Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Steven Danish


This dissertation examines the question how do group therapy members perceive the therapeutic relationship in process group therapy? The study fits within the interpretivist paradigm and employs a phenomenological qualitative research approach (Moustakas, 1994). The theoretical framework used to orient the study drew on process group theory according to Rutan, Stone, and Shay’s (2007) psychodynamic group psychotherapy approach and Yalom and Leszcz’s (2005) interpersonal process model of group psychotherapy. Participants were 10 university counseling center clients who were members of process therapy groups at a large urban university. Data collection consisted of in-depth interviews and demographic questionnaires. Phenomenological data analysis procedures followed recommendations by Creswell (2007) and Moustakas (1994). To enhance the rigor and trustworthiness of the study, the researcher engaged in member checking, use of an external auditor, reflexive and methodological journaling, and negative case analysis. Results of the study are presented as descriptions of how participants perceived the therapeutic relationship and the relationship’s influence on the experience of group therapy. Eight categories emerged from the interviews: (a) presence of group leaders; (b) safety; (c) caring; (d) sharing; (e) running the group; (f) levels of leadership; (g) developing understanding; and (h) intimacy with boundaries. Categories consisted of one or more related themes. There is a consideration of how the researcher’s experiences and beliefs played a role in the study. The results are discussed in relation to relevant group therapy theory and research. Strengths, weaknesses, and considerations of the study findings are offered. Implications of the study findings for group therapy practice and research are noted.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010

Included in

Psychology Commons