Many psychoanalysts eschew group therapy, but yesterday the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc had an experiential look at group processes provided by its guest 'speaker' Jeffrey Roth, MD. Based on Wilfred Bion’s basic assumptions about groups, as taught in the U.S. by the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, we had firsthand experience with the impact about how our behavior and unconscious processes organize experience intrapsychically, interpersonally and en masse.
Bion posited three basic assumptions for group behavior:
1) Fight/flight, where the group hostilely engages authority
2) Dependency, where the group does nothing but expect that the all powerful authority will provide for everything, and
3) Pairing, where the group deems authority as incapable of providing what is needed and so two in the group are ‘elected’ as the pair who will now make provision of group needs.
A fourth group, the work group which functions to accomplish tasks, is often thwarted by these three basic assumptions, while paradoxically illuminating (through consultation) what the work group needs to address.
How did our use of group process help us in our work as individual therapists? We procedurally learned that everything that emerges (data) is useful and has meaning, contributing to the richness of the dyadic interaction, if the therapist welcomes it in, and can make use of it, instead of being bored as if nothing ‘deep’ is being related. All data signals what would like to be taken in or pushed away. Groups function around ‘BART’, boundaries, authority, roles, and tasks. How these four entities are negotiated by the group are experienced, studied, elucidated, and may be transformative. While the group experience is transformative, and may continue to be so, old roles and skill sets (leader, scapegoat, etc) remain available. We are made up of multiple selves, after all.