Maintaining a Focus on Each Individual’s Work
The challenge of adapting individual psychotherapy to the group modality lies in maintaining an intensive focus on individual patients’ problem areas while avoiding the trap of merely providing individual therapy in a group setting. To establish a therapeutic stance compatible with IPT, yet appropriate for the group format, we recommend that therapists (1) schedule individual meetings with patients, (2) conduct a thorough assessment using a diagnostic interview, serially applied symptom severity rating scales, and the interpersonal inventory to establish interpersonal treatment goals prior to the first group meeting, (3) provide a thorough orientation to IPT-G, (4) mail weekly group summaries to group members, and (5) use interventions informed by group stage development theory.
Individual meetings compensate for the loss of the sustained, exclusive attention that patients receive in individual psychotherapy. First, in a pre-group individual meeting, therapists focus on identifying interpersonal problem areas, establishing an explicit treatment contract to work on problem areas, and preparing patients for group treatment. At the midpoint of the intermediate phase (between Sessions 10 and 11), a mid-treatment individual meeting provides an opportunity for the therapist to conduct a detailed review of each patient’s progress and to refine interpersonal goals. The final individual meeting should occur within a week of the final group session. This posttreatment individual meeting develops an individualized plan for each patient’s continued work on his or her interpersonal goals.