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Halton, M. (1998). The Group and the Oedipal Situation. Psychoanal. Psychother., 12(3):241-258.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 12(3):241-258

The Group and the Oedipal Situation

Michael Halton

In this paper, the oedipal situation as outlined by Klein is taken as the starting-point for exploring how psychoanalytic treatment objectives can be pursued through the medium of a group. The two foremost group theorists, Bion and Foulkes, are critically reviewed, and some modifications to their technique are suggested in the light of more recent developments in psychoanalytic theory and technique, particularly Bion's later work on psychosis and thinking.

It is proposed that the central conflicts in group therapy are around desires and fears of inclusion and exclusion centring on the person of the therapist, standing for the desired primary object. It is argued that the paramount concern for group-members functioning at a neurotic level are genital and pregenital oedipal conflicts, where the therapist and the group, or some other pairing, intrapsychically represent the parental couple and the primal scene in all its ramifications.

Contemporary ideas about the oedipal situation, and its consequences for the structuring of the internal world, are proposed as a useful tool for formulating clinical objectives, selecting patients, and determining an appropriate group technique.

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