From the Couch to the Circle : Group-Analytic Psychotherapy in Practice book cover
1st Edition

From the Couch to the Circle
Group-Analytic Psychotherapy in Practice

ISBN 9780415672207
Published January 25, 2016 by Routledge
528 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Recipient of the 2017 Anne Alonso Award for Excellence in Psychodynamic Group Therapy, conferred by the Group Foundation for Advancing Mental Health, part of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.

From the Couch to the Circle: Group-Analytic Psychotherapy in Practice is a handbook of group therapy and a guide to the group-analytic model - the prevailing form of group therapy in Europe. The book draws on both John Schlapobersky’s engagement as a practitioner and the words and experience of people in groups as they face psychotherapy’s key challenges - understanding and change.

This book provides a manual of practice for therapists’ use that includes detailed descriptions of groups at work; accounts of therapists’ own experience and the issues they face in themselves and in their groups. The book is devoted to the Group-Analytic model but the other principally psychodynamic models of group therapy - the Tavistock, Interpersonal, Psychodynamic, Modern Analytic and Structural/Systemic models - are brought into a comparative discussion and drawn upon to create an integrated and coherent approach.

The book is divided into three sections:

Foundations – aimed at practitioners using groups of any kind and working at every level, including those providing supportive psychotherapy and providing groups for psychosis, trauma, the elderly, people at risk, the elderly and children;

The Group-Analytic Model – defines the group-analytic model at a basic and advanced level;

The Dynamics of Change – aimed at group analysts, psychotherapists and psychologists providing short-term psychotherapy and long-term group analysis

The book is illustrated with clinical vignettes including incisive, instructive commentaries to explain the concepts in use. It is intended for those seeking psychotherapy, whether to resolve personal problems or to find new sources of meaning in their lives. It is also intended for policy-makers in mental health, students of different models of psychotherapy and the psychosocial field. The comparative discussion running through the text about methods and models of practice will likely be of interest to the wider mental health and psychotherapy fields.

The author draws together the inherited wisdom of group analysis since Foulkes’ time and makes his own lasting contribution. From the Couch to the Circle will be an invaluable, accessible resource for psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, psychologists, family therapists, academics, psychologists, mental health practitioners, academics and teachers in psychotherapy.

Table of Contents

Frosh, Foreword. Pines,Tribute. Anthony, Historical Preview. Schlapobersky, Introduction. Part I: Foundations. Section Overview. The Aims And Vocabulary Of Psychotherapy. The Three ‘R’s’: The Three Dimensions Of Psychotherapy: Relational, Reflective, Reparative. Personal and Group Development. The Language Of The Group: Monologue, Dialogue And Discourse In Group Analysis. Speech And Silence In Psychotherapy: Silence That Brings Words And Words That Bring Silence. The Range of Applications: Duration, Frequency, Setting and Form: Ten Clinical Studies. Methods Applications And Models: The Group-Analytic Model And Its Contemporaries: The Tavistock, Interpersonal, Psychoanalytic, Modern Analytic and Systemic. Part II: The Group-Analytic Model - The Basics. Section Overview. The Three Dimensions Of Life In A Group: Structure, Process And Content. Structure: Composition, Selection, Dynamic Administration. Process: Socialisation, Exchange (Reciprocity), Resonance, Valency, Mirroring, Amplification, Condensation. Content: Narrative, Discourse, Six Key Questions And The Voice Of The Symbol. The Conductor: Convenor, Therapist And Group Member. Part III: The Dynamics Of Change – Beyond The Basics. Section Overview. The Four Domains Of Communication In Groups: Current, Transference, Projective And Primordial. Lost Or Found In The Transference? Transference, Countertransference, Projection and Identification in Groups. Longing, Belonging and The Intermediate Territory: Holding, Play and The Group’s Figurations. Metaphors And Metamorphosis: Symbols, Transition And Transformation. Location, Translation, Interpretation: At The Heart of The Group-Analytic Model. Conclusion and The Last Word.

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John R. Schlapobersky is a Training Analyst, Supervisor and Teacher at the Institute of Group Analysis, London and Research Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London. He is in private practice at the Bloomsbury Psychotherapy Practice and works with individuals, couples and groups. He has trained generations of group analysts, teaches internationally and has many publications. This book is the professional life’s work of a leading British group analyst.


"Schlapobersky and his book – the literary analogue of a group at its best- are worthy successors to his predecessor giants: Foulkes and Anthony, Yalom, Skynner, Pines. Read him: for instruction, for joy, to live and laugh more fully, more contentedly, more dangerously and become a better, braver, more compassionate, more confident yet questioning therapist whilst doing so." - Jeremy Holmes

"The massive strength of the book is the case material that drives it with engaging, moving examples and instructive commentaries.John shows acute clinical sensitivity and virtues as a teacher deploying concepts to make sense of clinical material and using clinical material recursively to flesh out theoretical concepts … a terrific way to work."  - Stephen Frosh

"Rarely nowadays do we read a single author text written with the authority that derives from such rich experience as a practitioner and teacher who enjoys and is able to utilize the work of his students who he quotes from so generously. The writing of former patients gives the final stamp of authority to his work." - Malcolm Pines

 "This is an encyclopaedic handbook that will be a source of reference for all group psychotherapist, and a significant teaching text for trainees. It is a rich and generous work, the culmination of John Schlapobersky's many years' experience of working in this field as a clinician, teacher and supervisor. Reading this book is like participating in a lively and exciting group. It organises group-analytic thinking in a multilayered structure where contributions and arguments are opened up, examined and stored like nodal points in a splendid theoretical web. And also like being in a good group, the experience enriches and deepens as each layer is explored and integrated... This book equips us with a current and mature clinical discipline that enables us to find form in both the spoken word and silence and peentrate the secrets of inner injury that have created hurt and isolation... For Schlapobersky, group analysis is not a theoretical form of psychotherapy but a way of being in and of the world. From The Couch to the Circle is a beautifully written testimony to the complexity of group analysis and the simplicity of strangers meeting." - Camilla Matthews, group analyst and supervisor, Therapy Today

“Schlapobersky’s own resources are much in evidence as he picks his way through this mass of theory, attracted more by the bottom-up than the top-down, and very sparing in his use of heavier psychological constructs, such as the occasional references he makes to character disorder and personality disorder. So, the book proceeds intelligently, and humanely.” -Jack Chalkley, Author, Clinical Psychologist

“He [John Schlapobersky] illustrates his arguments throughout with clinical material, bringing group analytic therapy alive at its best: human, compassionate, transformative. His clinical vignettes could stand alone for their narrative power and originality and it is a double treat that they also serve to augment the theory- practice link.” -Morris Nitsun, PhD, Consultant NHS Psychologist in Group Psychotherapy; Training Group Analyst, Institute of Group Analysis London and Fitzrovia Group Analytic Practice. Author, The Anti-Group


British Journal of Psychiatry

"One of the most comprehensive and accessible textbooks about group therapy for many years … (valuable) also for its wisdom about human nature, the complexities of inter-personal relationships and the dynamics of groups … (It) will be of use to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at all stages of their career, and who are involved in any type of group work"-Jessica Yakely

British Journal of Psychotherapy

"… A compelling exposition of theory linked to practice … John looks at Foulkes’s writing as work in progress … offering us a different perspective on his theoretical legacy … The vignettes … speak of a master clinician at work and illustrate the potential of Group Analysis … The scope of this book is encyclopedic … a welcome addition to our existing text books..."-Stephen Arcari

Contexts I

"This book is John’s gift to ‘pay love forward’ to the field of Group Analysis. Drawing on the image of the conductor’s missing baton … if you were to hold something that conveys the heart of Group Analysis, I suggest that you consider holding this book."-Nicky von Fraunhofer

Contexts II

"It is uncommon to come across a book that can truly be said to be a life-work … As a source book, a text-book, John’s is a faultless delivery … a tour de force, but it is more than this, insofar as it does indeed express … wise, lived aspects."-Martin Weegman


"… A substantial achievement (that) celebrates the increasing maturity of group analysis as a clinical and theoretical discipline."-David Vincent


"These clinically informative vignettes allow us a metaphorical seat in the groups he presents as he demonstrates and integrates theory into practice, followed by his "commentary" … With a deeply respectful, mystical bent, he uncovers … "portal moments … that open the door between the unspoken and the unspeakable—in silent respect of the extraordinary."-Chera Finnis

Group Analysis I

"… Documents the transition from the dyadic approach in psychoanaly(sis) to the multi-personal therapy of unconscious relations, ‘psychotherapy in the group, by the group, including its conductor’... This is the story of this book … easy to read… (and) full of helpful features … an oevre that gives the group-analytic State of the Art."-Robi Friedman

Group Analysis II

"A comprehensive reference book for students and experienced clinicians … helping demystify the model for both current and potential group members … John’s 35 years of experience working as a group analyst shines through in his attention to detail in each chapter…"-Sheila Ritchie

International Journal of Group Psychotherapy

"This book will be a resource for the life and practice of any group therapist … for anyone interested in groups … a service to teaching, supervision, and practice for years to come."-Dale Godby and Jason Berman

International Journal of Therapeutic Communities

"it is seminal and deserves to become a classic contribution to the field of therapeutic group work … it must be for group analytic psychotherapy, the missing definitive text…"-Simon Mc Ardle

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

"This remarkable single author book is a much awaited and valuable contribution to the group analytic field … a robust review of theory coupled with a ‘how to’ manual approach, beautifully delivered through … richly textured clinical vignettes … a humbling and inspiring read … giving a wonderful step-by-step approach … mandatory reading for those training in group analysis … invaluable for those experienced in group work."-Daniel Riordan

Psychotherapy Bulletin

"This beautifully-written practice manual … provides us with a deeper understanding of the hows and whys of group therapy … a critical addition to the foundational texts … An extended demonstration of this radical principle of psychotherapy practice and (the author’s) interest in the reparative process of group therapy: "Our quest is to penetrate the heart of stone that holds the secrets of inner injury.... [In] the forum of the group people can be more alive to the real, the lost, and the unacquainted in one another and can harvest gifts of adversity from the most unlikely sources" … 68 stories or clinical vignettes … are the beating heart of th(is) … eloquent, deeply poetic book that will appeal to any group practitioner who wishes to become a more sophisticated thinker about how to create groups that become agents of healing."-Nancy Kelly

The Psychotherapist

"A bold, convincing step in the direction … of the all-important theory-practice link that makes for strength and confidence in our clinical work … describing a wide range of applications and offering coherence to some of the most ambiguous group analytic concepts."-Morris Nitsun

Therapy Today

"An encyclopaedic handbook that will be a source of reference for
all group psychotherapists … a significant teaching text for trainees … a rich and generous work, the culmination of … many years’ experience working in this field as a clinician, teacher and supervisor."-Camilla Matthews