The role of interpersonal perception in the group psychotherapeutic setting
A distinction has often been drawn between "process" and "outcome" studies in psychotherapy research, but interest in outcome implicitly underlies virtually all research in psychotherapy, there being little point in studying what happens in treatment if these events do not, in some way, relate to outcome. In addition, since an integrative measurement of change appears to be promising in psychotherapy research (e.g. Bloch and Reibstein (1980), Cartwright et al (1963), Mintz et al (1979), Strupp and Hadley (1977), Truax and Carkhuff (1967), among others), the emphasis of the present study was on the perceptions of change by the main participants in therapy, namely the patients and therapists. Therefore, the present study was initiated in an attempt to integrate process and outcome measures of patients' and therapists' experiences of group psychotherapy into a longitudinal study, following the participants from the start of the therapeutic contact through to termination, and six months after termination. Bearing these considerations in mind, the aims of this research were to investigate: a) patients' and therapists' expectations and perceptions of themselves and each other before they commence therapy, and b) patients' and therapists' perceptions of themselves and each other throughout treatment, in relation to outcome. The research design employed was a repeated measures design using interviews, psychological tests (Rotter's Internal-External Control Scale, the Treatment Expectancies Questionnaire, and several semantic differentials), and observation of the participants in the group psychotherapy situation. The main findings of the current research can be summarized as follows: 1. patients' expectations of the role the therapist played in t.heir treatment and what they thought their impending therapy would consist of, influenced their perception of the initial stages of therapy and their participation in treatment. 2. therapists felt there was a lack of congruence between what they thought it was realistic to achieve with their group patients and what they would really like to achieve; their expectations of the patients' participation and gain from group therapy being modified considerably as a result of ongoing treatment. 3. prior to therapy, patients and therapists had differing expectations of what the process of therapy would involve; however, during therapy, patients who came to share similar perceptions of the group process as their therapists, successfully completed treatment. 4. patients became more Internal in the responses to Rotter's Internal-External Control Scale as a result of treatment (p < .OO5), although there were no significant differences between terminators and non-terminators or between males and females. 5. responses to the Treatment Expectancies Questionnaire indicated that patients showed a preference for a more behaviourally oriented treatment regime at the end of group therapy, compared to pre-therapy (p < . 01). 6. the semantic differential data indicated that patients who successfully completed treatment viewed themselves more positively in terms of their attitude towards self and what they felt capable of achieving, attributing this, at termination to the "potency" of the group. 7. it is tentatively suggested that it may be possible to identify the potential terminator prior to commencing therapy, based on his expectations of therapy in general and his treatment in particular. It is suggested, given the numerous limitations of the current study, further research be initiated to validate the present results.