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Wassell, B. (1952). Group Composition and Patient Selection. Am. J. Psychoanal., 12(1):80-80.

(1952). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 12(1):80-80

Group Composition and Patient Selection

Benjamin Wassell

When selecting patients for group analysis the analyst will have in mind a group whose members can co-operate with each other sufficiently to ensure group survival, interpatient reactivity and continuity, and a minimum of pressuring of any individual. Ideally, consideration is given both to the individual and the group as a whole. The group atmosphere, which is partly determined by its composition according to individual character structures, would encourage emotional participation without the generation of excessive anxiety, hostility or overwhelming self-hate. This would rule out various types of patients, such as the acutely and severely disturbed, those whose main solution is vindictiveness, those who might be exploitative of other members, etc. Maximum educational and socializing tendencies would be additional advantages of a well-balanced group. Finally, the size of the group would be the largest which would still permit analytic therapy.

One important criterion for providing a firmly supportive yet adequately elastic group framework is the applicant's incentive for self-examination in a group setting. The neurotic person will use the group for the fulfilment of neurotic goals, and while these can be eventually uncovered and worked through, they may burden the group too severely. There is the question of how much a patient can contribute to, as contrasted with what he expects of, the group. Some persons join with the unconscious objective of hiding out; others magically expect to be “cured” vicariously by listening to the problems of other patients, thus hoping to discover the formula which will dictate to them how they should live.

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