Andrea Luthardt: The individual in the group — the group in the individual

This study examines the interaction of intra-psychic and interpersonal processes in the group therapy process using psychodrama as its method, relying partly on the group analytical model of Foulkes, and partly on theoretical considerations relevant for the internalization and externalization processes described in object relations theories. Foulkes’ model treats the individual through group processes; individual events and the dynamic of the group as a whole play equally emphatic roles. Its central concept is the group matrix, a transpersonal phenomenon that is made up by the network stemming from the communicational and relational systems of the group. The individual appears as a node in the matrix of the group: the group perceives and reacts as a whole using one or the other individual as a spokesperson. The group matrix – not unlike the transitional space as suggested by Winnicott – is connected to both the interpersonal and the intra-psychical. Due to its methodological characteristics, psychodrama works with intra-psychical and interpersonal processes in parallel in the group it makes them perceivable as experiences and fit for conscious processing on a cognitive level. The play in psychodrama – no matter if the focus is on the entire group or on the protagonist who temporarily emerges from the group – is always subordinated to individual processes and also features of group dynamics, thus providing an opportunity to work on both levels simultaneously. One of the essential elements of the therapeutic effect arising from the interplay of intra-psychical and interpersonal processes is that object relations of the individual internalized earlier are externalized in the dramatic play, which facilitates a restructuring of the patterns of object relations.

Keywords: group therapy — psychodrama — group matrix — tele

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