Allan Trevor Shafer

Allan Shafer (1951- ) grew up in South Africa during the Apartheid era, which significantly shaped his experience of authority relations, and of splitting as a cultural norm. His interest in the Group Relations field was then a natural extension of his curiosity about group processes and authority relations.

During his early academic life, he developed a focus on literature and psychology through a BA degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. There, he discovered psychoanalysis and decided his future professional path - psychotherapy. Eschewing his other interest, to work in theatre, he obtained an Honours degree in Psychology, a Masters in Clinical Psychology (cum laude), and a Doctorate of Literature and Philosophy at the University of South Africa. During this time, he also taught English literature at secondary-school level.

The establishment of the Johannesburg Psychoanalytic Study Group enabled him to further follow his interest in psychoanalysis, under the influence of visiting psychoanalysts such as John Steiner, Michael Feldman, and Henri Rey.

His early professional experience included working with people with psychosis, and studying the psychotherapeutic potential of nurses. In his Doctoral research, he pursued an interest that had been spurred by the early films of James and Joyce Robertson - the impact of early day care on the mental health of young children. Three years as a senior lecturer at the University of South Africa training clinical psychologists was followed by private psychotherapy practice for adults and children, until his migration to Australia in 1987.

On Mannie Sher's suggestion, he attended his first group relations conference run by the then Australian Institute of Socio-Analysis in 1989. This powerful learning experience fuelled a passion for and commitment to group relations work, and brought together the two strands of his training and interest: psychoanalysis and systems thinking. Strongly influenced and encouraged by Alastair Bain and Susan Long, he took up leadership roles in AISA, and was recognised as a Socio-Analyst.

He worked on the staff, and directed many Australian conferences, designed applied workshops and other events, and worked on the staff of the Leicester and OFEK International Conferences. The application of group relations frameworks to the work of psychotherapists, and particularly to social, political, and community contexts, is an ardent pursuit of his. His particular concern is the limited presence of group relations thinking in social and political discourse. A personal interest in prejudice, for example, led to the development of applied group relations work in the area.

His passionate interest in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, along with his background as a clinical psychologist, has led to considerable experience consulting to organisations in the mental-health and health sectors in Australia, and also in the USA and South Africa.

Currently, he works privately in Perth, Western Australia, as an adult psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and as an organisation consultant.

Writing recently in a Festschrift for Gouranga Chattopadhyay, he expressed his particular investment and interest in the politics of engagement, in a world seemingly caught up in the politics of divisiveness.

He lives with his partner Arie, and has two married daughters, Joanne and Nicola.

Selected Publications related to Group Relations:

Shafer A.T. 'Hate Your Neighbour as You Hate Yourself: prejudice and the psycho-politics of divisiveness', ADC SPECIAL REPORT No. 35, A periodic publication of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Inc. (September 2007).

Shafer A.T. 'Multi-level Application of Group Relations Conference Learning: staff, members, and sponsoring organisation', chapter in Sher M., Nutkevich A., and Brunner L.D., Group Relations Conferences: reviewing and exploring theory, design, role-taking, and application, Karnac Books (2006).

Shafer A.T. 'Group Relations and the Politics of Engagement', chapter in Mathur A. (Editor), Dare to think the unthought known? International Perspectives on Group Relations (Festschrift for Gouranga Chattopadhyay), Finland: Aivoairut Oy (2006).

Shafer A.T. 'Developing the "Socio-Analytic Mind" in Australia: a socio-analytic exploration of the key themes of major group relations programmes of the Australian Institute of Socio-Analysis: 1987-2003', Organisational & Social Dynamics 3(2): 267±276 (2003).

Shafer A.T. 'Colonial Domination and the Struggle for Identity: a socio-analytic perspective', Socio-Analysis, 1999, vol. 1, 1, pp 34-47.

Shafer A.T. 'Grappling with Change and Development in a Zoo Culture', AISA Occasional Paper, 1997.

Some professional presentations:

Shafer A.T. 'Managing or Caring: cultural systemic obstacles to the management of mental health organisation', a paper presented to the 8th International Conference "Organisational Behaviour in Health Care", Sydney, 27 March 2008.

Shafer A.T. 'Hate Your Neighbour as You Hate Yourself: the psycho-politics of prejudice', invited speaker: B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission 2007 Basia Leinkram Lecture Series, 28 May 2007. Also presented for the Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of WA Friday Forum, 16 November 2007; for the Regional Symposium of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations, Melbourne 24-25 November 2007; and for the Australian Psychological Society, WA, Special Interest Group for Psychoanalytically Oriented Psychotherapy, 6 May 2008.

Shafer A.T. 'I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together ... I am the walrus: Bion and the Group as Object' The LINK Seminar Series: Exploring Object Relations Psychotherapy, Perth, 31 May 2007.

Shafer A.T. 'Common Psychological Defences in People Working with Grief and Loss', invited paper presented to the national conference of the National Association for Loss and Grief, [PLACE?], October 2001.

Shafer A.T. and Nixon S. 'An Exploration of Some Diverse Functions of Electronic Communication as Social Defence', paper presented to the 3rd Scientific Conference of the Australian Institute of Socio-Analysis, Launceston, 2001.

Nahum T.and Shafer A.T. 'The Role of the "Conference Administrator"', paper presented to the 2nd Scientific Conference of the Australian Institute of Socio-Analysis, Canberra, 2000.

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