She traces in this book the history of the development of her ideas including her system for analysing verbal interactions (SAVI), the concept of the invisible group, system-centred therapy for groups and, most inclusively, a meta theory of living human systems. The book commences with a very personal introduction and seeks to trace the development of her ideas by following a chronological pathway through her life. It probably provides the best overview of her work currently available as well as a "blow by blow" account of how it evolved.
This is quite simply a remarkable book. Forming Volume 11 of the International Library of Group Analysis, Autobiography of a Theory is part of a rich group analytic tradition at the Jessica Kingsley publishing house. The remarkable nature of the book lies within the first-person narrative approach adopted by the authors. They do not seem to present a theory and its development, but instead share with the reader the autobiography of that theory, how it came to be what it was it was and was not, the blind alleys as well as the moments of inspiration, and above all, the human beingness of the architect of the theory and the influence this human sentience and experience held over the theory's genesis. The stage is clearly set within the introduction, when Agazarian reflects on the world as she saw it through the eyes of a child, but with the superimposed interpretations of adult hindsight, and the resultant musings and retrospective attributions that this was where her theorising began. She then goes on to describe SAVI (the System for analyzing Verbal Interactions), which formed the methodological basis from which her explorations of the role of communication within group dynamics was conducted. This led to the theory of the invisible group, differentiating between individual dynamics within a group setting, and genuine group dynamics. Next, drawing from the systems theory literature, Agazarian describes how her attention moved on to the development of the meta-theory (ie an umbrella theory to cover a number of other theories) of living human systems, and its implications for individual and group psychotherapy. She argues that the single greatest contribution of this approach was the recognition that it was not human dynamics alone that determined the successful course of therapy, but rather also the existential and environmental context in which those dynamics occurred. This is not an easy book to read, and certainly the demands it places on the intellect in attempting to hold in mind the many simultaneous but differing perspectives from which it is written requires an intellectual flexibility not easily achieved. However, for aficionados of group analysis, the book may be heartily recommended. It describes the ontogenesis of the meta-theory of living human systems in such a way that the process of theoretical development is laid bare and hence presented as "messy" and real, rather than as polished and meticulously linear, as is so often the misleading case made elsewhere.