on facilitating group therapy for low functioning mentally ill people?

A. Group therapy may be a useful part of the overall treatment plan for those with severe mental illnesses. On the other hand, some groups may do more harm than good. Much depends on the patient, his or her illness, and the format and structure of the group. Some patients with schizophrenia, for example, cannot tolerate a highly confrontational or uncovering approach in group therapy. Individuals with mental retardation or severe learning impairments are also going to require specially--structured groups that address their limitations.

There are many articles on this topic that you may want to read; e.g., Karniel-Lauer et al's article entitled, "The 're-entry group'--a transitional therapeutic framework for mentally ill patients discharged from the hospital to community clinics" (Can J Psychiatry 2000 Nov;45(9):837-9); Laube et al's article entitled, "Staff training in cognitive-behavioral family intervention in mental illness using the multiple-family group approach: a pilot study" (Community Ment Health J 2000 Oct;36(5):477-90; and Stone's article, "Affect and therapeutic process in groups for chronically mentally ill persons" (J Psychother Pract Res 1998 Summer;7(3):208-16).

You may also want to see the book, "Group Therapy in Clinical Practice," by Anne Alonso PhD and Hillel Swiller MD (American Psychiatric Press, 1993).

August 2001

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