I conducted a group interactive art therapy training workshop over a period of one week during a residential conference open to health care workers, including practising art therapists.
As the conductor of an ongoing group, in which firm boundaries, interpersonal relationships and group dynamics are central features, I found it important to clarify my own personal boundaries during the week. It is clearly impossible that members do not meet each other outside the group, and obviously I shall encounter them at breakfast, lectures and at social events where I will have a different role from that in the group. I feel, however, that within this model of training it is necessary to remain in a fairly ‘formal’ relationship with group members—exactly as I would if working in a therapeutic community where I would see patients outside small groups and would even, perhaps, be preparing a meal with them. I feel it is important that the group can use the conductor for transference purposes, and even though in an interactive group the role of the conductor is less opaque than in an analytic group, the conductor is still available for projection, transference, etc. It can be confusing if the conductor is intimate with one or two group members (e.g. drinking with them in the pub) during the life of the group.
I shall describe a situation where maintaining my ‘role’ was important, where both the group and myself had to negotiate some tricky boundary questions, and where the group clearly demonstrated a developmental pattern of birth, latency, adolescence, adulthood and death.
On the third day of the group, which consisted of eight members, four men and four women, several members wanted to make a group painting following the suggestion of one member. I drew attention to the eagerness with which the group followed this suggestion, made by one of the men in a very positive and enthusiastic manner. They did pause to reflect for a short time but were determined to work together on a painting. They took some time discussing how to make the painting and what shape the paper should be. They decided to make a very large circular shape and about half an hour was spent in preparation of the paper, cutting, sellotaping, deciding who