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Ellwood, J. Oke, M. (1987). Analytic group work in a boys' comprehensive school. Free Associations, 1(8):34-57.

(1987). Free Associations, 1(8):34-57

Analytic group work in a boys' comprehensive school

Jane Ellwood and Margaret Oke


The idea of running a group on psychoanalytic lines in a boys' comprehensive school came about in the following way. One of the authors is a child psychotherapist. The other served the school as an educational psychologist. Towards the end of her second year at the school the latter reviewed with the head of special needs whether the several first-year children who had been noted as unsettled throughout their first two terms had managed to establish themselves in a way acceptable to their teachers. There still seemed to be an alarming number who were described as inattentive, restless, and difficult to engage and motivate. How was the school to help these children?

The help usually offered by the educational psychologist — seeing the child on his own once or twice, discussing him with his teachers, seeing his parents and, through consultation, making plans to promote positive changes — seemed inappropriate and impractical. Besides, there appeared to be a feature that was common to the children under discussion: their restlessness. Perhaps this restlessness was a protection against encountering uncomfortable answers to half-formed questions: did anyone in the school notice them, like them or care about them? They were now part of a physically large and bewildering institution — a secondary school. Any infantile feelings aroused were likely to resonate in this setting, and constant movement and fidgeting was one way of escaping this.


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