What is Group Analytic Psychotherapy?
Group Analytic Psychotherapy or Group Analysis is a group psychotherapy approach.
It is internationally established and used widely in the NHS in the UK. Group Analytic Psychotherapy draws its theory particularly from psychoanalysis and sociology, but other approaches as well.
Below describes what it means to be in a group analytic psychotherapy group and how it might benefit you.
Why join a Psychotherapy Group?
Thinking about joining a therapy group can feel daunting. Many find it hard to imagine talking about their private thoughts, feelings and experiences openly with a group of strangers.
However, group psychotherapy can be very effective for many of the issues that cause people to seek help.
Psychotherapy groups can be very helpful for any of the following issues:
- Repeated problems in close relationships
- Difficulties relating to others generally
- Social anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- Past/current difficult family dynamics
- Problems tolerating or expressing certain feelings
- Questions about identity
- Alienation and conflicts around belonging
- Attachment issues
- Existential or life-stage struggles
- Difficulties with groups!
How does Group Psychotherapy help?
Below are listed some of the specific ways psychotherapy groups help tackle difficulties.
As well as being effective as a therapeutic treatment for all kinds of difficulties, group psychotherapy can also be used for personal growth.
Psychotherapy groups offer a profound existential experience by creating an environment where members can engage with others on a deep and meaningful level.
Sharing and breaking isolation
New members are often surprised at the relief in hearing others share feelings and experiences that are very familiar to them and this gives confidence and trust to share back.
They often learn quickly that many of the difficulties they thought isolated them are identified with very easily by others in the group.
Therapy groups allow and create strong bonds between members, which heighten feelings of belonging and attachment.
The group is experienced as more than the individuals who comprise it and so can feel a robust and stable container.
Groups as a mirror and microcosm
As group members trust the group and the therapist more, they can venture into giving and accepting more challenging feedback about the way others experience them.
They see themselves mirrored in others and vice versa. The group helps members embrace and engage with difference.
In this way, it is a microcosm of life that can be used to help tolerate and deal better with the frustrations in everyday lives and relationships.
Different emotional experience
Most people join a group expecting their relationships to develop in a familiar, habitual way which are generally negative and unhelpful.
These expectations are usually based on negative or traumatic childhood experiences. Groups generally confound these kinds of expectations, providing a different experience and offering the chance for relationship patterns to change.
Opportunity for new roles
Analytic groups directly tackle the kinds of constricted relational roles people can take up in their lives – often at the heart of their difficulties. Usually, these roles have begun earlier in the family or at school and often operate unconsciously.
Being in a therapy group provides an opportunity to challenge –with the help of other members and the therapist – habitual roles as they are taken up in outside life and in the group.
The group offers the chance to try out alternative relationships and roles in a safe therapeutic environment.
A key idea in group analysis is that we are born out of our social contexts and these are at the very core of us and how we operate.
This means that there is an emphasis on understanding our past and present, social and cultural contexts.
In this way, members are encouraged to not just see their lives in isolation but in context and connected to others. Struggles are therefore not just seen as solely belonging to the individual but in the group as a whole.
In psychotherapy groups, time and attention are shared and this means members develop ways of both attending to others needs as well as allowing others to attend to theirs.
Tackling other people’s problems can provide helpful insight into one’s own situation.
Helping others in the process of group psychotherapy develops interpersonal skills, provides a genuine sense of self-worth and social value and increases confidence and self-esteem.
What happens in the group?
Group Analytic Psychotherapy groups usually have no more than 8 members and can still work effectively with 3 or 4 members.
We aim for a stable group membership so that people get to know each other well. Members leave and join, but over a reasonable time period and with plenty of notice.
The groups run for an hour and a half and have very firm boundaries about confidentiality and anonymity – which includes not having any contact with other members outside the group.
This helps the therapy process as it reassures confidentiality and frees members up to be increasingly open without fearing repercussions in their lives outside.
The culture of these therapy groups is to be open and curious about yourself and about others, however, there is also an understanding that trust can take longer for some people and everyone will go at their own pace.
Role of the therapist
The therapist in a group analytic group is called a ‘conductor’.
The conductor does not lead the group or decide on the direction or topic of discussion. They participate in the group discussions and preoccupations but also stay in an observing role, at times commenting on how they are viewing individual and group struggles and developments.
It is the therapist’s responsibility to put into place and oversee important boundaries for the group, ensuring a safe and confidential environment.
Group Analysis is run at Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy by Claire Barnes, a registered member of the UKCP, and a full member of the Institute of Group Analysis.
For more information, please contact us. We also have the following blog posts on group therapy available: