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© 2018 The Authors. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Association of Applied Psychology. Background: Small groups are used to promote health, well-being, and personal change by altering members’ perceptions, beliefs, expectations, and behaviour patterns. An extensive cross-disciplinary literature has articulated and tested theories explaining how such groups develop, function, and facilitate change. Yet these theoretical understandings are rarely applied in the development, description, and evaluation of health-promotion, group-based, behaviour-change interventions. Methods: Medline database, library catalogues, search engines, specific journals and reference lists were searched for relevant texts. Texts were reviewed for explanatory concepts or theories describing change processes in groups, which were integrated into the developing conceptual structure. This was designed to be a parsimonious conceptual framework that could be applied to design and delivery. Results: Five categories of interacting processes and concepts were identified and defined: (1) group development processes, (2) dynamic group processes, (3) social change processes, (4) personal change processes, and (5) group design and operating parameters. Each of these categories encompasses a variety of theorised mechanisms explaining individual change in small groups. Conclusion: The final conceptual model, together with the design issues and practical recommendations derived from it, provides a practical basis for linking research and theory explaining group functioning to optimal design of group-based, behaviour-change interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

Publication Date





30 - 61