An Outline of Recovery Based, Psychology Focussed Therapeutic Groups in an Inpatient Mental Health Unit

The Adult Mental Health Unit (AMHU) at The Canberra Hospital is an acute inpatient unit that provides treatment for people with severe mental health problems. The 37 bed unit which opened in 2012 is one of the most modern of its kind in Australia. At AMHU treatment consists of a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions based upon a recovery orientated framework that is designed to empower people and instil hope. A central component of treatment is the Therapeutic Group Programme (TGP) which people are actively encouraged to participate in as part of their recovery.

Within the group programme are several psychology based therapeutic groups. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of such groups within inpatient settings e.g. Bloom, Woodward, Susmaras & Pantalone (2012), Lynch, Berry & Sirey (2011). The aim of our psychology groups is to help people understand more about their problems and to equip them with skills to manage these problems. The groups, which are a combination of psychoeducational and discussion based, include:

  • A Managing Distressing Voices group
  • A ‘Beating The Blues’ managing low mood group
  • An ‘Healthy Me’ relapse prevention group
  • An ‘Exploring and Combating Stigma’ Workshop
  • A ‘No Worries’ anxiety management group
  • An Introduction to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy group
  • A DBT based Distress Tolerance group
  • A ‘Reality Check’ managing symptoms of psychosis group

Feedback from participants has revealed the following benefits of the psychology groups:

  • The groups help people to understand more about their psychological problems by moving away from solely biological explanations of psychological distress. Participants commented that this helped them to feel more empowered and instil belief that recovery is possible. They also stated that they felt understood as people and not just as a diagnosis
  • The groups help people to build their repertoire of coping strategies and reduce reliance solely on medication as a way of managing distress
  • That attending and speaking at the groups helps to build self-confidence and normalise people’s experiences. This is important since people with severe and enduring psychological difficulties may experience social anxiety as a secondary consequence of their problems

Article provided by Dr Mark Franks, Clinical Psychologist, The Adult Mental Health Unit, ACT Health, Canberra

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