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‘Handling Groups in Action: the use of distinctions in facilitation’ by Hunter, Bailey and Taylor


Title: Handling groups in action; the use of distinctions in facilitation.
Authors: Dale Hunter, Anne Bailey and Bill Taylor
Publisher: Gower Publishing Limited
Price: £25.
ISBN: 0 566 08272 1
Publication: 20-12-99

Most people involved with facilitation will be familiar both with this book's authors and publisher. Gower publishing has a deserved reputation for producing good class material which is use to anyone working in facilitation. Similarly Hunter, Bailey and Taylor, collectively Zenergy Consulting, have previously produced 3 excellent and practical books. The impact of "The Zen of Groups", "The Facilitation of group" and "Co-operacy." is undeniable. The question is does "Handling Groups in Action" live up to the previous high standard?

The book is based on the premise if a group is not functioning effectively then it is because a lack of one of the fifteen distinctions listed below. The authors further outline the six steps an experienced facilitator needs to take in order to enhanced the working of the group. The whole book reiterates the role of the facilitator is developing the processes of a group rather than trying to generate content.


Purpose and culture Safety and Trust
Being with and intimacy Powerful listening and speaking
Intentionality Power with
Fearlessness and ruthless compassion
Emotional competence
Intuition Completion
Affirmation and celebration Authentic community
Ethics Transformation
Group learning


Recognise its lacking
Generate it.

In common with the Zenergy team’s other books this book is essentially practical. It has good clear exposition of what they are trying to achieve. Every distinction is described and the effects of its absence outlined. Processes to develop the missing distinction are also suggested. Unlike, for example The Zen of Groups, this is a book that will be of use to the more experienced facillitator. There are no quick easy solutions here.

Two themes underlie the entire book. The first is the idea of spirituality in facilitation. If you find it hard to accept Zen philosophy and terminology then you may struggle with this book. As the author’s descibe being with as "the ability to walk in another’s moccasins without taking off your own. The secdond theme is the importence of the work of John Heron, in the form of co-councelling and co-operative enquirey. On a personal level it is this second theme that concerns me rather more. Heron is first and foremost a therapist. I unhappy to see group facilitation slip into group therapy or for that matter to see group therapy be conducted by individuals without the appropriate training.

In conclusion Handling groups in action; the use of distinctions in facilitation is a well written interesting book Unlike other books by the same authors it is not one that I will incorperate lock stock and barrell into my work. I would say without doubt worth while purchasing but for useonly with reservations.

Patric Devitt
Psynergy consulting
[email protected]


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