What kind of group is this?

This is a group-analytic psychotherapy group. Foulkes, the pioneer of group analysis in the UK, describes the purpose of this kind of group:

“Its aim and its result should be the greater inner freedom of the individual and the development of his personality.”

Foulkes, “Group dynamic processes and group analysis”, 1968

A defining feature of the group-analytic way of working is that the group members take responsibility for their participation. During the group’s meetings, they have an opportunity to talk and interact with each other in a way that helps them to gain insights and make changes. They support and challenge each other, with the conductor (group therapist) there to help the group to work effectively. As a consequence:

“the group experience becomes emotionally alive for all the members simultaneously, no matter who is actually speaking, and to whom”

Ormont, “The Group Therapy Experience”, 1992

A therapy group, not a support group

While this therapy group does provide a source of support for its members, it is different to a support group.

A therapy group is hosted by a trained group therapist. The number of group members is restricted and all members attend regularly. This is a long-term group. In a therapy group there is the opportunity to work at depth, including with unconscious motivations, along with exploring everyday experiences. Members of a therapy group only meet each other in the group sessions, which helps to maintain a safe and confidential space.

Support groups are often hosted by someone who has experience of the core theme of the group but who may not have any formal training in working with groups. Support groups may have a large number of members and variable attendance at each meeting. Support groups are usually short-term groups. In a support group the focus is on everyday experiences. Members of a support group may have social contact with each other outside the group’s meetings.

What happens in the group?

The group has up to eight members and they meet once a week on the same day and at the same time every week. Each meeting lasts for 90 minutes. Everything that is said in the group remains confidential.

During each meeting there is a ‘free-floating’ discussion: there is no fixed topic or agenda for the meeting. Instead group members are free to raise whatever they choose. As one member speaks, what they say evokes in other members thoughts or feelings or memories that they wish to share. All of the group members respond to each other spontaneously and the discussion takes its own course.

The ‘conductor’ (group therapist) does not lead the discussion, but instead helps the group to find its own way. Rather than setting the group’s direction, the conductor helps the group members to identify underlying themes and connections in what they are saying, and helps them to understand their experience and reactions more fully.