I was having a conversation with a colleague today and they were asking me about the group I conduct. Their questions helped me to articulate some thoughts.
I am unusual here in New Zealand in that I choose to conduct psychotherapy groups on my own rather than with a co-facilitator. I have had experience of both and whilst I can see advantages and disadvantages to each, I believe I am better off in a psychotherapy group conducting on my own (as distinct perhaps from a teaching group).
My thinking revolves around how two people facilitating interferes with the unconscious group dynamics in ways that close down possibilities: As a single facilitator I form a couple with the group as a “third” which means I remain available to the individuals in the group as a “symbolic other”. If I were to have a colleague with me, we become the couple and the “group” might be left out in the cold. Put another way, having an actual couple moves the group towards the concrete and away from the symbolic. I believe psychotherapy works when it makes use of our remarkably human ability to have one thing stand for another, not when it becomes trapped in misguided attempts to fix something.
Another question my colleague asked me was whether I required participants in the group to be in individual therapy with me. I misunderstood his question to begin with as I consider these as mutually exclusive. I suppose I can just about imagine a group where everyone was seeing me individually, but why would I do this? To my mind group psychotherapy is an alternative to individual psychotherapy and sometimes is the treatment of choice, not an adjunct to working individually.
I am hoping to start a twice a week group in the near future. About half the participants in the once a week group I have been conducting for nearly three years would like to change to twice a week, but this is not possible without a consensus.