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Wolf, A. Schwartz, E.K. (1960). Psychoanalysis in Groups: The Alternate Session. Am. Imago, 17(1):101-108.

(1960). American Imago, 17(1):101-108

Psychoanalysis in Groups: The Alternate Session

Alexander Wolf, M.D. and Emanuel K. Schwartz, Ph.D., D.S.Sc.

The alternate session is one of the most controversial innovations in group psychotherapy. It was first introduced by Alexander Wolf in 1938. It is the scheduled meeting of the members of a therapeutic group without the presence of the analyst, such sessions alternating with regular sessions when he is present. The therapist encourages the group to meet without him once or twice a week, usually in the homes of the various patients. They are told that part of getting well requires that they meet at regular intervals without him. They are not instructed to carry on the analytic process. Nevertheless, the alternate session frequently becomes an extension of the regular session. Although opposition to group therapy as such has diminished considerably since the Second World War, resistance to the alternate session is still vigorous.

The purpose of the alternate meeting is to facilitate emotional interaction in the absence of the analyst. Many patients seem freer to interact when authority transferences are less oppressive. Projections developing at the alternate session are attenuated by peer realities. Often when the therapist is absent, it is easier for a withdrawn patient to attach himself or a dependent person to relate to a “peer-authority” in the figure of a co-patient.

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