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

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

6

Borderline phenomena in analytic groups

Malcolm Pines


EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

This chapter combines a description of the fundamentals of group-analytic psychotherapy as developed by S.H. Foulkes with an integrated object-relations, self and ego psychological approach to group treatment of patients in the 'borderline spectrum'. It will be seen that, while several other contributors to this volume are interested primarily in the externalization and projection of internal objects and the vicissitudes of mental content and process, Pines further understands the borderline in terms of that elusive but crucial element, the self.

Pines's treatment of borderline patients reflects a shift away from the confrontive and perhaps rather harsh approach which characterized earlier therapeutic efforts-for example, the early work of Kernberg and of Masterson-towards a more empathic view which includes the acknowledgement of real needs, hurts and trauma of the self system. While Pines acknowledges the need for containment and boundaries, he also stresses the importance of empathic mirroring, holding and soothing aspects of the therapist's stance.

The group analytic situation as devised by S.H. Foulkes combines strength with sensitivity. The model has been adequately outlined elsewhere and I have described experiences with difficult and borderline patients in other publications as have other group analysts. In this chapter my aim is to describe and to discuss situations that strain and test the capacity of the group-analytic setting to, and sometimes beyond, its limits. Particular to the group-analytic approach is the clarification and emphasis that the group analyst has a dual function as a group leader. First, this is to be the 'dynamic administrator' who has the responsibility for establishing and maintaining the group-analytic setting. After this he can become the 'group conductor'.

As dynamic administrator his/her responsibilities are to select individual

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