This essay illustrates some of the main aspects of Ferdinando Vanni’s thought regarding small groups and their therapeutic applications. Its aim is to prove the original and heuristic value of his thought, both for research on small groups and for daily psychotherapeutic practice. The first issue the essay deals with is whether the mind functions in a specific way while in a group: this part articulates Vanni’s concepts regarding the matter. The essay then proceeds to illustrate the author’s theory on the limits and possibilities of observation in groups, and finally, with the help of original clinical cases, it stresses the importance of the concept of spontaneous thematic development for therapy.
Keywords: Psychoanalysis, group psychotherapy, theoretical group models, thematic development, participant observation, group mental areas.