Nr 18.  2008 sid. 84–102

Group Sessions
and discussion

Peggy Deeny


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Peggy Deeny is a group analyst, trained with IGA – The Institute of Group Analysis – (London) in St Vincent´s University Hospital Dublin, and psychotherapist. She is founder member of Irish Institute of Group Analysis and since 2005 co-ordinator in the Group section of EFPP. She developed pastoral care program-mes for second level students in Northern Ireland Schools in the early days of the Troubles, worked with community groups and conflict resolution in Northen Ireland. She works as psychotherapist in the public sector, group analyst in Medical Centre in Strabane and in private practice.

In this article I give my intuitive response to the script of the group sessions and secondly I will reflect on some of the processes that helped members embody elements of a more balanced life approach and manage better the multi-dimensional mystery-of-life.

Part 1

There is something instantly appealing about the word! “Mellanrum.” It was magic for me. It took me by surprise, I had never heard the word spoken but when I saw it’s meaning written, something shifted in me. It carried me off on a flight of fantasy. The notion of “a potential space”, “a room in between”, resonated, it’s a notion so important in the work we do and the world we inhabit as therapists. Mellanrum kept repeating itself, repeating to understand what James Joyce called the big words, mesmerising me and thus helping me forget the real task that was out before me. This removal of the sense of obligation shortened the creative odds; once the weight of the commission lifted, conditions were less earnest, less duty bound and then the anxiety about measuring up to the demand and to the honour of reflecting on the manuscript that I had been given almost disappeared. It was replaced by a mood that was apt and absolved, more susceptible to the spirit of play. This is what I would do, I would play a while. As soon as that image came to me, I was up and away able to proceed in a way that felt workable, yet unconstrained.

I permitted myself then the luxury of reading the manuscript for sheer pleasure. As I read it I held my breath and wondered why? This sense of awe, this feeling of anxiety, this idea of awakening, could I begin to unfold it all? There was real life in the language of this text, it throbbed with possibility; as the people painted the images and spoke their truth, the spirit of this group grew in its being. I thought of the members (I often do) as a cast in a play. It felt as if an experienced producer had chosen a good cast that could work well together. It was the same magical space found in some but not all analytic groups. I had known this spirit in the past and found it again in this script. It defies analysis, you know its there and you know it works and it is hard to say exactly why it does work. I knew it and I felt it from the beginning, it delights me when I do find it. In spite of the breath that I held, I knew that this was a cohesive group, it was a good cast of carefully balanced players, it promised plenty, the production would run its course and my tension was the group anxiety so well expressed at the outset by Michael and so well contained by the conductors. Michael asks us group therapists, ‘is it OK to start with presentations’ and we say ‘yes’. (Session 1)

A Group Therapy

The group is a short-term treatment format of 16, 90-minute sessions of group analytic treatment, and we therapists, Jonathan and Nelly, selected six patients in their late teens.

At the referral
Patrick had problems with a mild depression and motivational issues, including constant arguments with his mother for staying out late, not doing his home work, and so on.

Michael lived with both his parents and an elder sibling. Michael had since his early teenage years been convinced that he was really a girl and was born in the wrong body. He did not consider transsexual surgery. Instead, he struggled with thoughts of either accepting his predicament or committing suicide. In the interviews before the group he displayed a strong motivation for attending the group, but he didn’t tell us much about his suicidal ideation, claiming it was more present in the past.

Faisa was adopted at an early age from a non-European country. Her adoptive parents broke up when she was in her mid teens and her adoptive father then moved abroad. She had problems mostly of relational nature, and some identity issues and mild depressive symptoms. Faisa’s depression had been worse a few years ago, but she had been helped by supportive counselling.

Mary had just finished high school and was taking a sabbatical year due to motivational problems and a moderate depression. Six months ago, her boyfriend broke up with her. She was very upset and took a minor overdose of pills. She then went to a hospital alone without telling anyone.

Three parts of the group process are presented, the first session, a series of sessions in the middle of the treatment and the concluding sessions.

Session 1
All patients except Patrick arrive on time. Michael asks us group therapists, “is it OK to start with presentations” and we say yes. Faisa and Mary say some short things about their backgrounds, Faisa adds “I’ve been through some difficult things as a child” and Mary: “I want to find meaning to my life”. Then Michael presents himself: “I want to be a girl, I don’t accept my body as it is and I am prone to suicide”. Mary then says that she often felt her life lacked any meaning at all, whereas Faisa tells a story about a friend of hers who also had a problem with her sexual identity and then had killed herself. Faisa then addresses Michael and says it’s wrong that he thinks of suicide and that he should think of his value as a person rather than of his sex. Jonathan now intervenes, saying that a difference between Michael and Faisa’s friend is that Michael has sought treatment. Faisa adds that her friend had been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward and killed herself on a permitted leave, and Michael says: “yes, I can understand that it would be horrible to be locked up against your will”.

Patrick then arrives. The discussion continues, Nelly commenting on Michael’s statements and saying they showed a belief in the possibility of being helped by the group. Patrick says that he also had a friend who had killed himself despite being at a treatment centre and going to therapy. He often thinks adults don’t really care about teenagers. For example, when he went to a counsellor he felt that she just said things she’d read in a book. Jonathan then cracks a joke to Nelly: “we sure got some demanding patients here today!”, and get some smiles.

Michael then tells a long story of his girlfriend also suffering from mental problems, and he often feeling that no-one could bear to listen to his problems. He then says the group feels good because no-one knows him in his private life and he therefore feels free to speak out. Faisa now says that she herself was convinced her life had a meaning and that her studies helped her with this. Mary then tells the group about her struggle with her depression and her constant feeling of being stuck in her life. Her parents are pressuring her to start studying, but she’s unsure of what to do. Faisa then addresses Mary and says: “it’s very important to find something you enjoy doing for your own sake, for example, I take belly-dance courses”. Mary says thanks. Nelly says: “this is a good example of how the group can be of help”. Jonathan ends the session saying he thought this was a good first session.




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