Back to the Future: Authority, vulnerability, continuity and change: A Group Relations Conference celebrating 100 years of Tavistock thinking

Conference overview

NB. This conference has been postponed. However, we are currently we're trying to collect views on how and when to reschedule it via this survey: If you're interested in attending, please add your response to the survey. 

In 2020, a year of centenary celebrations, the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust is pleased to invite you to this Group Relations Conference, marking 100 years of Tavistock thinking. Back to the Future is a 1980’s film in which the protagonist has to go back to the past to help with the present.  One can immediately see the link to the influence of the historical Tavistock enterprise on the way we do things now. The Tavistock Clinic began in 1920 with its work on ‘shell shock’ and trauma, and developed an awareness of the role of unconscious in our understanding of the mind, our relationships and group functioning (Bion, 1960). Further developments of attachment, systems theory, group psychotherapy and consultancy are significant areas of work within the Trust and relevant to the group relations model

Gina Southgate triptych

 A Group Relations conference is an immersive environment where a ‘temporary organisation’ is created – a miniature organisation in which a range of events take place that mirror typical organisational situations. Participants are invited to work with each other and staff to explore how issues of authority, task, role and boundaries, impact on the professional use of self and professional identity and how an understanding of these may be applied to conference members’ experience. The conference and its activities, will seek to study organisational behaviour as it happens. This creates a continuous process of feedback about organisational behaviour from staff and other participants. The conference offers a space to experiment, play, learn, challenge and be challenged.   In other words, the whole conference, including members and staff, will be focussed on the task of trying to learn more about organisational processes by learning from the work of the group itself. There will be opportunities to look differently, to listen with imagination, and to understand the impact when this isn’t possible.  As with any organisation, this ‘temporary  organisation’ will present the tensions of working in particular roles, in different levels of authority, and with differing assumptions about the task and about each others’ capacities to lead and to actively follow. At the same time, we hope that there will be the opportunity to explore the possibilities for vulnerability and change, taking courage to explore the unknown.

The programme consists of a series of events that build on each other to allow members the space for exploration and cumulative learning.

This conference aims to help members explore:

  • Their experiences of power and vulnerability, continuity and change.
  • Their capacity to exercise authority and to take up leadership and also followership.
  • The functioning of organisations and their role within them.
  • The relationship between an organisation and its cultural, political and economic environment.
  • The unconscious processes that may cause resistance to change or impact creativity and innovation
  • The impact of difference – age, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender and sexual orientation  on experience.

This is a rewarding, but demanding programme, so applicants currently experiencing stressful circumstances such as divorce, bereavement or serious illness, are advised not to attend at this time. Please note conference directors reserve the right to withdraw membership, or not agree to membership of a given conference, if there is evidence that attendance might adversely affect the prospective conference member and/or the experience of other members within the conference, if they were to attend.

The conference is for people in any kind of working role who are interested in understanding more about how organisations work – and why they don’t sometimes. Members may also want to discover how they are in groups and systems, what roles they take up and are given, how others experience them and they experience others. Some members will have previous experience of Group Relations and want to further their learning and well as thinking more about Group Relations as a way of learning - its past present and future.

‘I would do it again and recommend it to others’. 

'I found the experience to be a deeply intense representation of the true challenges to joining with others. It gave me some profound ideas about myself and what I bring to my work, for better or worse. And overall, despite feeling worn out, the conference increased the awareness I have of myself when in groups, personally and professionally, which is beginning to really help me.'

‘the conference was very thought provoking and I felt emotionally charged by it. It has left me thinking more deeply about my own role, my work and the impact on my clients. I appreciate having this opportunity to be guided through so many complex issues by the consultants...’

The conference fee is £475          

Tavistock staff, trainees, and students are eligible for a 20% discount

For more information on fees please contact the conference administrator on

Download the application form now. 

Friday 10th July 2020  9am to 7.30pm
Saturday 11th July 2020  9am to 7.30pm
Sunday 12th July 2020  9am to 7.30pm

To maximize the conference learning for you and other attendees, we ask all members to commit to attending the whole of all three days. 

Maxine Dennis is a Psychoanalyst, Psychotherapist, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Groups Lead in the Adult Department of the Tavistock and Portman Clinic. She also works as an organisational Consultant.

Dr Sarah Wynick is the Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Tavistock Clinic. She is also a qualified couple psychotherapist. She has been involved in working with organisations via consultation, group relations work and teaching, for the past two decades. 

Administrator/consultant: Rachel Kelly 

The other consultant staff will be drawn from:

Britt Krause, Carlos Sapochnik, Gwen Hanrahan, Karen Tanner, Mel Mahadevan, Olya Khaleelee, Patrick Mandikate, Tim Dartington, and Will Crouch. 

The Tavistock Centre, London
10 July 2020 09:00 to 12 July 2020 19:30