Organisational Understanding and Reflection Group for Senior Practitioners

Organisational Understanding and Reflection Group for Senior Practitioners

First meetings start in April. Find out more...


17 March 2014

TIHR launches a group for senior practitioners and policy makers working with overwhelming experiences.

The group is open: although members can join all sessions new members can also join at any point and existing members can miss sessions. Each session will work with will between 6 and 8 members, so advanced booking up to two weeks in advance of the session is required. The members of the group will be external to TIHR and will be hosted by Dr Mannie Sher and Dr Milena Stateva of TIHR.

The group will meet at 3pm for ten meetings on the first instance as follows:

  • April 1st
  • April 29th
  • May 27th
  • June 24th
  • July 22nd
  • August 19th
  • September 9th
  • October 14th
  • November 11th
  • December 9th

Note that these dates may change, but enough warning will be given for you to reschedule.

The meetings will consist of two parts: 1.5 hour reflective session and 1.5 hour reading group. It is expected that twice a year the group may conduct a public event to disseminate the understanding the members are acquiring.

Background of OUR group for senior practitioners

In 2011 the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations launched a strategic initiative in support of organisations going through or working with overwhelming experiences. The initiative aims to understand trauma (as a synonym for overwhelming experiences) among practitioners in order to improve prevention, healing and harm-reduction.

The vision for the future of this work is: better equipped organisations (with knowledge, skills, tools, conceptual frameworks, greater emotional competence, etc) in order to more effectively meet the needs of their clients and address the social aspects of trauma, that is – to result in an improved quality of care.

Working with overwhelming experiences requires advanced sensitivity and reflexivity. These skills need to be fostered on a regular basis in order to help the individual researchers/consultants and the team as a whole to identify and work with fieldwork issues beneath the surface.

The OUR group is offered on request by and following a discussion with beneficiaries.

Membership of OUR group for senior practitioners

The OUR group is available to senior practitioners, managers and policy makers who work with overwhelming experiences and severely damaged patients and whose organisations are themselves going through upheaval.

The concept of overwhelming experiences refers to experiences of harm and debilitation – whether affecting physical or mental integrity – caused by phenomena or events that transcend capacities of people to cope. These may be actual life-threatening or experienced as life-threatening events, circumstances or situations. Examples are projects related to palliative care, domestic violence, human trafficking, gang behaviour, work with patients of secure psychiatric institutions. However, the concept can also cover the collective trauma of historically marginalised and excluded groups, which by virtue of the cumulative effects of the traumatisation, are socially, psychologically, emotionally, socially and physically degraded, such as many Roma people, many homeless people, people suffering the effects of homophobia, xenophobia and so on .

Senior practitioners, managers and policy makers working in the area of extreme violence, trauma, traumatisation and traumatised organisations may find this group work helpful.

Primary task of OUR group for senior practitioners

Members of the group will develop skills and knowledge on how to mobilise people and create ‘spaces’ within traumatised organisations in order to make it possible to work with toxic projections. They will do so by understanding through learning in a group about the pressures to stay or be displaced from role. The group will provide a containing space and a secure base for understanding the impact of projected feelings of homelessness, danger and annihilation, and others.

The primary task is thus learning and understanding – expanding members’ capacities to, symbolise, metabolise and understand emotional, cultural, political and other beneath-the-surface dynamics. Greater learning and understanding would also result in a) improved quality of organisational functioning and work; b) greater resilience against vicarious traumatisation and c) burn-out prophylactics.

The programme would not be a substitute for psychotherapy. Rather, the programme would foster key psychosocial research skills which Bion called ‘binocular vision’, or the ability to hold in mind both content and process simultaneously when working in groups enhanced by reverie – the capacity to sense (and make sense of) what is going in the individual being taken care of; the specific capacity to imagine what is going in the inner world of another human being or group of human beings. What makes the TIHR model different is that we add a third dimension – that of understanding structural challenges in addition to content and process.

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