Irvin Yalom Group Psychotherapy: Theory & Practice

Updated October 27, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Irvin Yalom is a recognized name in the world of psychiatry and therapy for several reasons. He made a name for himself both as a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and as an author. He is the man who wrote the definitive text on group therapy titled The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, which is still used by therapists today. When someone is studying the topic of group therapy, his name and contributions to the practice often come up.

In the modern era, group therapy has become an important part of the therapeutic process. Many people have benefited from attending these sessions. It is a form of social therapy that provides the opportunity to interact with others who may relate to what they are going through. Many people have discovered numerous benefits to going to a therapy group, making it something that continues to increase in popularity.

Yalom's Impact

There are groups that focus ona variety of topics. Some people go to group sessions to cope withanxiety or depression symptoms. There are also many others that are designed to help those who have lived through similar traumatic events. Irvin Yalom's founding principlesoutline what is important about the group therapy process no matter what method you are talking about.

In examining Yalom’s work, you will see just how useful this is for many people. If you have been thinking about pursuing group therapy yourself, then this article mayhelp you make an informed decision about what type of group to choose.

Learning Through Group Sessions

Learn About Irvin Yalom and group therapy.

Many people learn through hearing the stories of others. Sometimes, it may not be easy to see where one’s thinking ismisguided, but it may be easier to learn alongside others. Being able to relate to others may help you to realize certain things about your behaviors. You may wind up having a breakthrough simply due to observing others in the group or hearing their stories.Groups may allow you to learn by interacting with others and their experiences. You may also feel free to speak openly about your problems and struggles. 

In addition to learning from others, you may find that you can help others in group therapy. This is because group therapy often brings together people who experience similar concerns and are working toward the same types of goals.

Gaining A New Perspective

Another potential benefit of group sessions is that you may gain a new perspective on your situation. Although group members may experience similar challenges, people often bring different experiences and approaches to the situation.

They may have suggestions, comments, or ideas that you may have never thought of. It can be useful to think about one’s challenges from a different angle. Learning to approach your problems in a new way may be what you need to manage your symptoms more successfully.

Seeing You Aren’t Alone

Recognizing that you are not alone can make a difference in your life. Mental health struggles can make people feel as if they are isolated. If you feel like you are alone in life,group therapy may help you see how common your challenges are.

In addition to meeting people with similar concerns, you may meet people at different stages in their personal mental health journey. Seeing people who have made progress with depression or other concerns can sometimes be a source of hope.

Help With Social Skills

It is not unusual for people to have social anxieties. If you are someone who lives with depression or anxiety, then social situations may be difficult for you. Some people have severe social problems that can make the prospect of interacting with others feel awkward. However, research has shown that cognitivebehavioral group therapy can help improve social anxiety disorder (SAD).

The group sessions may provide a safe place where you can learn to interact with other people again. You may develop better social skills, and this can translate into real-world settings.

Confidence Through Group Sessions

Once socializing with the group starts to feel natural, you may find that you can start improving your social behaviors when you are out in public too. You may begin to feel more confident when speaking with others, and this can prove to be helpful in numerous areas of life, from personal interactions to communication at work.

People who experience social anxiety may benefit from attending a controlled group therapy session. Even if you are only participating in a small group session with three or four people, you may benefit from the group dynamics and come way with renewed confidence.

Release Of Stress

In addition to helping build confidence and social skills, group therapy can provide a place for people to vent about their stress. As noted by Irvin Yalom, one of the mechanisms of change in group therapy is catharsis.Letting go of stress can be an important part of the healing process, and participating in group therapy also gives you the opportunity to allow others to release their concerns.

For this reason, many people look forward to group therapy sessions. In addition to releasing stress, you may find that group therapy is a place where you can begin to let go of guilt, pain, sorrow, and other challenging emotions. 

Online Therapy Sessions

Learn About Irvin Yalom and group therapy.

If you are nervous about the prospect of group therapy, then you may prefer to go with an online option. With online therapy,you can schedule individual sessions from your own home. You may find it to be a safe way to reach out for the help that you need without going into the office of someone you don’t know. With BetterHelp, you also gain access to in-app messaging in between sessions, and your therapist will respond as soon as they can.


If you feel like you need help, both group and individual therapy may provide the assistance you’re looking for. Also, you don’t have to choose one or the other. Many people attend one-on-one and group therapy concurrently. Regardless of what you decide to do, you don’t have to face your challenges and concerns alone.

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