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Milton, J. Davison, S. (1997). Observations of Staff-Support groups with Time-Limited External Facilitation in a Psychiatric Institution. Psychoanal. Psychother., 11(2):135-145.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 11(2):135-145

Observations of Staff-Support groups with Time-Limited External Facilitation in a Psychiatric Institution

Jane Milton and Susan Davison

It has become customary in many mental health teams to hold regular ‘staff-support groups’. Often the rationale for such groups is unclear, and they are ambivalently regarded. They can be part of a general proliferation of group activities observed in certain institutions, with hazy theoretical underpinning and inadequate leadership and supervision. Frequent requests were being made to the Psychotherapy Unit of a large psychiatric institution for group facilitators to be provided for such staff-support groups. In the past such requests had been responded to on an ad hoc basis, depending on staff availability, and no formal attempt had been made to examine the work done. It was now decided to respond to current requests from two rather disparate Units by providing facilitators on a time-limited basis. There would be an observation both of the ways in which the facilitators were used in the groups and also of how the groups functioned generally. Some relevant literature on institutional dynamics and on staff groups is reviewed. A descriptive account is then given of the functioning of the two facilitated staff groups, with some theoretical discussion of the group dynamics observed. It was striking how differently the groups were used on the two units. Some conclusions are drawn about the need for care in the setting up of such groups, and directions for further research are suggested.

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