When we feel out of sorts in relation to other people, whether that is with our family and / or wider community, we feel out of sorts with ourselves. Joining an analytic therapy group can be a powerful way of addressing this.
Becoming a member of an analytic psychotherapy group is an anxiety provoking thing for most people, yet such a group can be a very supportive and comforting place, as well as being – at other times – a powerful and therapeutically challenging environment. An analytic group typically consists of a small number of members who are strangers to each other, plus a group conductor who is responsible for forming the group and maintaining the conditions for it to keep running, as well as acting as therapist to the group. The optimum number of members for a small analytic group is between 6 and 10. Most groups in the private sector are run as “slow open” groups: this means that the group is open ended and members join the group for as long as they feel they need. When one member decides to leave the group, a new member can join, thus maintaining the number in the group long term. Thus the membership of such a group changes slowly over time. Analytic group sessions usually last for 90 minutes. The most common form of treatment is in groups that meet once weekly for a total of 40 or more weeks of the year, with breaks at Christmas, Easter and in the summer. Some analytic groups meet twice weekly and this offers a more intensive group analytic experience.
The group members typically share some similarities and also of course have differences. Thus each member will usually find, when they talk about an issue, that there is a variety of responses from other group members. Some members will often have experienced similar things or feelings, and may have directly helpful comments to make, whereas other members may have a different view or take on the issue which may be ultimately just as helpful though may be at first more difficult to engage with. The range of responses and views expressed within a group makes it a potentially much richer environment than an individual therapy where there are only ever the same two people present. It is also a safe place in which to try out new ways of relating to other people, for example, for someone who has found it extremely difficult to express anger throughout their lives, it can be liberating within the group to begin to express even mild irritation (with another group member who is habitually late, for example). The group members do not know or meet each other outside the group, so experimenting in this way is held within the group, often with support from other group members, and of course, enacted with another group member who is not an important person in that experimenting member’s ‘real life’ outside the group.
For more information, visit the website of the Institute of Group Analysis www.groupanalysis.org