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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM24-PDW17: Examining the unexamined: institutional learning from mandated Group Relations Conferences


Professional Development Workshop: PDW 17
Wednesday 3 July 2024
9.15am to 1.00pm EEST

Examining the unexamined: institutional learning from mandated Group Relations Conferences

Facilitators: Lydia Hartland-Rowe, Dr Sarah Wynick and Dr Mellini Mahadevan.


This half-day workshop will draw on the experience of three GRC Directors of different annual GRC's from 2013 -2023 at the Tavistock Clinic. GRC’s are mandated for many students on our clinical and non-clinical trainings, many of whom have no particular interest in the study of group life. This means that we have been regularly provoked/encouraged to examine, review, and innovate practice in response to what members convey about their experience. The history of the GRC project in our institution, the impact of the pandemic, the changing expectation of students in higher education settings, and the consequences of the murder of George Floyd in public discourse have all required from us an ongoing readiness to examine our assumptions, collaborate beyond the boundary of each conference, and meet the challenge to innovate while holding onto what is of value.

The workshop aims are:

  • to initiate a discussion about innovation in mandated GRC’s in an institutional setting
  • to explore the impact of unexamined assumptions in GRC practice, particularly in relation to inequalities in power and privilege
  • to gather shared practice and new approaches

The structure will be:

  • an initial presentation from the 3 Directors, focussing on particular aspects of our GRC experience that demanded attention and focus.
  • a facilitated space to exchange experience, using a mixture of small group discussion and a reflecting team approach to bring different voices together.

The workshop is aimed to be accessible to anyone with an interest in what GRC’s can offer. A key part of our work has meant a constant re-examination of what the function, method and approach of a GRC can and needs to be, so this will be part of what we present, and means that prior experience of membership or staffing a GRC, while of course welcome, is not required.

Biographical Summaries:

Lydia Hartland-Rowe is a Senior Organisational Consultant in Tavistock Consulting, part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapist by background and has worked across different clinical and training services within the Trust and elsewhere. She was the Director for the Tavistock’s September GRC in 2016 and 2017, and the December GRC from 2018-2022.

Dr Mel Mahadevan is a Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic working in the Adult Complex Needs Department. She is the Training Programme Director for the North Central and East London Higher Specialist Medical Psychotherapy Training Scheme. She has previously worked as a consultant in general adult psychiatry in Tower Hamlets and established a perinatal psychiatric service in West London and has worked extensively on Group Relations Conferences. She directed the Tavistock Clinic’s Spring GRC from 2017 – 2021.

Dr Sarah Wynick is the Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in CYAF, Tavistock Clinic, and is a qualified couple psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She has been involved in working with organisations via consultation, group relations work and teaching, for the past two decades. She directed the Tavistock Clinic’s Spring Conference from 2013 – 2016