What is Group Analysis?


Group analysis (or group analytic psychotherapy) is a method of group psychotherapy originated by S.H. Foulkes in the 1940s. Group psychotherapy was pioneered by S.H. Foulkes with his psychoanalytic patients and later with soldiers in the Northfield experiments at Hollymoor Hospital. Group analysis combines psychoanalytic insights with an understanding of social and interpersonal functioning. There is an interest, in group analysis, on the relationship between the individual group member and the rest of the group resulting in a strengthening of both, and a better integration of the individual with his or her community, family and social network.

Deriving from psychoanalysis, Group Analysis also draws on a range of other psychotherapeutic traditions and approaches: systems theory psychotherapies, developmental psychology and social psychology. Group analysis also has applications in organisational consultancy, and in teaching and training. Group analysts work in a wide range of contexts with a wide range of difficulties and problems.


Group analysis is based on the view that deep lasting change can occur within a carefully formed group whose combined membership reflects the wider norms of society. Group analysis is a way of understanding group processes in small, median or, large groups. It is concerned with the relationship between a person and the network of activity in the many groups of which he or she might belong. Through these group processes we can explore what bearing the public and private aspects of a person’s life have on one another, and the dialectic between group and personal development. Group members are supported, through shared experience and joint exploration within the group, in coming to a healthier understanding of their situation. Problems are seen at the level of group, organisation or institutional system; not solely in the individual sufferer, as they do in prevailing medical models. Problems within are recast as obstacles without. The way in which the group functions is central to this. Democracy and co-operation are the pillars through which group-mediated solutions to problems can flow in ways that are enduring. It is based on the principles developed by S.H. Foulkes in the 1940s and is rooted in psychoanalysis and the social sciences.

Group analysis is the dominant psychodynamic approach outside the US and Canada. It is an approach that views the group as an organic entity and insists that the therapist take a less intrusive role, so as to become the group’s conductor (as in music) rather than its director. The group is seen as not merely a dynamic entity of its own, but functions within a sociocultural context that influences its processes. In group analytic technique, the therapist weans the members from excessive and inappropriate dependency towards becoming their own therapists – both to themselves and to the other group members.

The Group Analytic Society and the Institute of Group Analysis were organisations established by Foulkes and others to promote Group Analysis and to train practitioners.

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Who was Trigant Burrow?


Nicholas Trigant Burrow (07 September 1875 to 24 May 1950) was an American psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, psychologist, and, alongside Joseph H. Pratt and Paul Schilder, founder of group analysis in the United States.

He was the inventor of the concept of neurodynamics.


Trigant Burrow was the youngest of four children in a well-off family of French origin. His father was an educated Protestant freethinker, his mother, however, was a practicing Catholic. He initially studied Literature at the Fordham University, Medicine at the University of Virginia, receiving his M.D. in 1900, and eventually Psychology at Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D., 1909). While working at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, he had the opportunity to attend a theatre performance, during which he was introduced to two European doctors who were on a lecture tour in the United States: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The same year Burrow travelled with his family to Zurich in order to undergo a year-long Freudian analysis by Jung., He would later help to popularise Freud and Jung’s ideas on images in particular. Upon his return to the United States he practiced as a psychoanalyst in Baltimore until 1926. The American Psychoanalytic Association was founded in 1911, and he acted as the president in 1924 and 1925, though he was later expelled from it in 1932.

In 1926 Burrow founded the Lifwynn Foundation for Laboratory Research in Analytic and Social Psychiatry and published his first major work, The Social Basis of Consciousness. Until his death Burrow acted as the research director for the foundation and devoted particular attention to the physiological substructures of harmonious and rivalling participants within groups and societies, but also between states. His methods for measuring the electrical activity of the brain in connection with specific eye movements has led some to call him the father of trauma therapy [Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)].

Founder of Group Analysis

In 1921, Burrow was challenged by one of his analysands, Clarence Shields, with regard to the inherently authoritarian role of the psychoanalyst. The student criticised the perceivable difference in authority during the analysis and demanded his teacher be more forthright. It came as a shock to Burrow when he realized, “that, in individual application, analytical attitude and authoritarian attitude can not be separated.” Experimenting with reversing the roles of analyser and patient, as well as with mutual analysis, Burrow and Shield became convinced that both displayed blind spots, adherence to social conventions and considerable utilisation of defence mechanisms. In Trigant Burrow’s eyes acknowledging this distortion of the analytical endeavour is indispensable to restoring relationships to normality. To Burrow and Shields, clarifying and ultimately diminishing the neurotic dislocation of emotions and cognition seemed possible only in a group setting. Both invited previous patients, relatives, and colleagues, including the Swiss Psychiatrist, Hans Syz, to sit in on some group sessions. Trigant Burrow coined the term group therapy and wrote three fundamental texts which were released between 1924 and 1927.

While Burrow considered his work a legitimate extension of Freudian thinking, Freud himself did not accept it as such. Burrow’s innovations led to a breach with orthodox psychoanalysis, Otto Fenichel for example criticising as repressive/inspirational “the work of Burrow who, by ‘phyloanalysis,’ tries to bring his patients to a reconsideration of their natural ways of functioning”. In retrospect however, he can be seen as pioneering investigations into such phenomena as countertransference, and intersubjective psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis as a Social Science

Under the impression that psychoanalysis should be further developed with more emphasis on the group, Burrow devised the concept of psychoanalysis as a social science. His criticism of the modern cult of individuality, and of the civilised preference for social over biological needs, led him to stress the communal elements in man’s thinking and consciousness.

Important Publications

The Social Basis of Consciousness, London 1927.
The Structure of Insanity, London, 1932.
The Biology of Human Conflict, New York 1937.
The Neurosis of Man, London 1949.
Science and Man’s Behavior, New York 1953.
Preconscious Foundations of Human Experiences, New York, London 1964.
Das Fundament der Gruppenanalyse oder die Analyse der Reaktionen von normalen und neurotischen Menschen, Lucifer-Amor: 21. 104-113.
Paolo Migone, Le origini della gruppoanalisi: una nota su Trigant Burrow. Rivista Sperimentale di Freniatria, 1995, CXIX, 3: 512-217.
Edi Gatti Pertegato & Giorgio Orghe Pertegato (editors), From Psychoanalysis to Group Analysis. The Pioneering Work of Trigant Burrow. Forewords by Malcolm Pines, Alfreda Sill Galt and Lloyd Gilden. London: Karnac, 2013 (expanded edition from the Italian book: Dalla psicoanalisi alla fondazione della gruppoanalisi. Patologia della normalità, conflitto individuale e sociale. Vimodrone [Milan]: IPOC, 2010, Second edition [First edition: 2009]).

This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigant_Burrow >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.