Obstacles, Challenges, and Benefits of Online Group Psychotherapy

Am J Psychother. 2021 Jun 1;74(2):83-88. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.20200034. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Although telepsychiatry is not new, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically boosted and legitimized it, especially in the field of group therapy. Group therapists have been forced to move online without enough training in leading online groups. Online groups are not the same as meeting in person and present specific obstacles and challenges that should either be compensated for or acknowledged as losses. In this article, the author summarizes these obstacles, identifying factors in group therapy, such as body-to-body interaction, that are absent online and suggesting ways to compensate for other differences, such as the therapist's reduced control over the setting. Surprisingly, some group members may benefit from online groups more than from in-person ones, but the online format is not for everyone. Research on online therapy has already shown this format's effectiveness, and the therapeutic alliance that is positively correlated with outcome seems to be achievable online as well. However, more research is needed, especially on cohesion in online groups, which seems to develop slower online.

Keywords: Group; Psychotherapy; Telepsychiatry; online groups.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • SARS-CoV-2