As of April 4, 2016 I completed the A.K.Rice Institute Training and Certification Program. This means that I am now a fully authorized consultant for Tavistock style group relations conferences sponsored by the A.K.Rice Institute.
What does that mean and how does it inform my psychotherapy and consulting practice? First off, group relations conferences were developed by Bion, Lewin, Rice and others (Hayden & Molenkamp, 2004) to allow members of such a conference to study group and individual behavior in group settings. It combines psychoanalytic and systems theories.
I find it useful to continue to learn about basic dynamics occurring in groups. We spend our life in group settings starting with the family as our original group. We move through school, work, place of worship, and community, repeatedly finding ourselves in groups and assuming roles and tasks in these groups. What are the boundaries? Who holds the authority? How do we pick the roles and tasks? How do they affect us? According to group relations theory, the group often gives us a role and task rather than allowing us to choose. However, when we become aware of our tendencies to be chosen for particular roles, we may begin to learn to take up new roles and tasks.
As a consultant in a group relations conference it is my job to assist attendees of a conference in their learning process. The role of a consultant in these conferences can sometimes seem off-putting and distant, because he or she does not act according to social norms. The consultant’s job is to listen, observe, and examine unconscious themes that are impacting the group. Some of the dynamics may be making it hard for the members to focus on their task. If the group is able to stay on task, the consultant may remain silent for long periods. When consultations are made they are about the group dynamics, not about particular individuals.
So how is this useful in a therapy or consulting practice? The individuals, couples, groups, or organizations that may come to me are all dealing with group dynamics. An individual client may be complaining about her family of origin, her group of friends, or a work situation. Couples are imbedded in extended families that are all impacting the couple. Organizations have histories and political ties that impact their functioning. All of these involve dynamics related to how groups function. As I learn more about a situation, I am able to be in tune with some of the overall group dynamics that are going on and therefore be of assistance to those seeking my help in navigating the dynamics they encounter.
Hayden, C. & Molenkamp, R.J. 2004. Tavistock Primer II. In Cytrynbaum, S. & Noumair, D.A. Group Dynamics, Organizational Irrationality, and Social Complexity: Group Relations Reader 3. Pg. 135-157. A.K. Rice Series.