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R. Kaës ed.: Le psychodrame psychanalytique de groupe / Group Psychoanalytic Psychodrama. Dunod, Paris, 1999
review by Olivier Nicolle

The theme of this book is tackled through different chapters: Small Group Psychodrama With Psychoanalysts - Speaking, Playing And Preconscious Working-through In Group Psychoanalytic Psychodrama - Accession Of Ego In The Group Psychoanalytic Psychodrama Setting - Interpretation In Playing - Group Psychoanalytic Psychodrama In An Institutional Mediation - Group Psychodramatist's Training, the authors of which are all members of CEFFRAP, a well known group-oriented psychoanalytic French organisation, founded 1962 by Didier ANZIEU, one of contemporary psychoanalysis prominent authors.

All through the '60 and '70, CEFFRAP analysts seized on the Morenian psychodrama, and thoroughly studying it in a psychoanalytic way, they went a step beyond and turned it into a new group psychoanalytic setting, the groupal and individual clinical effects of which they progressively observed, described and published, and they are now elaborating for many years into technical principles, theoretical formulations and training requirements.

The coincidence of this publication and D. Anzieu's death some months later stresses the double polarity of this collective work: imparting and continuing the founders' major steps and contributions - expanding to new subjects (e.g. figurability processes in groups), observation fields (institutions, for instance) and research settings (e.g. theme-oriented groups).

In an initial Group Psychoanalytic Psychodrama session, a (generally) heterosexual couple of psychoanalysts - psychodramatists meets a gathering of 10-15 preregistered people who didn't know them and who didn't know each other before. Analysts will give first a set of basic regulations about the situation (schedule, setting, free speech, ways of proposing and playing psychodrama, etc.).
Staging fantasy themes stemming from individual psychic lives and from an encountering group leads to scenarios and plays where full act or roughly sketched acting generate unconscious reactions and imagery, non-verbal representations, feelings and sensations, and words too. Being into a small group activates archaic trends and defensive mechanisms (in particular as far as identifying achievements and arrangements are concerned). Analysts shall listen to the unconscious groupal dynamics emerging among participants from verbal utterances or dialogues and from the proposed, accepted or turned down, then played and finally elaborated psychodramatic scenes.

At times underlining, questioning, or giving an interpretation, even playing ( one of both only) the two analysts pay attention to bring to any containing of the emerging processual groupal unconscious fantasies. They also care to sustain the elaboration of transference/counter-transference figures, including their primarily unconscious own couple "inter-transference", the importance of which through the years appeared more and more, as for the analysts' work on the whole group material during the sessions and out of them.

R. KAËS and his colleagues also apply themselves at developing metapsychological formulations about figuration processes and at showing - including through large clinical group reports and observations - the particular relevance of these setting and specific methodology in treating clinical speechless situations, be it from individual causality (e.g. traumatic), from some groupal conditions of conflict (like in disturbed institutions), or from defensive critical situation.

More than two decades ago, the query was sometimes addressed here to these group-concerned psychodramatists-psychoanalysts about their possibly "transgressive" standpoint as far as psychoanalysis was concerned. Strictly using analytical methodology, setting up careful theoretical elaboration and training principles lead this question to a rather outdated one today.

Their views about psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical psychodrama led them to conceptualise training as a most personal process, with its own ways and rhythms in a groupal and institutional setting, and therefore to let down the previous rough quantitative prescriptions of duration and frequency in training, and to focus on the trainee's personal psychic processes, in groups and out. The main prerequisite to training is the personal classical psychoanalysis of future trainee. Trainee's personal path is assessed through usual known frames (preliminary interviews, numerous participations in groups of different types, observing and co-leading reports etc.) and through more specific ones: grouping-in sessions of all trainees, reference analytical interviews with a chosen and fix trainer along the training years, for instance.

The emerging of Group Psychoanalytical Psychodrama in France coincides with the tumultuous and also creative last decades of French psychoanalytical trends, and thus bears this stamp in its theoretical concerns and reflects this evolution in its training principles.

This book is now being translated into Italian and Spanish, and will be published soon by Borla editions (Roma) and Amorrurtu editions (Buenos Aires).

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last modified: 2001-07-25