Louis Ormont

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Dr. Louis Ormont (1918 – November 15 2008) was an American psychologist and one of the earliest practitioners of group psychotherapy based on a psychoanalytic model.

Educated at Temple University and at Yale University, Ormont was also a prolific playwright who produced more than fifty manuscripts for the stage, television, and films.[1]

The Ormont Method[edit]

The Group as an Agent of Change:

The theoretical cornerstone of the Ormont Method of Group Psychotherapy and Leadership is that the Group is the Agent of Change. To the extent the group leader can effectively engage group members to interact directly and responsibly with each other in very specific ways, a transformative and generative power emerges in the group that is many, many times greater than any group leader could ever hope to engender through his or her direct intervention.

How effective can group members really be? The capacity of the power of the group-To heal group members,to meet maturational needs,to deepen the capacity for rewarding human relationships,and to make rewarding and productive life commitments -is potentially limitless.

Are Dr. Ormont's techniques useful only in therapy groups? Dr. Ormont's techniques are based on psychoanalytic and developmental theories and clinical experience. They were developed primarily for psychotherapeutic groups.

These principals of group theory and group interaction continue to be developed and are being effectively applied in all settings where groups of people convene. They can enhance and increase personal and interpersonal meaning, satisfaction, communication, creativity, and productivity, and promote group cohesion.

Where does the transformative and generative power of the group come from? Dr. Ormont has developed and refined skills and techniques with which group leaders may cultivate healthy channels of expression and interaction between and among group members. As these channels grow stronger, human relationship between and among group members becomes the cradle that nurtures unprecedented human growth. The creative power comes from the rich diversity of group members' own experience, personalities, perspectives, strengths, and talents.

The Five Theoretical Pillars[edit]

These five interrelated concepts represent the theory, structure, and processes that form the foundation for the Ormont method of group intervention.

1. The Observing Ego

The observing ego is that part of the self that has no affects, engages in no actions, and makes no decisions. It functions in conflict-free states to merely witness what it sees. It is like a camera that records without judgment. It is never weighing any thought, gesture or action on the scale of right and wrong, sane or insane, good or bad. It is a psychic entity that is intact and separate from what is taking place before it.

Dr. Ormont's concept of the observing ego extends familiar concepts in ego psychology and incorporates thinking from eastern philosophy. He has developed group leadership techniques to use the collective and individual observing egos within a group as a source of strength and potentiation for all group members.

2. The Insulation Barrier

The insulation barrier is a psychic structure that supports and protects ego boundaries. A healthy insulation barrier allows a person to withstand toxic stimuli but to take in nutrient experiences. The individual with a healthy insulation barrier generally enjoys feelings of ease and wholeness within ego boundaries that are flexible and adaptive. The insulation barrier is a developmental concept that has roots in psychoanalytic theories of defense, and in humanistic psychology's respect for the self-directing capacities of human beings, as well as the developmental need for genuine I-Thou encounters.

Dr. Ormont's theory and methodology enables the group leader to empower group members to sustain a group environment in which interactions among and between members support the development of insulation barriers that maximize one's inherent capacity for ease, generosity and contentment, in all aspects of human relationship.

3. Generative Communication

Progressive Emotional Interactive: Generative Communication is the verbalization of the feeling, thought, notion or idea in mature adult language. It has three qualities: it is progressive, emotional and interactive. Progressive refers to the irresistible forward movement of the group's maturation. Emotional refers to the affect laden aspects of human communication. Interactive refers to the dynamic energy that takes place between people as they meaningfully connect with each other.

Generative Communication describes the entire spectrum of meaningful connection in the group's intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamic-from the most general to the most specific, the most personal to the most collective. It has the important characteristic that it is of the moment yet it carries the individual and group forward.

Function: Generative communication is the dynamic that functions as the transformative power of the group. In E.M. Forster's words, "The important thing is to connect." Generative communication is a construct that includes theoretical understanding, and provides specific techniques and interventions group leaders can use to facilitate healthful, generative connections in groups.

Theoretical Underpinnings: The theory of generative communication is rooted in Dr. Ormont's own clinical work, and in an impulse in group therapy that is traceable to the salubrious effects of the spontaneous interactions physician Joseph Pratt noted in his tubercular treatment groups in the early 1900s. The impulse of interpersonal connection is present in some meaningful form in every branch of psychotherapy and theory of effective leadership.

Current research in attachment theory underscores the pervasive and overarching impact of learned patterns of connection that contribute to modes of human behavior in all arenas of human life.

4. Immediacy

Immediacy is the formulation that the avenue to change is an emotionally charged interpersonal engagement that takes on a new form. Immediacy is the forming of new connections, and of building new forms out of old ones.

Dr. Ormont provides interventions and techniques that promote immediacy in conjunction with progressive emotional interactive communication. Immediacy is the medium in which the group-and each member of the group-can be the agent of change for all its members.

5. The Group as Maturational Agent

Maturational agent refers to the capacity of the group to provide exchanges between and among members that facilitate their personal development and growth. The Ormont method focuses on interventions to resolve the group's resistance to engaging in needed nutrient exchanges. Through selective interventions the leader can empower the group as a whole to repair emotional damage, fill in the developmental voids, and foster the potential of each of its members.

Techniques and Interventions[edit]

The techniques and interventions that Dr. Ormont has developed all relate in one way or another to two stabilizing forces: The Group Contract and Bridging techniques. In addition, interventions and techniques to maintain the safety of the individual and the integrity of the group are given primary importance.

The Group Contract

The group contract provides an objective, unchanging structure that all group members can observe in relation to all other group members' behavior and feelings. All group members agree to follow the contract that Dr. Ormont has developed. They understand its purpose is to guide the group forward in their work together. They discover that they all deviate from the guide from time to time. The group members' resistance to following the agreed upon contract provides a solid basis on which both the leader and group members can explore and study the kinds of stumbling blocks that impede group members not only in the group process, but in their daily lives.

Bridging Techniques

Bridging refers to a set of interventions group leaders can use to form and strengthen emotional bonds and generative communication between group members. Dr. Ormont has developed specific techniques for building bridges among group members depending on the immediate objective. Immediate objectives include such things as support for an individual member, energizing the group, promoting full participation, building group cohesion, promoting generative communication between members, and building and maintaining safety in the group.

Safety in a Group

Broadly defined, safety in the group is established by helping group members differentiate between interactions or exchanges in the group that are constructive and nourishing, versus interactions that are unproductive, damaging, or destructive. Dr. Ormont's interventions are designed to work in concert to protect group members from exposure to toxic stimuli or noxious emotional interchanges within the group, while recognizing and supporting the personal strengths of group members.


Ormont actively published papers from 1958 through 2004 in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, The British Journal of Medical Psychology, Marriage and Family Living, The Psychoanalytic Review, American Journal of Psychiatry, other journals, and the following books:

  • Ormont, L.R., Hunt, M. & Corman, R. (1964). The Talking Cure. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Ormont, L.R. & Stean, H. (1981). The Practice of Conjoint Treatment. New York: Behavioral Science Press.
  • Ormont, L.R. (1992). The Group Therapy Experience. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Ormont, L.R., (2001). The Technique of Group Treatment. Connecticut: Psychosocial Press.


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