Ring of Fire: Primitive Affects and Object Relations in Group Psychotherapy

By Victor L. Schermer; Malcolm Pines | Go to book overview

3

The phases of group development and the systems-centred group

Yvonne M. Agazarian


EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

Yvonne Agazarian is a pioneering figure in the application of General Systems Theory (GST) to group psychotherapy. Here she offers a comprehensive 'systems-centred' theory of the development of the psychotherapy group, rich with theoretical insight, practical exemplification and provocative viewpoints which challenge conventional wisdom regarding group psychotherapy.

Dr Agazarian's theory of group development derives from Bennis and Shepard's (1956) formulation, but goes well beyond it. Agazarian draws on her own theory of living human systems, Lewinian field theory, the notion of 'systems isomorphisms' from GST, Shannon and Weaver's information theory, Anna Freud's classic work on The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, and the object-relations concepts of splitting, projective identification and containment to provide a unique synthesis and an 'active' systemic approach to group work which has the potential to enhance the power and effectiveness of the group therapy situation.

Anyone who has worked with Dr Agazarian can testify to her extraordinary ability to bring into focus and elucidate the dynamics of groups, as well as her discomfiting capacity to 'disturb the universe' of our cherished belief systems. In the words of T.S. Eliot, as one 'ascends the stair' of her formulations on group development, one will know with clarity how, in the course of group life, 'In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse', At this edge of chaos and transformation in the group matrix is the potential for change and growth.

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