Human beings live in a social world in which their ability to gain self-esteem and self-definition significantly follows from their success in personal relationships. Psychotherapy in a group set-ting provides a social arena in which members can learn about their assets and deficits through interactions with peers (fellow members) and authority (the therapist). Members also have op-portunities to experiment with newly learned behaviors in the protected atmosphere of the group in preparation for using them in their external world.
A broad spectrum of theoretical approaches informs thera-pists about which aspects of group behaviors they should attend to. Some focus on individuals as seen through the psychoana-lytic lens of transference and resistance; others stress interper-sonal transactions in which distortions arising from childhood are played out within the group and are subject to feedback, while others focus on properties of the group as a whole, which emphasize group dynamics and systems theories as the cen-tral organizing concepts. Learning principles are contained in almost all of these orientations and are the central emphases in cognitive–behavioral approaches. Successful integration of these approaches has not been accomplished. Therapists may maintain a central theoretical orientation and pragmatically adapt ele-ments from other orientations to address particular problems as they emerge in the treatment process.