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Beaumont, C. (2011). The groups book: psychoanalytic group therapy: principles and practice. J. Child Psychother., 37(2):216-218.

(2011). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 37(2):216-218

The groups book: psychoanalytic group therapy: principles and practice

Review by:
Charlie Beaumont

The groups book: psychoanalytic group therapy: principles and practice, edited by Caroline Garland, London, Karnac Books, 2010, 440 pp., £29.99

As a child psychotherapist whose training is tailored to think about the needs of the individual, I wondered what relevance a book about groups would have to the discipline. However, in part because of a longstanding professional interest in group work, together with a personal interest in groups per se, I found this book intriguing.

It seems particularly relevant in this era: when politics is dominated by neo-liberal thinkers who tend to promote the rights of the individual above the group, or society. I am still wondering how David Cameron's ideas of ‘big society’ fit with this more individualist trend. Whether by accident or design, there must be an argument that this book fits the zeitgeist: there is at least a possibility that there will be a move towards group work as a cost-effective way to see numbers of patients in an era of public spending cuts.

The Groups Book, then, seeks not only to describe a particular type of group thinking and practice in a comprehensive way, but also to link this to the wider society at large. The richness of the material used and the writer's accessible style make this a book with broad appeal not only to experienced practitioners, but also for those in training, or beginning to practise group psychotherapy. Garland's understanding of group dynamics is particularly useful. However, it was a shame that there was no place to consider children's groups specifically.

Although there is a clear rationale for the addition of the group manual at the back of the book, I did wonder whether this might have been better attended to in a separate publication.

The main body of the book is split into four sections: the clinical approach, the theoretical background, group relations in the wider world and applications. Each section is rich in ideas that are enhanced by the lively and moving vignettes, which are skilfully interwoven into each chapter. Garland not only demonstrates her wealth of experience and expertise in this work, but also comes across as a powerful advocate for working in such a way.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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