Study group consultancy: Elements of the task

Study group consultancy is quaint work.  Its accidence can be set down, but not exhaustively.  No pragmatic definition of task, much less of technique, is satisfactory for every situation.  The ephemeral duration of the study group means that most bearing and intervention are for the nonce.  Yet the task of the study group consultant necessitates an aptitude and a marked degree of homespun, if quixotic, preparation and work.  Consultancy entails the distress innate in the tasks of analysis and synthesis of experiential data.  It asks poise despite unflagging appeal for information to the irrational world, which is inimical to self-restraint.  The self- and other-actuated emotional inquisition unavoidable in the office of consultant can be bruising, even crippling; but the potential for generative insight is jointly  present.

The work of consulting is not purely an altruistic avocation.  The consultant finds rewards, but the rewards offered are unlike those usually anticipated in capitalist economic systems.  They affirm cooperative efforts, in lieu of competitive contest.  The "satisfaction in helping others to make their contribution" (M. Klein, 1985, p. 17), along with the gratification accompanying tenuous synthesis of fleeting but honest phenomena are the consultant's principal keepsakes.  Perhaps the most edifying returns follow from a reacquaintance with the might and stir of a culture whose currencies are thought and ideation, a culture in which the rejection of introspection becomes unconscionable.  Responsibility devolves on each member of the study group's temporary culture for unremittingly posing and re-posing the perplexing questions about collective life and for declining convenient, hackneyed answers.

Group members and staff, in conjunction with their respective roles and tasks, co-participate in a stirring project, for which there are few direct or nonsubjective indices of success or failure.  The league is a strange one, for the task descriptions are dubious and the undertaking is largely improvisation.  Consulting to the study group comprises both uplifting challenge and dismaying risk.  Shouldering the consultant role and incumbent duties and persevering in their exercise are assertions of faith in oneself and one's species.

The experience of embracing the consultant's task, conceptualized as a principled exercise of integrity and sensibility to group members' faintly revealed developmental needs, ordinarily leaves an invaluable legacy.  After the experience, few interpersonal, group, or organizational processes are ever seen so simply as before.  Firsthand experience with the potency and the complexity of the downplayed unconscious operations of social systems increases respect for them and attention to their elements and detail.  The capacity for insight and wisdom is thus developed; a certain vacuum is superseded by a certain plenum of comprehension.  A certain innocence is lost; naiveté is exchanged for social versatility and resourcefulness.


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