This paper describes the TOPS (Tavistock Outreach Project in primary schools) experience of running a psychotherapy group for latency girls. The group consisted of five girls in their final year of primary school whose teachers felt could benefit from support in their relationship difficulties. The group ran in the school for just under two terms of weekly sessions and was led by a Child Psychotherapist and an Assistant Therapist. Susan Reid’s Psychodynamic group approach (1993) underpinned the therapeutic approach used in the group.
A description of TOPS – a school based therapeutic provision, opens the paper, followed by a brief description of the school setting, the rational for group work and the selection criteria. The group’s development over time and the powerful processes that took place in it are demonstrated through the emerging themes discussed: Falling apart and coming together, the therapy box as a trigger for chaos as linked to the mythological story of ‘Pandora’s Box’, the group’s relationship with the group leaders, anxieties about changes and endings with the girls imminent move to secondary School and the group’s move from a Basic Assumption group to a Work Group (Bion, 1959). Accordingly, over time, a slow shift in the group’s’ state of mind could be observed; from ganging against and excluding a member or the Group Leaders, to gradually becoming more thoughtful, integrated and better accepting of what the group and the Group Leaders had to offer – but in the context of many returns to a gang mentality along this path.
The paper concludes with some reflection upon the outcomes of the work and discussion of these. Despite the fairly short life of the group – 12 sessions, pleasing outcomes were reported by the teachers, parents and the group members who saw improvement in their relationship.