Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Nursing

First Advisor

Ginette Ferszt

Abstract

Given the number of adolescents who present with mental health issues, it is important to explore the best treatment options for this population. Group psychotherapy has been described in the literature as the ideal choice for adolescents who engage in mental health treatment. It is considered a “natural” fit, as adolescents are focused on their peer group during this developmental period. There has been an abundance of research examining behavioral oriented group psychotherapy with adolescents suggesting positive clinical benefits and outcomes. However, process oriented group psychotherapy research with adolescents has been lacking. In particular, the “voice” and perspectives of adolescents who attend group psychotherapy is significantly sparse. The aim of this research study was to address this gap in the literature by interviewing adolescents about their experiences of participating in an interpersonal psychotherapy group. A qualitative descriptive method was the design of choice for this study. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with eight adolescents who attended an interpersonal psychotherapy group for a period of three months. The data was analyzed using qualitative inductive manifest content analysis. All eight participants described their experiences and the meaning of their experiences. Surprisingly, all eight participants also described and focused on the group process rather than the content. A number of therapeutic factors including universality, cohesion, interpersonal learning, altruism and instillation of hope emerged from the data which are consistent with Yalom’s theoretical framework. The participants described a number of benefits resulting from their participation and made recommendations for future group therapists related to the physical space, group composition and characteristics and style of the group leader. Implications for knowledge development, research, education and clinical practice, were discussed. Recommendations included future qualitative studies with a broader representation of adolescents participating in heterogeneous and homogenous psychotherapy groups. Increasing psychiatric nurses’ awareness of the benefits of interpersonal psychotherapy groups is warranted along with training opportunities for group leaders in interpersonal psychotherapy.

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