Occupational therapy groups as a vehicle to address interpersonal relationship problems: mental health care user's percetions

Andrea Radnitz, Chantal Christopher, Thavanesi Gurayaht


Background: This qualitative study set in an acute inpatient psychiatric clinic investigates the efficacy of occupational therapy groups targeting interpersonal relationships, from the clients’ perspective.

Purpose: This study was designed to explore the effect of occupational therapy groups on clients’ interpersonal relationships.

Method: Four, sixty-minute focus groups were used to ascertain the participants’ experiences of groups, and the effect of these on relationships. These sessions were audio-recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Findings: This article tells the story of the development of the participants’ relationships through the journey of attending group therapy, from the initial struggles in their personal relationships, through the development of insight into these difficulties, the learning of skills and problem-solving solutions, to the application of some of the skills and hope for future relationship development.

Four emerging themes are discussed in this article. “We all have relationship problems” outlines the participants understanding of their relationship problems. The second theme “we were given the skills and applied them” describes how group therapy helped them develop further insight and acquire greater relational skills. “I am less demanding now” describes how developing insight and skills have impacted the participants’ actual relationships and their hopes for their relationships. Conclusions: Participants gained significant benefit from group work, on both a personal and a relational level. Group therapy provided a safe place to learn and then practice the skills that participants had learnt. The insights gained into adaptive and maladaptive relationships and participants’ interpersonal styles through group therapy assisted participants in strengthening their relationships with group members and others. Despite improved knowledge, insight and skills, participants were not always able to use their skills consistently. One factor that improved their confidence to apply skills was consistent group attendance.

 Key words

Group Therapy, Acute psychiatry, Interpersonal relationships, practice lessons



Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

CC license
This Open Access journal is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0]. Under this license, authors agree to make articles available to users, without permission or fees, for any lawful, non- commercial purpose. Users may read, copy, or re-use published content as long as the author and original place of publication are properly cited.