The Fragility of a Robust Therapeutic Technique: The Case of Bion’s Experience Group

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How can therapeutic techniques simultaneously be tools for emancipation and act as subtle forms of control? The article investigates this seeming paradox by examining a technique for group analysis developed by Wilfred Bion aimed at surfacing the inclination of a group to prompt inexpedient leadership. Over time, the technique developed a reputation as a very effective, but also a very challenging, and even disturbing method, and was subsequently translated into less intense versions. By analyzing its key principles and operational risks, the article discusses Bion’s experience group as illustrative of the “scaling problems” associated with the operation of therapeutic techniques. The handling of such problems is central to the effects and survivability of a particular method, and in this case the original purpose was gradually eroded. The article concludes that a focus on the “sociomechanics” of such techniques offers an opportunity to resuscitate their instituted purposes combined with a more precise understanding of the risks associated with their attainment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)213-233
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Bion
  • Governmentality
  • Group Relations
  • Leadership
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Risk
  • Tavistock
  • Technology

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