with Amy Fraher
Amy Fraher, 42, is the author of a new book, A History of Group
Study and Psychodynamic Organizations, to be published by Free
Association Books on 1 October 2004.
researched and wrote her book while working as a Visiting Social
Scientist at the Tavistock
Institute in London, an experience which gave her useful insights
into the work of one of the founding influences on group relations.
We interviewed Amy to find out more.
did you first become interested in group relations?
My fascination with group process dates to January, 2000 when I
attended my first group relations conference as part of my doctoral
studies. A three day experiential event, based loosely on the Tavistock
model and influenced by A. K. Rice Institute traditions, was being
offered for the first time at my university. My fellow graduate
students and I jumped at the chance to earn "three-units-in-three-days",
as we jokingly announced. We had no idea what was in store for us.
me, it was a life-changing experience.
the course of this experiential learning event and the weeks and
months that followed I felt energized and engaged with the world.
It was as if I had found a new, liberating lens through which to
view my life; and a place in which to speak the things I had often
seen and felt in organizational life, but never dared say. I attended
more group relations events including the Tavistock Instituteís
Leicester Conference. As I gained experience in group relations
theories and methods, I began to examine my individual assumptions
and behaviours by recognizing and talking about group-as-a-whole
group enabled me to explore my valencies and challenged my phantasies
as beliefs which were, upon deeper examination, less tethered to
reality than I had imagined. I learned to recognize my own splitting
and projections and how to fend off othersí projections. Now whenever
I encounter conflict in my daily work life, I can separate better
"what is mine" and "what is systemic" through the use of a group
made you write your book, A History of Group Study and Psychodynamic
In 2001 Professor Theresa Monroe suggested that I examine the history
of group relations as the topic of my doctoral dissertation. Under
the guidance of Robert Donmoyer as chair, I completed The Development
of the Tavistock and Tavistock-Inspired Group Relations Movement
in Great Britain and the United States: A Comparative and Historical
Perspective, which provided preliminary data for this book.
My research led me to recognize that there was a genuine need for
a book like this - an attempt to synthesize and make sense of the
history of group study and the dynamics found in organizations that
did you most enjoy about writing it?
I really enjoyed meeting and interviewing central people in the
field of group study such as Eric Miller, Isabel Menzies Lyth, Gordon
Lawrence, Wesley Carr, Anton Obholzer, Mannie Sher, Tim Dartington,
David Armstrong, John Bazalgette, and Karen Izod in the UK; and
in the US Larry Gould, Kathy White, Ed Klein, Charla Hayden, Arthur
Coleman, Lowell Cooper, Robert Baxter, Evangelina Holvino, Diane
Porter, Ed Shapiro, and Earl Braxton, to name just a few. I was
also excited by my archival research process at the British Library,
Tavistock Clinic Library, Wellcome Library, Copley Library, the
Melanie Klein Trust and the Wellcome Trust Medical Photographic
Library. I loved sifting through decades of archives preserved at
the Tavistock Institute and the Grubb Institute, including many
original, previously unexplored artefacts.
do you see as the key points youíd like psychodynamic organizations
to take away from your book?
In my book I develop the construct of idea organizations - organizations
designed to generate intellectual concepts, rather than to produce
goods or services. As examples, I examine the psychodynamic workings
of the National Training Laboratories, Tavistock Institute and the
A. K. Rice Institute, as well as early psychoanalytic societies
to show how the innovatory forces that energize these idea organizations
can become the focus of inter-group rivalries, creating a cycle
that puts the organization themselves at risk. As a result, organizational
restructuring and innovation, which idea organizations must accomplish
to survive, often becomes a painful process for members. Since ideas
themselves are intimate products of our psyche, closely attached
to the image we carry of ourselves - criticism of oneís ideas feels
like criticism of oneís self. Consequently, people may respond to
the requisites of change with resistance and hostility, further
intensifying inter-group rivalry. Yet, if members of idea organizations
begin to understand and expect restructuring and innovation as regular
features of the idea organizationís life cycle, they can prepare
better emotionally, psychologically and financially for their changing
role within the morphing organization.
do you hope might happen as a result of people reading it?
few things. First, I would hope that people gain an increased appreciation
of the complex history of group study and the roots of theories
and methods underpinning the field. I also hope for a renewed interest
in group relations as an intelligible field of study as opposed
to seeing it as some mystical phenomenon one can never attempt to
explain. Of course, puzzling aspects of group life remain. But over
the years many people have attempted to provide insights into it.
I hope my book helps synthesize these contributions as well as pointing
out areas which warrant further examination.
can people contact you with comments or feedback about the book?
would welcome all comments and feedback! Please email me at email@example.com
are you planning to do next?
just accepted a position as Chief Pilot at Miramar College in San
Diego and plan to take this aviation training program in new directions.
Iíll also continue to build my consultancy business, Paradox & Company.
find out more or order a copy of A History of Psychodynamic
Organizations on Free
Association Books' website.