Systems psychodynamics and consulting to organisations in Australia

Nossal, B 2007, Systems psychodynamics and consulting to organisations in Australia, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Systems psychodynamics and consulting to organisations in Australia
Author(s) Nossal, B
Year 2007
Abstract Systems Psychodynamics is unique as an approach to consulting to organisations in the way it integrates three theory streams: psychoanalysis; group relations and open systems theory. Consultants who work in this way focus on the many layers of interactions and exchanges taking place both within organisations and at the interface between an organisation and its external environment. The territory for collaborative exploration with clients extends from interpersonal and group dynamics to service and product- related systems and processes. It is a holistic approach that creates opportunities for transformational learning at every level of the organisation.

As a practice, consulting with a systems psychodynamics approach is complex and difficult to master. Arguably, the most challenging dimension of this work for consultants is developing a capacity to think within a psychoanalytic conceptual framework: to discern and hypothesise about unconscious processes in organisations. But what precisely does this mean and what is this experience like for the consultants? This research project was designed to explore and describe the experience of working with a systems psychodynamic approach from the consultants' perspectives within the Australian context. To this end, 20 consultants who self-selected as working with a systems psychodynamic approach were involved in this research. From the data created in this process, what is documented in this thesis is the first detailed description of the experience of 'working in this way' taken from the combined perspectives of these 20 consultants.

Further, a systems psychodynamic approach to research is defined and applied in this thesis. In this way, the systems psychodynamics within the temporary 'system' created by the research was part of the territory under investigation. This process led to an important discovery. 18 of 20 consultants strongly asserted the importance of working with colleagues in pairs or teams when adopting a systems psychodynamic approach. However, at the time of interviewing, all 20 consultants were working alone and only 3 had immediate plans to work with others. An exploration of the reasons for this gap between beliefs about best practice and actual practice became the focus for the analysis of the data.

What is discovered through this analysis is that the reasons why consultants are predominantly choosing to work alone are likely to be complex and irreducible. An exploration of the issues that working together can surface for consultants who apply a systems psychodynamic approach is presented under four sub-topics: system domain issues; theory-related issues; interpersonal issues and intrapsychic issues. In this detailed analysis, what is revealed is an absence of 'good enough' containment for the anxieties that are likely to be aroused when consultants work together. To this end, four 'containers' are proposed: organisation/brand-as-container; management-as-container; supervision-as-container and theory/praxis-as container. This research has uncovered some important challenges facing the community of practitioners in Australia. It is the contention in this thesis that they need to be addressed if the practice of consulting with a systems psychodynamic approach is to flourish and continue to grow.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Psychology, Industrial
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