INTRODUCTION: The use of group psychotherapy in mental health care systems has been increasingly expanding despite the relatively limited growth of clinical research in the field. OBJECTIVES: To assess the limitations and potentials of a support group in an outpatient setting (16 sessions) focusing on group therapeutic factors according to the patients' self-report. METHOD: The Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ), observation of group activity, patients' records consultation, and field notes were used as data source. The analysis of the patients' answers to the CIQ (N=112) was carried out using categorical content analysis, based on a descriptive system of therapeutic factors proposed in the literature. RESULTS: The categorical content analysis of CIQ answers was able to identify ten different categories derived from the patients' perception of the group process, and they reflected the therapeutic and non-therapeutic experiences during the group work. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: It was possible to understand patients' experience of the group process by assessing their perceptions reported after each session. This assessment in combination with their clinical conditions allows to a better understanding of some of the potentials and limitations of this modality of mental treatment, taking into account the institutional environment and the constitution of the patient population.
Mental health; Ambulatory care; Psychotherapy, group; Self-help groups