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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 132-147

Emotional empathy and cognitive styles in psychodynamic group therapy: UAE experience

1 Psychiatry Department, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt
2 Psychiatry Department, Sharjah Kuwaiti Hospital, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Correspondence Address:
Hala Fakhry
Psychiatry Department, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1110-1105.195544

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Background Practice of group therapy has been unexpectedly accepted against the presumption that patients could reject the idea of self-disclosure in the presence of strangers. Objectives The present study was designed to study group psychotherapy experience in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The group cohesion process along the time of therapy was studied. A trial was also carried out to explore the impact of attending such groups on aspects of thinking described as cognitive styles as fears of failure and anger expression, as well as cognitive orientation of emotions and empathy. Patients and methods In the present case–control study, 80 patients (40 males and 40 females) between 19 and 45 years of age with different DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses were recruited and subdivided into four groups. Each group included 20 patients − 20 males and 20 females allocated to attend group therapy [male group (MGp) and female group (FGp)], whereas the other 20 males and 20 females were allocated into comparative groups not attending group therapy [male comparative (MCm) and female comparative (FCm)]. All groups were further compared with frequency-matched healthy volunteers who served as control groups consisting of 20 males in the MCl group and 20 females in the FCl group. Sharing groups were subjected to clinical psychiatric examination and baseline psychometric assessment using Fear Of Failure (FOF1), Trait Meta Mood Scale (TMMS1), Arabic Anger Scale (AAS1), and Emotional Empathy Scale (EES1). Each patient in the male group (MGp) and the female group (FGp) attended at least 40 sessions in closed groups for 1 year. Group cohesion was assessed monthly using The Group Cohesiveness Scale (GCS) (1–12) for both groups. Psychometric re-evaluation at the end of 1 year was performed for all groups using the same tests − FOF2, TMMS2, AAS2, and EES2. All available scores were subjected to statistical analysis. Results Baseline readings showed statistically significant higher scores of FOF1 and AAS1 in patients compared with controls (P<0.00001) and lower scores of TMMS1 and EES1 (P=0.0020 for the three male groups and P<0.00001 for the three female groups). However, differences between groups of patients [(MGp vs. MCm) and (FGp vs. FCm)] were nonsignificant for FOF1 (P=1 and 0.28809), AAS1 (P=1 and 0.5186), TMMS1 (P=0.6326 and 0.6773), and EES1 (P=0.7491 and 1). In general, females showed more regular attendance during group sessions compared with males, but the difference was nonsignificant statistically. Patients’ assessment of group cohesion generally increased along the 12 months as denoted by GCS scores. Patients attending group therapy demonstrated variable levels of improvements compared with other groups of patients not attending group therapy and compared with controls. FOF2 demonstrated definite improvement in the MGp compared with the MCm group (P=0.0283) and in the FGp compared with the FCm group (P=0.0480); however, improvement was beyond normality compared with control groups (P<0.00001). EES2 demonstrated definite improvement in the MGp compared with the MCm group (P=0.01813) and in the FGp compared with the FCm group (P=0.038434), and improvement reached normality compared with control groups (P is nonsignificant). All TMMS2 scores of patient groups increased on treatment regardless of attending group therapy or not. Improvement in males reached normal levels compared with controls (P=0.1220 for the three male groups), but not in female patients (P=0.0021 for FGp vs. FCl). However, FGp patients showed more improvement than the FCm group (P=0.0044). AAS2 demonstrated definite improvement in scores in all groups of patients after treatment with no significant difference between the MGp and MCm group (P=0.6756) or between the FGp and FCm group (P=0.1903); however, improvement was beyond normality in comparison with control groups (P<0.00001). Conclusion Group therapy has been successfully accepted among UAE psychiatric patients, improving their fears about failure and empathy and to variable degree cognitive orientation of emotions but not anger expression.

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