Damaging experiences in therapeutic group: How vulnerable consumers become group casualties

Paul Richard Smokowski, Sheldon D. Rose, Martica L. Bacallao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Many consumers who are seeking support and affiliation are treated in a variety of group settings. Yet, even with sustained popularity, groups are not always helpful and can be dangerous. This article uses clinical case studies to delineate the transactional dynamics of damaging group experiences. Interviews with 33 individuals who met the criteria for being considered group casualties were analyzed to understand what factors precipitated dangerous group events. Three interrelated domains are discussed: individual attributes and actions that place group members at risk of becoming group casualties, group attributes and actions that create a toxic atmosphere, and leader attributes and actions that cause damaging group experiences. Damaging leader behavior, characterized by what the leader does or does not do, was the most destructive of the three domains. Implications for practitioners and guidelines for preventing damaging group experiences are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-251
Number of pages29
JournalSmall Group Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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