Group Analysis, or Group Analytic Psychotherapy, was developed in England in the 1940s by Dr S.H. Foulkes, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, while working with soldiers from the Second World War. It is derived from psychoanalysis, as well as systems theory, developmental and social psychology, and sociology.

At the heart of Group Analysis is the belief that human beings are fundamentally social in nature, living their lives with other people in family, friendship and other social groupings. The sources of many problems encountered by individuals can be found in their relationship with the groups they grew up in, as well as the groups of which they are now a part. Foulkes believed that on this basis, people’s problems and difficulties are best explored, understood and addressed in a group context.

Group Analysis is now well established in most European countries, and is the main form of group therapy in the mental health services in a number of these countries, including Denmark, Norway, Portugal and the UK.

Who might benefit from group analytic psychotherapy?

Group Analytic Psychotherapy is a useful and productive way of addressing personal difficulties. It has supportive, problem-solving and psycho-educational functions, with the overall aim of achieving lasting personal change through a non-directive free-associative therapy.

As a form of psychotherapy which emphasises the essentially social nature of human experience, Group Analytic Psychotherapy is a valuable therapy for people with a wide range of difficulties, and can be helpful for:

      • Individuals who experience relationship difficulties, depression, anxiety, social isolation, low self-esteem;
      • People who have already been in individual therapy may further benefit from group treatment regarding issues such as difficulty with intimacy and relationship problems;
      • Others who come into therapy, not because of any particular difficulty, but because they want to understand themselves in a deeper way.

How do I go about joining a group?
All those interested in group therapy are first met with, on an individual basis, by the group conductor over a number of sessions. This provides an opportunity for assessment of the individual’s suitability for this form of therapy, as well as providing a period of preparation for joining. As the process of developing insightful change is slow, people are encouraged to commit to a minimum period of one year in group, although in practice most stay longer.

How does Group Analytic Psychotherapy work?

      • The group meets once or twice weekly.
      • Each group session lasts for one and a half hours.
      • Group membership is limited to 8.
      • New members may join the group when vacancies occur.
      • In this stranger group, people do not know each other before joining, and are asked not to meet by arrangement for the duration of the group.
      • Strict confidentiality regarding what takes place in the group is maintained.
      • In the space of the group, people are encouraged to talk about themselves and their concerns, and to engage with and respond to others in the group.

Some of the benefits of Group Analytic Psychotherapy

      • The work of the group is to provide members with a dynamic opportunity to experience, reflect on and identify the causes of and solutions to their problems and difficulties.
      • In the group, one’s habitual ways of thinking, feeling and relating in the external world are often replicated. This provides an opportunity to reflect and understand the origin and nature of these patterns, and to allow the possibility of developing and establishing more productive ways of functioning.
      • Participants can discover that they share similar experiences with others in the group, which can significantly reduce feelings of shame and isolation.
      • Groups provide an opportunity to experience, reflect on and struggle with conflict.
      • A developing understanding of group interactions can become a powerful way of learning about the self.
      • Through the group experience and with the help of the group members, including the conductor, people can come to an understanding of how they operate in groups, what happens to them and why. People are supported to change and develop healthier methods of relating.

Applications of Group Analysis

Group Analysis has many therapeutic applications in the health sector. Group Analysts provide, support, train and facilitate the delivery of therapeutic support groups to adults and adolescents in a range of services including addiction, disability, mental health, and child & family services. In addition, groups are provided for carers in these services.

The principles of Group Analysis are also widely applicable in non-clinical fields, including the education and community sectors. Having an understanding of how groups work, what gets in the way of groups working well, how and why people operate in groups, what roles they take on, as well as the ability to identify and work with group dynamics, are essential tools for people working with a range of work tasks.

Services offered by Group Analysts include:

      • Clinical group supervision.
      • Consultation to organisations and staff teams.
      • Staff support and process groups.
      • Team development.
      • Training courses, seminars etc

Irish Group Analytic Society (IGAS)

Administrator: Nicola Williams

Address: IGAS Global House, 29 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1