Detail - Group Psychotherapy

This is an on-going psychotherapy group designed for analytically minded individuals. It models the classical psychoanalytic / psychodynamic model in that the goals and objectives are to provide a unique opportunity for gaining interpersonal awareness and resolution to work through internal and external conflicts, and to share feelings and concerns in a safe, nurturing and containing environment.

Drawing from many valuable concepts abstracted from Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Fairbairn, Bion, Kohut, Grotstein, the therapist molds and shapes group interpretations and interventions to suit and match the uniqueness of each individual.

What is Group Psychotherapy?

Group therapy acts as an important adjunct to individual psychotherapy in a safe and containing environment, which is supportive, facilitating and encouraging. Some think of these in terms of Winnicott's concept of the "environmental mother" the "background mother," but others prefer the concept of an "archaic good mother." It offers an opportunity for patients to view themselves through the reflections (mirroring) and projections through the "other," which therefore helps the patient separate and individuate from archaic negative object bonds.

The group provides opportunities for safe play in an environment that encourages realistic feedback from people who are from similar backgrounds. One of the best advantages is the opportunity for ample mirroring with many "witnesses" and "referees" who help to limit the intensity of negotiations about psychic and social truths. The group displays many primitive defenses such as shame, guilt, envy, jealousy, control, domination, victimization, splitting, projection, and projective identification became glaringly apparent. Although defenses including scapegoating / blaming and projections do occur, the leader of the group does not allow the negative aspects to continue instead focuses to help the members reclaim those parts of themselves that are projected. The group offers the participants the opportunity to repair for reparation and forgiveness as the replacement for self persecution, destructive envy and rage.

This list is based Yalom's (1985) "Ten Curative Factors in Group Psychotherapy", which has been corroborated by clinical data, although the search for an eleventh or even a twelfth factor has become an industry in its own right, as have attempts to reduce this list to several key factors, especially in connection with the issue of whether the analysis of group dynamics must be considered when assessing the value of therapy in a group.

What is Group Psychology?

You might be wondering why would a marital therapist be interested in group formation? Groups like couples form many shared collective group/couple fantasies and myths, and help us understand why people in groups/nations/organizations stay in painful, destructive relationships without ever reaching any conflict resolution. In groups, it is dogma, religious ideologies, and cultural beliefs that become the replacement for truth, reason and rational thought. Truth is felt to be the invisible enemy and must be destroyed. People in regressed groups join together to find a scapegoat an external enemy (truth) that is felt to be dangerous and catastrophic to the group organization. Bion (1959) made major contributions to group dynamics in his seminal work whereby he highlights two kinds of groups:

(1) The work group is a rational-thinking group; members are task/reality oriented, and its primary concern is the achievement of goals; and

(2) The basic assumption group is the regressed group whose members function on the basis of blame/shame, fight/flight, and parasitic bonds. Work group members are acknowledged for their creativity, individuality, and rely more on thinking than dogma or group ideology. In basic assumption groups, people who never learn from experience cannot tolerate truth, pain, frustration or ambivalence. They adhere to quick fixes are impulsive id driven and confuse healthy dependency needs with parasitic ones. The first is task oriented; the leader does not allow primitive defenses to dominate, get in the way or control the group.

The reasons listed above make group psychotherapy unique. The works of Wilfred Bion's group can enhance any group experience. Leaders less experienced with Bion's groups can unconsciously and unwittingly allow the group to take over in "fight / flight" or pair off in many destructive ways. In the latter group "basic assumption" or regressed groups primitive defenses do get in the way severely interfere with functionality of the group.

Opportunities for Participants

Participants will have an opportunity to focus on specific areas of conflict, problem solving, focal points, gain personal growth, and receive group feedback in a small group environment.

  • The group provides a holding and containing environment, which is supportive, facilitating and encouraging.
  • The group offers an opportunity for experience with transitional objects and transitional phenomena, because it is so clearly a "me - not me" object and, therefore, it helps an individual to individuate and separate from archaic, negative maternal objects.
  • The group provides opportunities for safe play, that is, for trying on and taking off various gloves of identity without serious consequences.
  • The group provides opportunities for realistic feedback from people who are heterogeneous in their social and personal qualities.
  • The group provides the opportunity to negotiate personal and social boundaries both between self and other and within oneself, and in this connection to test reality and to understand the difference between psychic and social facts.
  • Face to face interaction with peers and the therapist is especially suitable for anxieties associated with shame, rage, anger, jealousy, guilt and other which is more than merely an archaic forms of affective experience.


Dr. Lachkar is the author of numerous published books and articles including The Narcissistic / Borderline Couple, How to talk to a Narcissist, How to Talk to a Borderline, Courts Beware of the Borderline, and Common Complaints that Bring Couples into Therapy. For more, visit our Books section for more details and to order.