Psychoanalysis of Groups and Organisations

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
20 May 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA C89012 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C89024 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C890MO Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C89812 Refugee Care,
MA C89824 Refugee Care,
MA C898MO Refugee Care,
MPHPC89836 Refugee Care,
PHD C89848 Refugee Care,
PHP C89836 Refugee Care

Module description

This module provides an introduction to exploring how a psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the dynamics of groups and organisations.

The starting point, as with all psychoanalytic thought, is the unconscious- what it is, and how it influences the behaviour of groups. Following an examination of some of the classic contributions of Freud and Bion, the module progresses to develop a number of perspectives on how psychoanalytic ideas can inform an understanding of firstly, how the individual takes up a role in groups and organisations, and, secondly, how such roles are shaped by dynamic processes in groups and organisations.

This includes the role of the group or organisation as a holding environment to meet, or frustrate our dependency needs; the interplay of systems thinking and psychoanalysis; the way we use group and organisational structure to defend against anxiety; the way we internalise images of the group/organisation; how authority and power is located in the group or organisation; the impact of narcissism and oedipal dynamics on leadership and followership; and finally a consideration of the dynamics of change in groups/organisations.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:
* To enable students to develop an understanding of group and organisational dynamics through the application of psychoanalytic concepts.
* To enable students to analyse and develop hypotheses about group and organisational scenarios based on this understanding.
* To enable students to apply an understanding of group and organisational dynamics to a variety of contexts.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:
* Demonstrate an understanding of psychoanalytic concepts relevant to the structure and functioning of groups and organizations
* Engage critically with core themes of the module
* Articulate hypotheses on group and organisational behaviour, based on clear analysis and psychodynamic understanding of the group/organisational milieu

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

All teaching is done in seminars, in which active participation is encouraged, usually in relation to texts. The seminar itself provides opportunities for psychoanalytic thinking, as the discussion build between members. Feedback on written work sharpens attention to the aims of the course. The Research Forum and supervision provides guidance on discerning research opportunities. Tutorials support intellectual and cognitive development. For students on the MA Management and Organisational Dynamics, learning is also consolidated through a psychodynamic observation of an organisation.


  • (2013) Socioanalytic methods: discovering the hidden in organisations and social systems, London: Karnac Books Ltd.
  • Hinshelwood, RD. (1994) 'Chapter 4: Attacks on the Reflective Space', in Ring of fire: primitive affects and object relations in group psychotherapy, London: Routledge. vol. International library of group psychotherapy and group process
  • Hinshelwood, R. D. (1987) What happens in groups: psychoanalysis, the individual and the community, London: Free Association Books.
  • (2013) 'Facilitating transitional change', in Humanness in organisations: a psychodynamic contribution, London: Karnac.
  • Huffington, Clare; dawsonera. (2004) Working below the surface: the emotional life of contemporary organizations, London: Karnac.
  • Bion, Wilfred R. (2001) Experiences in groups: and other papers, Hove: Brunner-Routledge.
  • Simpson, R; French, R. (2005) 'Thoughtful Leadership: Lessons from Bion', in Organisational and Social Dynamics. vol. 5 (2) , pp.280-297
  • Gillham, Bill. (2008) Observation techniques, New York: Continuum International Pub.
  • Steiner, J. (1985) 'Turning a Blind Eye: The Cover up for Oedipus', in International Review of Psycho-Analysis. vol. 12, pp.161-172
  • Armstrong, David; French, Robert. (2005) Organization in the mind: psychoanalysis, group relations, and organizational consultancy : occasional papers 1989-2003, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Hoggett, P. (1998) 'The Internal Establishment', in Bion's legacy to groups: selected contributions from the International Centennial Conference on the Work of W.R. Bion : Turin, July 1997, London: Karnac Books.
  • DeWalt, Kathleen Musante; DeWalt, Billie R. (c2011) Participant observation: a guide for fieldworkers, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, Md.
  • Hinshelwood, R. D; Skogstad, Wilhelm. (2000) Observing organisations: anxiety, defence, and culture in health care, London: Routledge.
  • Cooper, A; Dartington, T. (2004) 'The Vanishing Organisation: organisational containment in a networked world', in Working below the surface: the emotional life of contemporary organizations, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Van Buskirk, W. (1999-06-01) 'Organizational Cultures as Holding Environments: A Psychodynamic Look at Organizational Symbolism', in Human Relations. vol. 52 (6) , pp.805-832
  • Jacques, E. (1950-) 'Why the Psychoanalytical Approach to Understanding Organisations is Dysfunctional', in Human relations, London: Sage. vol. 48 (4) , pp.343-349
  • Rees, J. (2000) 'Food for Thought - The Canteen of a Mental Hospital', in Observing organisations: anxiety, defence, and culture in health care, London: Routledge.
  • Chernomas, Robert. (2007-12) 'Containing Anxieties in Institutions or Creating Anxiety in Institutions: A Critique of the Menzies Lyth Hypothesis', in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society. vol. 12 (4) , pp.369-384
  • Hirschhorn, Larry. (c1997) Reworking authority: leading and following in the post-modern organization, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. vol. 12
  • Kets de Vries, Manfred F. R. (c2006) The leader on the couch: a clinical approach to changing people and organizations, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • De Board, Robert. (2014) The psychoanalysis of organizations: a psychoanalytic approach to behaviour in groups and organizations, New York: Routledge. vol. Routledge mental health classic editions
  • Stein, Mark. (2003-5-1) 'Unbounded Irrationality: Risk and Organizational Narcissism at Long Term Capital Management', in Human Relations. vol. 56 (5) , pp.523-540
  • Rothgeb, Carrie Lee. (1953-1974) Volume 18: Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, [London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis].
  • Obholzer, A. (1994) 'Authority,Power and Leadership: contributions from group relations training', in The Unconscious at work: individual and organizational stress in the human services, London: Routledge.
  • Stokes, J. (1994) 'What is unconscious in organisations?', in What makes consultancy work: understanding the dynamics, London: South Bank University Press.
  • Rioch, M. (c1975) 'The Work of Wilfred Bion on Groups', in Group relations reader, Sausalito, Calif: GREX. vol. An A.K. Rice series, pp.21-35
  • Hirschhorn, Larry. (c1990) The workplace within: psychodynamics of organizational life, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. vol. MIT Press series on organization studies
  • Krantz, James. (2018-5-30) 'Dilemmas of organizational change', in The Systems Psychodynamics of Organizations: Routledge.
  • Amando, G. (1950-) 'Why Psychoanalytic Knowledge Helps Us to Understand Organisations: A discussion with Elliott Jaques', in Human relations, London: Sage. vol. 48 (4) , pp.351-335
  • Donati, F. (2000) 'Chapter 3: Madness and Morale: A Chronic Psychiatric Ward', in Observing organisations: anxiety, defence, and culture in health care, London: Routledge.
  • Menzies Lyth, I. (1988) The Functioning of Social Systems as a Defence Against Anxiety: a report on a Study of the Nursing Service of a General Hospital, London: Free Association., pp.43-85
  • Chris, Oakley. (31 Dec. 2017) What Is A Group?: A New Look at Theory in Practice (The Encyclopaedia of Psychoanalysis): Karnac Books.
  • Halton, W. (2004) 'By What Authority? Psychoanalytic Reflections on creativity and change in relation to organisational life', in Working below the surface: the emotional life of contemporary organizations, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Roberts, V. (1994) 'Chapter 3: The organisation of work: contributions from open systems theory', in The Unconscious at work: individual and organizational stress in the human services, London: Routledge.
  • Hoyle, L. (2004) 'From sycophant to saboteur-responses to organisational change', in Working below the surface: the emotional life of contemporary organizations, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Morgan, Gareth. (2006) Images of organization, London: SAGE.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 22/01/2020 100%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Simon Tucker, Chris Tanner, Andy Thomas
Student Administrator 5A.202; Tel: 01206 873745 Email:



External examiner

Prof Caroline Bainbridge
Roehampton University
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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