2011. Vol.2, No.4, 307-311
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.24048
Comparison of the Effectiveness of the Transactional Analysis,
Existential, Cognitive, and Integrated Group Therapies on
Improving Problem-Solving Skills
Bahramali A. Ghanbari-e-Hashem-Abadi1, Mustafa Bolghan-Abadi2,
Zahra Vafaei-e-Jahan3, Raheleh Maddah-Shoorcheh3,
Elaheh Maddah-Shoorcheh4
1Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran;
2Family Counseling, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran;
3General Psychology, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran;
4Tabaran Institute Higher Education, Tabaran, Iran.
Received January 15th, 2011; revised March 18th, 2011; accepted April 25th, 2011.
Problem-solving is one of the necessities of life in twenty first century. Therefore, Psychologists consider it as a
skill that everyone must learn it. The purpose of the present study is to compare the effectiveness of the transac-
tional analysis, existential, cognitive, and integrated group therapies on improving problem-solving skills. For
this purpose, 65 subjects of the clients who were referring to the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad’s Mental
Health Centre were selected randomly and subjects placed in 5 groups in random assignment method (13 par-
ticipants in each group). The research method is Pre-test/Post-test control group design. To gather the data, Long
& Cassidy’s problem solving styles questionnaire (1996) was used. In the descriptive level, the data were ana-
lyzed using mean and standard deviation, and in the inferential level Analysis of Covariance test (ANCOVA)
was used. The results of data analysis were indicative of the fact that after modifying pretest scores, there was a
significant difference between group’s subjects. The results showed that group therapies were effective on im-
proving problem-solving skills and that cognitive and integrated group therapies were more effective on im-
proving problem-solving skills comparing to other groups. Regarding the results of the present study, it can be
concluded that transactional analysis, existential, cognitive and integrated group therapies were effective on im-
proving problem-solving skills of the clients who were referring to the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad's Men-
tal Health Centre.
Keywords: Transactional Analysis Group Therapy, Existential Group Therapy, Cognitive Group Therapy,
Integrated Group Therapy
Problem-solving is a cognitive process by which the indi-
vidual tries to find a suitable solution for the problem (Perla &
O’ Donnel, 2004). In problem-solving, finding a specific solu-
tion for a specific problem is not that much important, the thing
that matters is to find an abstract rule or principle that can be
generalized for other situations (Khoshkam, Malekpoor, &
Molavi, 2008). Problem-solving is a vital skill for life. Today in
all activities, the authorities are called for thinking in a high
level and problem-solving skills, whether in normal or compli-
cated activities. And most of them emphasize that prob-
lem-solving skills must be improved (Poshtiban, 2007). When
facing a Program, every individual uses a different method of
problem-solving. Methods of problem-solving are: helplessness
in solving a problem, problem-solving control, avoidance style,
creative style, problem-solving confidence and approach style.
The first there styles are called ineffective problem-solving
methods and the last three styles are called effective prob-
lem-solving methods (Cassidy & Long, 1996). Problem-solving
is a coping skill which increases self-confidence and has a
connection with good personal compatibility (Eizadi &
Scpasi-Ashtiani, 2010). In problem-solving approach, therapy
begins with focusing present goals. Focusing on present goals
probably persuades the clients to concentrate on the problem
and after that he/she will concentrate on the solutions.
Solutions are the results of conversations and each solution is
unique (Prochaska & Norcross, 2010). In the late 1960s and the
early 1970s, problem-solving started as a port of cogni-
tive-behavioral movement to modify behavior. D’Zurilla &
Aoldfried who are the founders of this method in on article at
American Psychological Association conference in 1968—em-
phasized on the necessity of teaching problem-solving skill in
the program of teaching social skills. Since then, this method is
used in a vast range of clinical counseling and psychotherapy
situations and positive results are reported (Nezu & D’zurrila,
Problem-solving is an intellectual process and is part of lar-
ger problem process that includes problem finding and problem
shaping. Considered the most complex of all intellectual func-
tions, problem-solving has been defined as higher-order cogni-
tive process that requires the modulation and control of more
routine or basic skills (Goldstein & Levin, 1987). Problem-
solving requires a variety of skills including clarifying informa-
tion, programming and working methodically, checking out-
comes and trying alternative strategies (Muir, Beswick, & Wil-
liamson, 2008).
The issue of Problem-solving has attracted the attention of
many researchers. The findings show that it is not so much
important that people face problems and difficulties in their
lives, but the thing which is important is to behave correctly
when facing problems. Some people are not even able to solve
their routine Problems and when facing a trivial problem they
become embarrassed, upset and tense (Shokohi-Yekta &
Parands, 2008). According to the aforementioned materials, the
necessity of teaching problem-solving skill becomes evident.
The purpose of the present study is to find answers to this ques-
tion: Is there any difference on improving problem-solving skill
between the four therapy groups?
To achieve this goal, transactional analysis, existential, cog-
nitive and integrated group therapies were formed which were
based on teaching problem-solving skill. The hypothesis of the
study suggests that after group therapies, there is difference
between control group and experimental groups in the extent of
problem-solving skill. Similar studies in problem-solving skill
show that teaching problem-solving skill has been effective in
decreasing Parent-child conflicts (Moradi & Sanayi-e-zaker,
Shafea-Abad & shams (2000) found that problem-solving
skills instruction can significantly decrease the tendency to
suicide, frustration and negative feelings of the youths who
have attempted suicide. Heydori & Rasolzadeh (2007) used
teaching problem-solving skill decrease girl’s escape from
home and it was effective. Said et al., (2010) found that teach-
ing problem-solving skill to families with children who have
chronic asthma is effective on improving their life quality that
is related to the children’s health. A meta-analysis of the re-
searches done in the field of problem-solving therapies was
indicative of the fact that most of the problem-solving therapies
had positive results on treating depression (Cuijpers, Straten, &
Warmerdam, 2007). In another meta-analysis on the effective-
ness of problem-solving therapies in decreasing problems re-
lating to physical and mental health showed that all the studies
done in this area had a significant effect on decreasing psychi-
cal and mental health problems (Malouff, Thorsteinsson, &
Schutte, 2007).
The results of a study showed that cognitive group therapy
which was based on problem-solving has positive effects on
losing weight & changing lifestyle of middle-aged American
women (Murawsk et al., 2009). Cognitive functions and prob-
lem-solving skills have a significant difference between schizo-
phrenia and healthy people (Zanello, Perring, & Huguclet,
The purpose of the present study is to compare the effective-
ness of the transactional analysis, existential, cognitive, and
integrated group therapies on improving problem-solving skills.
The hypotheses of the study are:
1) At the end of group therapies, there is a significant differ-
ence is posttest scores of control group and experimental
2) At the end of group therapies, there is a significant differ-
ence in posttest scores of transactional analysis, existential,
cognitive, and integrated experimental groups.
The present study is a Pre-test/Post-test control group design.
The population of the study was all clients who were referring
to the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad's Mental Health Centre.
From this population 65 subjects were selected randomly and
were placed in 5 groups in random assignment method (13
participants in each group).
The participants’ age of this study was between 18 to 30
years old. 33 subjects of them were master students (50.77%)
and 32 subjects of them (49.23%) were bachelor students. 34
subjects of the participants were females (52.31%) and 31 sub-
jects were males (47.69%). In cognitive group 8 females
(61.5%) and 5 males (38.46%), in integrated group 3 females
(23.08%) and 10 males (76.92%), in existential group 9 females
(69.23%) and 4 males (30.77%), in transactional analysis group
7 females (53.85%) and 6 males (64.15%), and in control group
7 females (53.85%) and 6 males (46.15%) participated.
Methods of interventions were transactional analysis, exis-
tential, cognitive and integrated group therapies with teaching
problem-solving skills. Participants were randomly selected
among students who had referred to the Ferdowsi University of
Mashhad's Mental Health Centre. They were then randomly
divided into five groups of 13. Pretest measures were adminis-
tered prior to the intervention. The experimental groups re-
ceived eight 2-hourly intervention sessions which were weekly
apart and last in 8 weeks. The same measures were adminis-
tered at the posttest, which followed the last intervention ses-
Problem-solving styles questionnaire: this questionnaire
which was designed by Cassidy & long (1996) containers 24
Items that have two choices which totally evaluates 6 factors or
problem-solving styles. These factors are: 1) Helplessness style
which shows that the individual is totally helplessness in prob-
lematic situation. 2) Control style that reflects inner-outer con-
trol in problematic situations. 3) Creative style which shows
planning and considering various solutions. 4) Confidence style
that believes the individual can solve the problem. 5) Avoid-
ance style that reflects ignoring and rejecting the problem rather
than facing it. 6) Approach style that shows positive attitude
towards problems and tendency to face them.
Studies that result in designing and finding a norm are in-
dicative of the fact that this measure is a useful, valid and reli-
able instrument to evaluate problem-solving methods (Moham-
madi, 1997). Mohammadi and Sahebi (2001) reported the reli-
ability of this instrument using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient
that equaled 0.66. In a study conducted by Babapoor Kheyrodin
and Ezhey (2002) alpha coefficient was equal to 0.77. On the
other hand, with considering the reliability index as validity
coefficient (validity coefficient equals the second root of reli-
ability coefficient) then validity coefficient is 87% (Babapoor
kheyrodin & Ezhey, 2002).
Table 1 shows means of posttests (which are modified after
controlling the effect size of pretest) and standard deviation for
problem-solving styles. Regarding research hypothesis and
research method which was pretest-posttest experimental de-
sign with control group, to analyze the data analysis of covari-
ance test (ANCOVA) was used. Table 2 shows the results of
analysis of covariance.
The results of analysis of covariance on the effect of 4 meth-
ods of group therapies that was accompanied with teaching
problem-solving skills on improving problem-solving skills of
Table 1.
Estimated marginal means and Standard Deviation of Pro b lem solving styles.
group Approach Avoidance Confidence Creativity Control Helplessness
M* 3.99 2.04 3.71 3.76 3.33 1.26
SD** .15 .26 .21 .15 .175 .28
M 3.91 1.56 3.12 3.52 2.74 1.97
SD .13 .28 .21 .15 .17 .29
M 3.70 2.61 3.50 3.71 3.54 .61
SD .13 .26 .21 .15 .17 .28
M 3.78 1.72 3.43 3.93 3.70 .59
SD .13 .27 .21 .15 .17 .28
M 2.91 1.75 1.86 1.93 2.00 .59
SD .13 .27 .21 .15 .17 .28
*Mean; **Standard Deviation.
Table 2.
Analysis of Covariance to contr o l for the effect size of pre test.
Adjusted R2
Observed Power Partial Eta Squaredp F Mean Square df Source Variables
.993 .257 <.000 20.41 4.23 1 Pretest
2.26 4 Group .46
1.000 .425 <.000 10.92
.21 59 Error
.989 .241 <.000 18.76 16.78 1 Pretest
2.21 4 Group .30
.671 .144 .054 2.48
.89 59 Error
.925 .168 .001 11.93 6.78 1 Pretest
5.76 4 Group .42
1.000 .407 <.000 10.13
.57 59 Error
.992 .252 <.000 19.85 5.81 1 Pretest
8.62 4 Group .66
1.000 .666 <.000 29.46
.29 59 Error
.997 .282 <.000 23.22 9.08 1 Pretest
6.32 4 Group .57
1.000 .523 <.000 16.15
.39 59 Error
.904 .158 .002 11.03 10.91 1 Pretest
4.34 4 Group .21
.916 .230 .004 4.40
.99 59 Error
Table 3.
Pairwise comparisons by Bonfe r r o n i post hoc test.
(I) group (J) group Helplessness Control Creative Confidence Avoidance Approach
MD** (I-J) MD (I-J) MD (I-J) MD (I-J) MD (I-J) MD (I-J)
Integrated .71 .60 .24 .05 .476 .076
Existential .65 .20 .052 .33 .570 .286
Transactional .66 .37 .16 -.26 .318 .190
Control .68 1.33* 1.84* 1.31* .285 1.07*
Existential 1.36* .80* .19 .38 1.046 .211
Transactional 1.37* .96* .41 .31 .157 .114
Control 1.39* .73* 1.59* 1.26* .191 1.00*
Existential .015 .16 .21 .07 .888 .10
Existential Transactional .029 1.54* 1.78* 1.57* .033 .79*
*The mean difference is significant at the .05 level; **Mean difference.
clients who were referring to the Ferdowsi University of Mash
had’s Mental Health Centre written in Table 2 shows that after
modifying the scores of problem-solving skills using analysis
of covariance test, there was a significant difference between
the scores of experimental groups and control group in ap-
proach style (F(4,59) = 20.41, P= < .000) Confidence style (F(4,59)
= 10.13, P = < .000), Creativity style (F(4,59) = 29.46, p = <.000),
Control style (F(4,59)=16.15, P = < .000) and Helplessness style
(F(4,59) = 4.40, P = .230) except avoidance style (F(4,59) = 2.48, P
= .054).
According to Table 2, the main effect of group therapy is
significant in all problem-solving styles except avoidance style.
Therefore, to compare pairwise of groups Bonferroni post hoc
test was used. According to Table 3 the results of Bonferroni
post hoc test showed that in confidence, approach, and creative
styles there was no significant difference between intervention
groups. In control style existential intervention group (I) was
more effective comparing integrated intervention group (J) (p =
0.018, MD1 = 0.80), and also transactional analysis intervention
group was more effective comparing integrated intervention
group (p = 0.002, MD = 0.96). In helplessness style integrated
intervention group (I) was more effective comparing existential
(J) and transactional (J) intervention groups. In avoidance style,
none of the intervention groups were effective on its improving.
The aim of the study is the comparing the effectiveness of the
transactional analysis, existential, cognitive, and integrated
group therapies on improving problem-solving skills. The re-
sults of the study show that transactional analysis, existential,
cognitive, and integrated intervention groups are effective on
improving problem-solving skills. It is to be noted that transac-
tional analysis and existential group therapies had better func-
tion comparing to integrated group therapy.
Problem-solving intervention therapy has been effective in
reducing depression symptoms (Bell & D’Zurilla, 2009),
changing and improving child-rearing style (Shure & Spivack,
1978), reducing self-efficiency and improving students’ scores
(Dekovis & Buist, 2005), reducing family’s emotional contri-
bution (Shokohi-Yekta & Parand, 2008), reducing exam’s anxi-
ety and improving students’ educational issues (Eizadi &
Sepasi-Ashtiona, 2010), reducing symptoms of Attentions-
eficit/hyperactivity disorder (Neshatdoost, Kalantari, & Solati,
2001). Since group therapies were based on problem-solving
and the results of group therapies were effective on improving
problem-solving styles, therefore, it can be concluded that these
group interventions or group therapies can improve student’s
problem-solving styles and it is hoped to result in improving
other psychic aspects. According to the previous studies the
problem-solving is an important skill in life, then individuals
have this skill can cope with your depression (Bell & D’Zurilla,
2009), can improve your parenting style (Shure & Spivack,
1978), have self-efficacy in your life (Dekovis & Buist, 2005),
and so on.
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