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Interpersonal processes and dynamics are ubiquitous topics in psychotherapy, yet they are difficult to study and are theoretically fragmented across therapeutic subdisciplines. The current study tests an integrative model of interpersonal dynamics in small groups using nonlinear dynamical systems theory. The conversation of one group therapy session (with six adolescent sex offenders) is analyzed using orbital decomposition, which allows for the identification of patterns in categorical time series data. The results show evidence of selforganizing social patterns, based on formal measures of turbulence (Lyapunov dimension), information novelty (Shannon's entropy), and complexity (fractal dimension). The degree of patterning in turn taking is significantly correlated with measurements of control, closeness, and conflict among group members. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Small Group Research, volume 36, issue 6, in 2005 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI:10.1177/1046496405280864.


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