reminiscence therapy



The group of older adults that I had the pleasure of watching was a group of five men: all Vietnam veterans with a mean age of 74 years old.  These gentlemen are in an established closed group.  The group originally started in 2015 with ten members.  Since that time, four group members have died, and one is ill and unable to attend the weekly meeting.

Because this group was established over six years ago, these clients are in Tuckman’s Stage Four of group development: performing.  In the performing stage, the group is matured, and they are able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and they are able to work very well together (Keene, 2020).  Each of the men “knows his place” and has taken on different roles of the group.  A group rule that they developed shortly after the meeting was that no new members are allowed in the group.  This avoids recircling the third step of Tuckman’s group development, the norming phase.  By completing this phase, most conflicts that have presented in the group have been resolved, there are clear roles and responsibilities.

The group uses mainly reminiscence therapy and life review therapy during their weekly sessions.  In reminiscence therapy, clients have an unstructured conversation about significant times during their lives (Rubin, Parrish, and Miyawaki, 2019).  Using life review therapy, the group uses a more structured approach to life review that focuses on listening (Rubin, Parrish, and Miyawaki, 2019).  By reviewing life themes and stages, the group leader used cognitive reframing to refocus to prevent depressive emotions when dealing with difficult memories (Rubin, Parrish, and Miyawaki, 2019).   In this week’s session, the group is talking about the changes that occurred “back home” in the US upon their return home from Vietnam.  One man tells a story of how he saw “The Graduate” on screen and he was shocked at the level of sexuality in the movie.  He described it as a “culture shock”.

The challenges I see with working with this group is that they are very established and unwelcoming to any newcomers or changes.  Allowing me the opportunity to experience their private group was a privilege that is not permitted to many other students.  The group often had long pauses of silence.  I could almost see them revisiting times of their past while sitting in the group drinking coffee.


Keene, B. M. (2020). Tuckman’s stages of group development. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

Rubin, A., Parrish, D. E., & Miyawaki, C. E. (2019). Benchmarks for Evaluating Life Review and Reminiscence Therapy in Alleviating Depression among Older Adults. Social Work64(1), 61–72.