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Elliott, B. (1997). The preoccupation with power in group life. Free Associations, 7(2):216-231.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(2):216-231

The preoccupation with power in group life

Barbara Elliott

The exercise of power is an essential, unavoidable part of leadership.….

O. Kernberg (1991)

The Idea for This article arose as a result of a long-standing and intense debate which occurred over a series of large groups run at the Institute of Group Analysis during 1988 and 1989. The debate centred around the idea that the large group which was established to encourage free-floating discussion and exploration of Institute issues by Institute members (all of whom were peers and colleagues), might be hampered by the appointment of any particular convener, even if the convenership operated on a rotating basis. The central issue was the understandable concern that any member of the group might have a particular bias or agenda which would potentially, albeit unconsciously, affect his or her ability to convene fairly and adequately. The idea of having an outside convener did not appeal to most members of the group and many members felt that as experienced group analysts, we should be able to meet profitably together without a designated convener. In the end, the decision to appoint a convener on a yearly rotation was taken.

The thoughts arising from this debate were further stimulated by the 1990 Group-Analytic Society Winter Workshop which concerned the uses and abuses of power in groups.

As group analytic psychotherapists, we know that for any therapy to be effective, there has to be a conductor who commands a certain degree of authority.

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