group consultancy: Elements of the task
This collection of brief essays
is intended to promote reflection on the task of consulting to a study
group or self-analytic group met in the context of a Tavistock group relations
conference. The style of the essays is more reflective than descriptive
or prescriptive; thus, neither are all elements of the task mentioned nor
are the elements named apportioned uniform focus. Some vital facets
of the task receive only parenthetical inclusion. This nonexhaustive
approach, together with the sparsity of practical examples, is meant to
stimulate the reader's imaginative consideration and application of the
material. A passive, nonparticipatory reading of this book is likely
to be disappointing.
Readers’ passive or active experiential
familiarity with the consultant role is presumed, as is their acquaintance
with the language of the helping professions. Because the task of
consulting shares limited similarity of function and purpose with individual
psychoanalysis and group psychotherapy, I have borrowed without demur from
the extensive published corpus of these therapeutic disciplines.
Whenever it seemed instructive for present purposes to do so, I have converted
the words psychoanalyst, psychotherapist,
and leader to the term consultant and in similar fashion
I have substituted the term group members for the word patients.
All this without implying or asserting that the correspondence between
the terms is exact or even valid. This practice is not meant to signify
the technical equivalence of these expressions.
For clarity and convenience, I
have employed the following vocabular conventions:
a) Study group members are
referred to as group members or simply members.
b) Conference participants
or participants refer to all the persons assembled in a group relations
conference or in a study group, members and staff or members and consultant
c) All group relations conferences
are called conferences, regardless of their duration or their residential
or nonresidential character.
d) In treating the
consultant's tasks of attending to, delving into, and making conscious
covert content or processes, I have used the word unconscious to
include both preconscious and unconscious systems. Even
when, as is most often the case, only preconscious processes are being
cited, the term unconscious is used.
e) The locutions intervention
and interpretation are not interchangeable, although the distinguishing
marks of each are not perfectly clear. Interventions subsume interpretations,
which have a verbal form and attempt to make sense of the situation to
which they are responses. Interventions may be verbal or nonverbal
and, like interjections, may have untold purposes. Consultations
refer more to the origin than to the purpose of comments and comprehend
both interventions and interpretations.
Because group relations work does
not enjoy an abundant, conspicuous, or regularly updated published literature,
the origins of ideas are not always assignable. Where it has been
feasible to credit persons with their ideas and phraseology, I have done
so. The unfavorable reality in this field of thinking is that much
inspired and admirable toil is carried out orally, in conference staff
meetings, in scientific meetings, and in private. The confederacy
of men and women devoted to the study of group and organizational processes
through the Tavistock model and point of view about experience is the apodictic
author of most accepted reasoning and methodology. Thus, not all
the substance of this book is either new or original.
A fee of one hundred dollars was
levied by International Universities Press, Inc., for permission to reprint
a total of 20 lines of text from pages 100, 172, 240, and 241 of:
Balint, M. (1957). The doctor, his patient and the illness.
Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc. Reprinted
by purchased permission.
I am grateful to those generous
publishers who, without recompense or gain for themselves, graciously allowed
me to reproduce material for which they hold the copyright. Specifically,
Brunner/Mazel, Inc., New York,
New York, for permission to reprint passages from page 120 of: Fried,
K. W. (1977). Some effects of the leader's abstinent role on
group experience. Group, 1, 118-131. Copyright
1977 by Brunner/Mazel, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
Guilford Press, New York, New
York, for permission to reprint passages from pages 277 and 288 of
"Social systems training for psychiatric residents" by R. Almond and B.
M. Astrachan, in Psychiatry, 32, 277-291. Copyright 1969
by Guilford Press. Reprinted by permission.
Macmillan Publishing Company,
New York, New York, for permission to reprint passages from pages 196 and
197 of "The vital pleasures" by G. S. Klein, in Psychoanalysis and contemporary
science (Vol. 1) (pp.181-205) by R. R. Holt and E. Peterfreund
(Eds.). Copyright 1972 by Macmillan Publishing Company. Reprinted
Charles C Thomas, Publisher, Springfield,
Illinois, for permission to reprint passages from pages 110, 111, and 128
of "Boundary relations and organizational diagnosis" by C. P. Alderfer,
in Humanizing organizational behavior (pp. 109-133) by H. Meltzer
and F. R. Wickert (Eds.). Copyright 1976 by Charles C Thomas, Publisher.
Reprinted by permission.
University of Chicago Press, Chicago,
Illinois, for permission to reprint passages from page 77 of "The roots
of social knowledge" by C. H. Cooley, in The American Journal of Sociology,
59-79. Copyright 1926 by the University of Chicago Press. Reprinted
John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., Chichester,
England, for permission to reprint passages from "Learning and the group
experience" by B. Palmer, in Exploring individual and organizational
boundaries: A Tavistock open systems approach (pp. 169-192) by W. G.
Lawrence (Ed.). Copyright 1979 by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
Reprinted by permission.