Primitive anxieties and the small group: multi-agency working and the risk of collaboration

Chuard, Matthew (2021) Primitive anxieties and the small group: multi-agency working and the risk of collaboration. Journal of Child Psychotherapy . ISSN 1469-9370 (electronic) 0075-417X (paper)

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This paper explores some of the unconscious group processes that multi-agency teams face in the development of emotionally engaged collaborative relationships. Here, the term multi-agency team is used to refer specifically to groups of professionals drawn from different organisations who come together and disband around work with a specific young person and their family. Through the close analysis of observational material taken from a multi-agency meeting concerning a young person in temporary foster care, there is an exploration of the acute emotional pressures and unconscious processes present in this small group. Drawing together Bion’s and Canham’s work on group functioning, in conjunction with Lacan’s formulation of the mirror stage as central to ego development, the very particular and problematic nature of the anxieties provoked by the loss of individual coherence in multi-agency teams is explored. Consideration is given to how an increased awareness of the nature of the anxieties provoked by work in small groups, and of the unconscious processes that become operative in them, can offer professionals working in multi-agency teams an additional perspective from which to view the emotional vicissitudes present in this type of work. It is suggested that a greater awareness of the specific emotional challenges posed by the small group can improve the potential for emotionally engaged collaboration in multi-agency working.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Multi-agency, Basic assumption, Mirror stage, Gang state of mind, Trauma, Group state of mind, Double deprivation, Triple deprivation
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Group Processes/Group Dynamics
Human Psychological Processes > Stress
Department/People: Department of Education and Training

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