Bion’s Theory of Assumptive Cultures

Some fundamental work on group dynamics

Group Dynamics

Group psychotherapists often discuss the work of W. R. Bion, who offered up a host of insights into groups and their processes in his writings, but particularly in his book Experiences in Groups, which was published by Tavistock in 1959 but then circulated much more widely in 1961 (when printed by Basic Books).  Bion was a classically trained psychoanalyst, who with his colleague John Rickman used groups as part of treatment program carried out during World War II at a Northfield Military Hospital. The treatment they implemented there was radical for times, but includes the basic principles found in most group-level approaches to change—flattened status structures, development of a therapeutic milieu, focus on the group and its dynamics (the “here and now” perspective) rather than on events external to the group, and the development of trust and openness.

Those experiences in the group apparently puzzled Bion considerably, and he spent…

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