Support Groups for Care Staff
There is little written about support groups, which is curious in view of the prevalence and popularity of support groups in various institutional settings. An article in the British Journal of Psychotherapy presents a detailed account of one session from a staff support group in a hospital setting, and three professionals give a ‘clinical commentary’ on the meeting. The professionals were a group analyst, a Kleinian psycho-analyst and an organisational consultant. There was general agreement amongst these professionals that a support group is not intended to be group therapy, but it has an educational aim in the sense of helping staff to understand more about their roles and the organisational constraints that can prevent them fulfilling the roles in a satisfactory and satisfying way. There was agreement, too, that understanding transference and counter-transference is useful for furthering organisational learning and promoting beneficial change. All three professionals stressed the importance of giving due weight to organisational constraints, such as understaffing as a result of cuts in services, which staff support groups are usually unable to influence. A useful warning is that there is often an underlying pressure to establish support groups as a way of locating institutional problems in the groups, encouraging a view that such problems are a result of personal failure on the part of staff (T. Dartington, 1993).
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