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Irvin Yalom's Eleven Therapeutic Factors for Group Therapy 

In his classic work, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom identified 11 primary “therapeutic factors” present in all group therapy, in particular with ongoing longer-term groups. They are as follows:


  1. Instillation of Hope - creates a feeling of optimism about one's future and the ability to cure that which need not be endured and endure that which cannot be cured. 

  2. Universality helps group members realize that they are not alone in their suffering and the problems they face and that others are willing to support them, which helps move group members out of isolation and can be be profoundly healing. 

  3. Imparting of Information - educates and empowers group members with knowledge pertaining to their specific situation, whether it be information about a resource or someone's personal story of how they dealt with difficulties and experienced success. 

  4. Altruismallows group members to experience a sense of significance by helping other group members. As one comes to recognize they have something of value to provide their fellow group members, they gain in self-worth and confidence.

  5. Corrective Recapitulation of Primary Family Group allows for the rectification of past family and childhood events within the safety of the group, which in a way acts as a substitute family for each member. New ways of relating can be formed, helping to weaken unhelpful patterns learned in one's family of origin.

  6. Development of Socializing Techniques - encourages and advances relating and social skills such as tolerance, boundaries, empathy, and conflict resolution. This helps reduce isolation and promotes connection with others in more meaningful ways, which is generalized over time into one's life outside of the group. 

  7. Imitative Behavior - helps group members learn more effective ways of confronting problems and managing relationships by witnessing other members apply new and appropriate methods that disrupt their old, dysfunctional patterns.

  8. Interpersonal Learning - provides opportunity for group members to learn about relationships and intimacy, in effect helping them develop supportive, authentic interpersonal relationships. Within the safety of the group space, members can openly share and communicate; in return, they receive support and respectful feedback, perhaps for the first time ever.

  9. Group Cohesiveness gives members a sense of belonging, acceptance, and value, providing both a nurturing and empowering experience. This promotes security within oneself and in relationship to others and is an important catalyst for group members to take the risks of self-disclosure and change. 

  10. Catharsis releases strong or long-suppressed emotions associated with past psychological woundings, bringing a sense of relief and allowing for significant shifts in one's internal framework.

  11. Existential Factors involves one’s individual quest to find meaning in their life. Includes the process of understanding and accepting the reality of the human condition, with all its frustrations and limitations. With each other's support, group members learn to accept life on life's terms without seeking escape or denial, without fighting it, and without being paralyzed by it. Instead, they learn how to live with them and through them, seeing that obstacles are not in the way of the path but in fact are the path.

"Every person must choose how much truth they can stand."

 -Irvin D. Yalom


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