Group Dynamics and Leader Position

The experience of working with groups shows that they all develop on the basis of the patterns of group dynamics and go through certain stages indicated by B. Tukman: dependent and investigating behavior; resolution of intragroup conflicts; cohesion and effective problem solving.

BM Masterov proposes to distinguish between training groups with spontaneous and controlled dynamics, implying different levels of leader dominance. Frequent change of hosts, style diversity in the conduct of the Work-shop as a whole creates a low level of dominance of the host, so professional psychological conferences can be considered as a group with spontaneous dynamics. At the same time, with a good organization of conferences, the main stages of group dynamics, although not so clearly, still appear during the Work-shop.

To describe the processes that occur at psychological conferences and intensives, the concept of O.V. Nemirinsky is very suitable, who introduces such a concept as the leading context of self-consciousness for the analysis of group dynamics. By the context of self-consciousness, we mean the frames of understanding one’s behavior presented in the form of opposition (“I-Thou”, “We-They”, etc.). For different stages of group dynamics, different leading contexts of individual change can be distinguished. At the first stage, the leading context of awareness of individual changes is the opposition “We-They”. This is the stage of identification with the group, with the social whole (with “We”). “They” refers to the extra-group space. In the second stage, the stage of gaining responsibility, the emphasis shifts to the opposition “I-They”, reflecting the opposition of oneself to other members of the group (“They” other members of the group). The third stage is the stage of “I-Thou”-relationships . This is the period of living the capacity for intimacy and love. The fourth stage is the stage of turning to one’s existential uniqueness. Its leading context can be defined as “I-I”. Thus, the group process in the training appears as a path to the Self, the path of the participants to their own Self, and through it – to the Self of other people [5].

This approach allows you to find the place of each Work-shop in the overall dynamic structure of the conference (For example: Work-shop dedicated to the problem of child-parent separation is best done at the beginning of the second day of the conference, when a certain common field “We” has already formed and the participants are ready for differentiation; Work-shop about intimacy will be effective on the third day, etc.). It is necessary to rely on the general dynamics of the conference when choosing group experiments[13] and one’s own position in the group.

According to I. Vachkov [6], it is the personality of the psychologist (and not the level of his professional training or the approach he preaches) that is the most important factor determining the success or failure of the Work-shop. Personal characteristics really largely determine the position of the leader in the group, and yet real professionals should have a wide repertoire of coaching roles.

According to Yalom, a psychotherapist can play two main roles:

1. Technical expert (this role includes comments by the facilitators on the processes taking place in the group, the behavioral acts of individual participants, as well as reasoning and information that helps the group move in the right direction);

2. Reference participant (it is believed that in this case, the group psychotherapist achieves two main goals: demonstrating a desirable and expedient pattern of behavior and strengthening the dynamics of social learning through the achievement of independence and cohesion by the group).

According to S. Kratochvil, there are five main roles of the group leader:

1. AK – active leader (instructor, teacher, director, initiator and guardian);

2. A – analyst (most often – a psychoanalyst, characterized by distancing from group members and personal neutrality);

3. K – commentator (expert taking responsibility);

4. P – mediator (an expert who does not take responsibility for what is happening in the group, but periodically intervenes in the group process and directs it);

5. CG – a member of the group (an authentic person with their own individual characteristics and life problems) [7].

The main classifications of coaching roles are based on a theoretical concept, according to which the factors of transformation of personality disorders in a group are social learning and the specifics of the relationship between the therapist and group members . To solve different problems, different types of relationships are needed. The mechanism for creating such relationships is the position of the leader of the group (see Table 1).

Thus, when planning a Work-shop, the leader must decide on its main subject, purpose, specific tasks, think over the content of the main stages and his own position, taking into account the general cycle of the conference and the content of the leading context of participants’ self-awareness at different phases of group dynamics.

Workshop presentation

“Vmila cook, she didn’t serve,” they say about the hostess who does not care about table setting, combination and time of serving dishes.

All efforts to prepare the Work-shop will be in vain if the presenter fails to present it and no one comes to it. It will be equally difficult for the facilitator if the wrong ones come (participants with the wrong motivation are likely to be disappointed) or so much (too many or too few participants create organizational difficulties and often require a change in the order of the group). Therefore, it is very important to take care of the presentation, to “submit” your Work-shop so that both the presenter and the participants can realize their goals and objectives and are satisfied with each other.

The name Work-shop is the first message about the future event. Many participants read the conference programs in advance and make a plan for visiting the Work-shop for themselves, so the first impression of the title and abstract is very important: it is necessary to attract attention and form a professional interest in the topic. Experience shows that the most interesting are the names of the Work-shop, consisting of two parts – figurative-symbolic (metaphors, aphorisms, incomplete or paradoxical statements, etc.) and subject-logical (description of the subject, approach or methods). An example of this approach is the title of this article.

An annotation to the Work-shop is used by the conference organizers when compiling the program, sometimes it is printed out for the participants. Usually, the annotation includes goals and objectives, a description of the main procedures and special conditions (requests for the number of participants, equipment, premises), the necessary time for the Work-shop. A good abstract is a testament to the competence and seriousness of the presenter’s intentions, it works for his image in the community.

A Work-shop presentation before starting may contain the following information blocks:

· A message about how the idea of the Work-shop came from its author. Personal involvement, enthusiasm and interest in the topic of the Work-shop of the presenter is the best advertisement. You can say a few words about your personal motivation or the connection of the problem under discussion with personal experience.

Information about the content of the Work-shop: the main theoretical ideas and methodological solutions (structure, proposed procedures, etc.)

· For whom the Work-shop is intended: a targeted invitation, taking into account the possible expectations of the participants is usually very pleasant and disposes to the leading Work-shop.

· Information about the location of the Work-shop[14] or the location of the presenter after the end of the presentations, so that those who wish can approach him.

Try not to speak quickly, loudly and emotionally (a little expression – gestures, movements in space, lively facial expressions – will help to cope with excitement and enliven the message). The interactive actions of the presenter during the presentation are well perceived (open-ended questions to the audience, proposals to split up on some basis, raise a hand, etc.). At the same time, it is important not to drag out any of the parts and remember that the total time of the oral presentation should not exceed 5 minutes.


In conclusion, I want to note that a good Work-shop at a professional psychological conference is obtained only as a result of professional creativity, orientation leading to development and integration into the community. Competitive motives and pragmatic orientation (to show oneself, to be invited to programs, so that clients come, etc.) make the presenter too dependent on external evaluation, and therefore constrained and uninteresting to others.

You should not come out with a “raw” project if you are unsure of yourself – it is better to wait until the readiness is formed.

However, do not refuse if you are invited. Boldly accept the challenge and go for it! Not the gods burn the pots.


1. B. D. Karvasarsky Psychotherapeutic Encyclopedia. 2nd edition, 2000

2. Lebedeva N.M., Ivanova E.A. Journey to Gestalt: Theory and Practice. – St. Petersburg: Speech, 2005.

3. Gronsky A. Classical gestalt group. // Russian Gestalt (Issue 3) / Ed. N.B. Dolgopolova, R.P. Efimkina. – Novosibirsk: Scientific and Practical Center of Psychology of NSU, 2001. – P. 62-69.

4. Nemirinsky O.V. Personal growth in the therapeutic group. M., plan of the publishing house “Sense”, 1999.

5. Vachkov I.V. Fundamentals of group training technology. Proc. allowance. – M: Publishing house “Os-89”, 1999.

6. Rudestam K. Group psychotherapy. Psychocorrective groups: theory and practice. M.: Progress, 1990 – St. Petersburg: Peter Kom, 1998.

[1] My colleague, Georgy Kushnir, a gestalt therapist, aptly put it when he described the general orientation of the professional psychotherapeutic community inwards.

[2] I thank A. Martynova, O. Shpilevskaya, G. Kostinskaya, V. Khandriga and other members of the group for the joint experience.

[3] Festival (fr. festival , from lat. festivus – festive) – a mass celebration, a display (review) of the achievements of musical, theatrical, variety, circus or cinema art.

[4] Academic conference is a form of organization of scientific activity in which researchers (not necessarily scientists or students) present and discuss their work. According to its status, a scientific conference occupies an intermediate position between a seminar and a congress.

[5] Of interest are the techniques and methods of professional facilitation of this process.

[6] There is still interest in the professional competencies, position and style of the leader, but these questions rarely become a topic for the Work-shop, as they contain a professional challenge to the leader. He is forced to act as a model and model for inheritance, otherwise the form and content of the Work-shop contradict each other.

[7] At one of the seminars, J.M. Robin told that they have a regular group for the development of communicative competence at their institute, aimed at expanding the repertoire and searching for new speech structures for therapists in various situations of working with a client and with a group.

At some conferences, master classes on working with the voice and speech features of a psychotherapist are successfully held.

At the Crimean psychotherapeutic seminar in the late 90s, Work-shops were very popular, at which psychotherapists learned to pronounce swear words and the price of their own services.

[8] When the presenters arrive at the conference just before their Work-shop, they can’t be included enough, even if they wanted to. Their presentations and Work-shop can take participants out of the general context, violate the integrity of the conference process.

[9] Many trainers note that in recent years, the overall level of openness and trust of conference participants has become higher. If earlier it was necessary to make special efforts to ensure safety in the group, now most of the participants are ready for self-disclosure already in the first hours

[10] When there are many participants in the Work-shop (more than 20) or, conversely, the conference is chamber (all participants are familiar), and the achievement of the goal does not directly depend on the involvement in the group process, the majority of sharing can not be carried out. Try asking yourself how the group will develop if there is no sharing. If nothing terrible comes to mind, it is quite possible to sacrifice this procedure on the second and, especially, on the friction day in favor of the final sharing. On the first day of the conference, sharing of the beginning of the group at all Work-shops is best done.

[11] The mode of distribution into subgroups is determined by the leader in advance, taking into account the importance of human proximity and professional hierarchy for the upcoming work. Experience has shown that working in subgroups is less effective when they include close friends or relatives.

[12] If the group of practitioners is multi-level, it is possible to organize a methodical discussion in subgroups with different questions for discussion.

[13] It is possible that the previously invented procedure for conducting a Work-shop will turn out to be inappropriate in a situation where it is postponed to another day. It is possible that the overall dynamics of the conference will speed up or slow down for certain reasons, then the leaders of the Work-shop will have to come up with more suitable experiments on the go.

[14] If the conference is well organized, this paragraph is not necessary. However, from the experience of participating in various conferences, I know that most often the places for the Work-shop are determined immediately after their presentation, depending on the number of group participants. It often happens that during the general turmoil, the participants cannot find the Work-shop that they wanted and follow the majority. Therefore, the leader of the Work-shop himself must take care of some organizational aspects of its implementation.

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