Group analytic psychotherapy or group analysis is a form of healing / treatment of an individual in a group. The emphasis of the therapy is focused on helping an individual, and the group itself represents one of the main therapeutic factors.
The method was established and developed by Sigmund Heinrich Foulkes, and in addition it was contributed by Wilfred Ruprecht Bion and Irvin Yalom, as well as their numerous followers. All pioneers of the group analytical psychotherapy were psychoanalysts. They tried to apply their experiences from working with individuals onto a group.
Group analysis relies on basic psychoanalytical theoretic and technical foundations, and adjusts their application to group situation. In addition to psychoanalytical theories, the theoretical framework of group analysis entails sociological theories, Gestalt psychology as well as the general systems theory.
Activities in a group are limited to verbal exchange, unlike group occupational therapies and those which use motion and touch. The basic means is a spoken word, and the discussion is free-floating, an equivalent to free associations in psychoanalysis.
Content of what is said in a group, as well as interactions between the group members, are constantly analysed, while taking into consideration the latent, unconscious meaning.
The group analysis uses both therapeutic potential of the group situation and the basic elements of the psychoanalytical techniques, such as analysis of resistance, transfer, insight and deepening.
The therapeutic goal is ambitious, because it does not consist only of achieving symptomatic improvements through ventilation and understanding, but also of achieving changes in the personality structure of an individual, based on the work on subconscious conflicts and shift of emphasis from acting out to verbal communication.
Group analysis has proved to be extremely efficient in treating a wide spectrum of psychological problems such as problems in interpersonal functioning, shyness, loneliness, intimacy fear, authority fear, inability to share, addiction, competitiveness, etc. It is also useful in treating problems such as depression, anxiety, psycho-somatic disorders, behavioural disorders, and even in treating serious psychological disorders such as psychosis.
The existence of motivation, capability to take on the responsibility for an individual’s own problem and wish to change, are connected to a positive therapeutic outcome.
The group is formed and led by an educated therapist – a group analyst.
When setting up a group, the group analyst takes care of various factors which make up a group analytic situation. The therapist informs the group and a potential group member about majority of those factors in the course of preparatory talks before they enter a group. Primarily, before entering a group, an individual is informed about the behaviour expected from future group members such as: regular attendance, arriving on time, confidentiality, refraining from any form of activity in the course of the session (smoking, eating, drinking, touching), refraining from the contact with group members outside the sessions, as well as refraining from major life-changing decisions while the therapy lasts. Furthermore, the future member is informed about how a group functions, the number of sessions as well as means of payment. Members of the group do not know each other from before.
The optimal number of group members forming a small analysis group is from 6 to 8. Seating arrangement is sitting in a circle, facing each other to enable the eye contact. This also creates situation in which all are equal, and where all members can see each other and the therapist. Standard duration of the session is 90 minutes, and the frequency of meeting is once or twice a week.