Group Counseling Theories

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Issues and Ethics in Group Counseling

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Group Counseling
  • 0:27 Adlerian Groups
  • 3:03 Person-Centered
  • 5:11 Psychodrama
  • 7:11 Cognitive-Behavioral
  • 9:11 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michele Chism

Michele is presently a part time adjunct instructor at Faulkner University in the Counselor Education Department where she teaches Measurement and Assessment and Diagnosis and Treatment. I formerly taught at the University of West Alabama where I taught School Counseling and College Student Development Counseling. I was also the Student Success Coordinator for the College of Education.

Group counseling theories vary according to the philosophy behind them. We will look at four of the most popular group counseling theories, and how they are alike and unalike in this lesson.

Group Counseling

In this lesson, we will be looking at some of the more popular group theories. We will look at Adlerian group counseling, person-centered counseling (humanistic), psychodrama, and cognitive-behavioral counseling. We will look at the basic premises, roles of the leaders, stages, and desired outcomes of counseling.

Adlerian Groups

Alfred Adler used groups as early as 1922 to counsel parents. Though, as much as he used groups in therapy, he never came up with a theory specifically concerning groups. However, his theory has always been group-related. Other theorists, such as Dreikurs and Dinkmeyer, developed Adler's concepts for Adlerian group work. Its emphasis is on social development, cooperation, and education.

One of the main ideas of Adler's theory is social interest. Social interest is not only an interest in others, but an interest in the interest of others. He believed that people perceive the world based on their experiences and are not objective. People do not act randomly, but have a purposefulness in all their behaviors, which controls our fate and goals. Movement toward our goals is more important than what happened in the past.

Adler was concerned with the present. He stressed a healthy style of life, which for him is the way one prefers to live and relates to others. He felt that people are creative enough to choose from a wide variety of behaviors. Behavioral disorders occur when one chooses unwisely. Common aspects of all Adlerian groups are:

  1. An emphasis is placed on an interpretation of a person's early history.
  2. There is a practice of stressing individual, interpersonal, and group process goals during the duration of the group.
  3. Goals may include individual, interpersonal, or group goals.

The Adlerian group leader should possess certain characteristics, including serving as a role model for group members. The leader helps establish structure by helping members define their goals, offers interpretations, guides group assessment, builds a feeling of community within the group, and is aware of basic conditions needed for growth.

Desired outcomes of the group primarily focus on the growth and actions of the individual within the group, rather than the group itself. Members of the group should be more socially-oriented, personally-integrated, and goal-directed.

Person-Centered Group Counseling

Person-centered group counseling is influenced by Carl Roger's belief in nondirective counseling. He believed that if he created the environment and feeling of acceptance and warmth, the client would grow. Person-centered groups are built on certain premises.

The first of these is trust in the inner resources of people, then trust in the group to help members develop their potential. He believed that certain conditions can be created within the group to maximize its full potential, such as communication, active listening, and confrontation as important elements of the group. He also felt that the group should be led by a qualified person who has training and experience to facilitate the group.

The leader of person-centered groups is directed by the members. The leadership style is more passive than in other types of counseling. Leaders of person-centered groups serve as role models of openness, congruence, warmth, genuineness, and acceptance when creating a nonthreatening climate where clients can grow. Person-centered therapists participate as members of the group and will share their struggles with the group. Group leaders are seen as facilitators. Group leaders carry out the following functions:

  1. Conveying warmth and empathy
  2. Attending to others
  3. Understanding meaning and content
  4. Conveying acceptance
  5. Linking

The desired outcomes of the person-centered group are for members to develop awareness of themselves and others, to find self-actualization (being all that one can be), to have an openness to experience, to feel less alienated, and, ultimately, to change one's behavior.


Psychodrama, which was one of the earliest group theories, was originated as J. L. Moreno began his Theatre of Spontaneity. He observed that those who played in non-scripted and unrehearsed roles experienced an emotional catharsis. His theory is centered around the acting out of events that have happened, concerns about the future, and other things that are causing problems in the client's life. Psychodrama may be used in a variety of clinical and community settings.

In a session of psychodrama, a client becomes the protagonist and focuses on a particular situation in their past or future. Moreno believed that the best way for an individual to respond creatively to a situation is through spontaneity, a readiness to improvise and respond to the moment. By acting the situation out, the client may come up with new ways of responding.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account