GASi

A brief history

The Group-Analytic Society International (GASi)

GASi (originally the Group Analytic Society, GAS) was established in 1952 by S.H. Foulkes, Elizabeth Marx, Dr. James Anthony, Dr Patrick De Mare, W. H. R. Iliffe, Mrs M. L. J. Abercrombie and Dr Norbert Elias as a learned society to study and promote the development of Group Analysis in both its clinical and applied aspects. Its objectives were:

  • to formalise the arrangements for co-operation and discussion which already existed between them;

  • to provide a focus for the teaching and training in group analysis which they were undertaking separately in various teaching hospitals;

  • to stimulate research and publication;

  • and to create a centre for scientific meetings and workshops.

In the United Kingdom group psychotherapy initially developed independently, with pioneers S. H. Foulkes and Wilfred Bion using group therapy as an approach to treating combat fatigue in the Second World War. Foulkes and Bion were psychoanalysts and incorporated psychoanalysis into group therapy by recognising that transference can arise not only between group members and the therapist but also among group members. Furthermore the psychoanalytic concept of the unconscious was extended with a recognition of a group unconscious, in which the unconscious processes of group members could be acted out in the form of irrational processes in group sessions. Foulkes developed the model known as Group Analysis and the Institute of Group Analysis, while Bion was influential in the development of group therapy at the Tavistock Clinic. Bion has been criticised, for example by Yalom, for his technical approach which had an exclusive focus on analysis of whole-group processes to the exclusion of any exploration of individual group members’ issues. Despite this, his recognition of group defences in the “Basic Assumption Group”, has been highly influential.

S.H. Foulkes was President of GAS until 1970. Elizabeth Foulkes, his wife, was Honorary Administrative Secretary of GAS from its early days, and was later Membership Secretary and Vice-President and a Trustee of the Trust for Group Analysis. In 1971 the Society delegated responsibility for training and qualifications in group analysis to the Institute of Group Analysis (IGA) while the Trust for Group Analysis, a charitable body, was formed to handle the finances of GAS, the IGA and the Society’s journal. This was dissolved in 1981 and GAS and IGA became registered charities in their own right. The first regular weekly seminars were given by Foulkes in 1952. Members of the Society come from different countries and from many fields and disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, sociology, medicine, nursing, social work, counselling, education, industry, forensic and prison services, management and organisational consultancy, architecture, anthropology and the clergy. The Society, which has charitable status (Charity Registration Number: 281387) is a learned society and non-profit organization, holds regular scientific meetings and organizes various workshops, including an annual one currently held in the Autumn. A triennial European symposium is held at various European locations. An annual S. H. Foulkes lecture for a wider public has been held in London since 1977 and the lectures are published in the journal of the Society. Past issues of Group Analytic Contexts, the Newsletter of the Society, are available in full from the Publications page of this site. More detailed background material may be found in: Jeff Roberts and Malcolm Pines (eds), The Practice of Group Analysis, 1991; and Malcolm Pines (ed), The Evolution of Group Analysis, 1983.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the founders of group psychotherapy in the USA were Joseph H. Pratt, Trigant Burrow and Paul Schilder. All three of them were active and working at the East Coast in first half of the 20th century. After World War II group psychotherapy was further developed by Jacob L. Moreno, Samuel Slavson, Hyman Spotnitz, Irvin Yalom, and Lou Ormont. Yalom’s approach to group therapy has been very influential not only in the USA but across the world, through his classic text “The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy”. Moreno developed a specific and highly structured form of group therapy known as Psychodrama.