The Psychology of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Group-Level Perspective




Objective: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threatened not only people’s physical health but also every aspect of their psychological well-being: from their struggle to avoid contracting the disease, to their coping with the disruption of the normal course of their lives, to the trauma they endured when the virus took the lives of those they loved. The objective of this article is to consider the group-level processes that sustain people’s physical and psychological well-being during COVID-19. Method: Applying group dynamic and group therapy theory and research, we explore why COVID-19 spread so rapidly. We also explore how people cope with prolonged social isolation, distress, and social inequities, as well as how people deal with the psychological trauma of the disease, which includes heightened levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and complicated bereavement. Results: Researchers and theorists suggest that human beings are fundamentally social, and the need to gather with others is extremely important, especially during times of distress. The need to belong as well as the importance of reducing loneliness during uncertain times often encourages people to connect, despite recommendations to remain socially distant. Conclusions: Group treatment options developed by group psychotherapists are effective at reducing depression, anxiety, complicated grief, and stress. We conclude by examining the growing impact of online groups and the many ways that these groups help people improve their psychological well-being during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Copyright © 2020, American Psychological Association

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/gdn0000142