The Theme-Centered Interactional (TCI) approach to leading groups, is a model based on existential principles combined with premises of humanistic philosophy which are inherent in all situations where two or more people come together to accomplish a task. Such basic concepts of TCI as Chairmanship, We-Building, Selective Authenticity, Dynamic Balancing, Participant-leadership, Theme-setting and Globe Factors supply the essence or foundation of this approach.
Theme-Centered Interactional workshops are the offspring of group therapy and psychoanalytic theory. Dr. Ruth C. Cohn, an analyst who had fled from Europe to Switzerland in the early 40's, came to New York City in the 50's and worked as a training analyst where she began to develop her ideas about enlivening educational settings. She started a counter-transference group with her colleagues in which she became an equal participant while remaining the leader. Her counter-transferences were analyzed as well as her colleagues'transferences were. She and her colleagues asked themselves: "Why is the learning and growth in our therapy groups so exciting and alive and why are so many of our classrooms so dull?" (There were many professors in this group.) The outgrowth of all of this questioning and exploring led to the first theme-centered interactional workshop, conducted by Ruth Cohn in 1955. In 1965, she founded and directed the Workshop Institute for Living-Learning, (W.I.L.L.) and offered a two-year Certification Program in TCI for teachers.
Very quickly, other professionals were drawn to the Institute and eventually the Certification process was redrawn to include two categories: Associate and Affiliate. The Associate Certification was aimed at therapists. And all the other professions were grouped under the Affiliate banner. I came to W.I.L.L. in 1969 as an elementary school teacher and by 1971, as I was finishing my training (as an Affiliate), I was also beginning my career shift towards becoming a psychotherapist. In 1972, I became the first Affiliate to be admitted to the Faculty of W.I.L.L. in transition towards becoming an Associate. Branches of W.I.L.L. were started in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Detroit and Toronto. In 1973, Ruth went back to Switzerland and began establishing W.I.L.L. branches all over Europe: England, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Frankfurt for her very powerful work in Germany. Today W.I.L.L. International organization has member branches all over Europe, Canada and the U.S.
Existential Postulates of TCI: (Consciousness-raisers)
1. You are your own Chairperson.
2. Speak for "I." (Not "we" or "you.")
3. Disturbances take precedence.
4. Make the statement behind the question.
5. Give to and get from this __________what you want to give and get.
(In the blank, put: session, day, week, month, year, life)
The task of any leader of a TCI group is to maintain the "Dynamic Balance" between the I (each individual), We (whole group), and It (theme/purpose/task). At the same time s/he maintains an awareness of the impact of the Globe (setting).