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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Understanding the Dynamics Between Consulting Teams and Client Systems

Consultants are faced with the need to frame problems and design interventions on the basis of extremely limited data about their client systems. (The discussion here is mostly concerned with social consultation, that is, understanding and intervening in the social system. However, the distinction between technical and social consultation is far from distinct because both require human collaboration. Designing and implementing even the most technical of interventions depends on the receptivity of the client system, an effective implicit theory of the social system, and an appropriate problem formulation. Often, the acceptance of a 'technical' frame in the presenting problem is itself a form of collusion between client and consultant to steer away from more difficult, anxiety-laden aspects of a problematic situation.) Information is distorted and efforts toward change are often undermined by implicit and unrecognized forces that emerge in the course of an intervention. Rice (1963, p. 274) illustrates this point: 'What appears on the surface as a simple organizational problem may often be found to have underlying deep-seated and largely unrecognized emotional conflicts ...'