Categories
Early Career Psychologists

Training in Group Psychotherapy Virtual Learning Hour

Barbara Greenspan, Psy.D., MHSA
Barbara Greenspan, Psy.D., MHSA

Over the summer, the Early Career Psychologist Task Force of the Society hosted a Virtual Learning Hour (VLH) where participants came together to share resources and discuss the topic of training in group psychotherapy.

Participants discussed their beliefs that process groups are an important part of professional training in learning about group dynamics. There may be some institutional resistance to process groups as things get “stirred up”, however, when done well they are very valuable to the learner. This led to a discussion on how to address power dynamics in staff trainings such as: level of experience, status, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and coming from different degree disciplines. For instance, how does a trainee remain safe, be vulnerable and appear competent in a process group? Another interesting topic was the use of private programs for training, as this can provide less vulnerability and one’s own place to grow and learn. It was strongly supported in the conversation that diversity education be a crucial component of any training program and its effects on both leadership and membership is paramount.

Important topics that might be considered in the future discussions about training in group psychotherapy include: What are the legal obligations or risks in process groups for trainees, staff and patients? What are APA or AGPA ethical and moral guidelines? How is scapegoating and subgrouping managed and how do participants learn to give and receive feedback in process groups?

The meeting concluded with sharing resources that were brought up in the VLH to enhance group training:

1. Video: The Color of Fear Diversity Training Films: Documentaries by Director, Lee Mun Wah of Stirfry Seminars & Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/TheColorofFearbyLeeMunWah/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SVGwlmBtcs

Wah collected over four hundred questions that people of color and Euro Americans have always wanted to ask each other. This product is a tool for educators who want to start a conversation about diversity, but don’t know where to begin. It is a 3-part series. The director has several other educational videos. Students explore how race, ethnicity, gender etc. play out in real life and challenges them to acknowledge and address their biases.

2. The Center for Group Studies

http://www.groupcenter.org

3. Affiliate Societies AGPA – Local chapters

http://www.agpa.org/home/about-us

http://www.agpa.org/home/about-us/agpa/agpa-affiliate-societies

4. Shelly Tochluk- Witnessing Whiteness

http://shellytochluk.com

https://www.amazon.com/Witnessing-Whiteness-Need-Talk-About-ebook/dp/B009D170BE

5. Apprentice models – Short-term groups of 22 to 46 weeks versus a 2-year cycle for a didactic and process group. AK Rice Model (http://akriceinstitute.org) provides participants the opportunity to study their own behavior as it happens in real time without the distractions of everyday social niceties and workplace pressures and protocols

6. Create ones own multicultural genogram

http://tfj.sagepub.com/content/6/1/24.abstract

http://swrtc.nmsu.edu/files/2013/10/Cultural-genogram-hardy-laszloffy-1995.pdf

https://wmich.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/u57/2013/cultural-genograms-handouts.pdf

http://www.nccccurricula.info/awareness/D9.html

Categories
Book Review

From The Couch To The Circle: Group-Analytic Psychotherapy In Practice

From The Couch To The Circle:  Group-Analytic Psychotherapy In Practice

London, Routledge Isbn 9780415672207

by John R. Schlapobersky

Endorsed by Prof Jerry Gans MD, DLFAGPA

Incredibly rich in clinical vignettes, steeped in heart, mind and scholarship and faithful to how group therapy heals, Schlapobersky’s From Couch to Circle beautifully depicts how ‘the troubled group that each individual has within’ is played out among the other group members.  A simple testimonial cannot do justice to this monumental effort that is destined to become a classic in the field of group psychotherapy.

Endorsed by Molyn Leszcz MD, FRCPC, DFAGPA

In his wonderfully well-written textbook John Schlapobersky does a great service for the field of group psychotherapy – a remarkable synthesis of accrued clinical wisdom, cutting-edge knowledge and thoughtful clinical application.  The author builds articulate, eloquent bridges between individual and group psychotherapy; between members and leaders within the therapy group; between European and North American models of group psychotherapy and, most importantly, between depth theory and accessible technique.  There is no better resource that brings together the worlds of group analysis and group psychotherapy.

Endorsed by Jeremy Holmes MD, FRCPsych

‘To make soup the cook doesn’t need to get into the pot.’ (Gorky quoted Schlapobersky, characteristically illustrating the role of the group conductor).  This book is the most glorious potpourri of everything one wants to know and feel and experience about group therapy, group analysis, and group dynamics – and more.  It magically combines, theory, science, clinical illustration, personal revelation, anecdote, apposite quotation, allusions from the literary canon, and social and cultural wisdom.  Schlapobersky and his book – the literary analogue of a group at its best – are worthy successors to his predecessor giants: Foulkes and Anthony, Yalom, Skynner, Pines.  Read him: for instruction, for joy, to live and laugh more fully, more contentedly, more dangerously – and become a better, braver, more compassionate, more confident yet questioning therapist whilst doing so.

Categories
Columns

Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Column

Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

Summary: Awarding of the 2016 Diversity Award, election of a new chair(s), and summary of the diversity committee activities at APA

After three years as the chair of the diversity committee, it is time for me to pass the baton and introduce new energy and leadership to our division.   Speaking on behalf of the diversity committee, we are very excited to welcome Dr. Joe Miles as the new chair.  He will be starting a three year term with some help due to his transitioning from another division role.  Dr. Eric Chen will be joining Dr. Miles as co-chair for the committee.  Thus, technically and particularly for the first year, the diversity committee will benefit from dual leadership.  As is typical for the issue of the Group Psychologist that comes out after the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, the focus of the diversity column is on the Diversity Committee’s activities at APA, as well as goals for the upcoming year.  One of the major activities we are involved in annually is to recognize those colleagues who are instrumental in promoting diversity informed group psychology and psychotherapy practices.  The Diversity Award is intended to formally honor individuals who have made significant contributions to group psychology practice, research, service, and/or mentoring, with a focus on promoting understanding and respect for diversity.

This year we recognized Dr. Kathryn Norsworthy as our Diversity Award recipient for 2016-17.  Dr. Norsworthy, a Professor in the Counseling program at Rollins College in Winter Park Florida, has consistently been recognized as an advocate for social justice and for using her group skills to develop collaborative programs nationally and internationally. Her work in the US has focused on providing mental health programs for migrants and on being a civil rights activist for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. She has established programs for persons with HIV/AIDS and victims of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual trauma. Her international work has included providing groups for women in Burma, co-editing the International Handbook of Cross Cultural Counseling: Assumptions and Practices Worldwide, and speaking as a representative to an international conference addressing mental health concerns of the world’s poorest people—a conference which was sponsored by the World Health Organization.  Dr. Norsworthy has been recognized by the Society of Counseling Psychology, the Division of International Psychology, the Division of Peace Psychology, the Counselors for Social Justice, and the Association for Specialists in Group Work.  She is clearly committed to group research and practice and her work has consistently focused on the intersection of social justice and group work.

Dr. Norsworthy’s professional contributions in the area of multicultural group counseling and psychotherapy practice, research, service, and training clearly identified her as an ideal candidate to receive the Diversity Award this year.  We are honored to have Dr. Norsworthy represent our profession and greatly value her contributions to promote further understanding and clinical effectiveness in working with diverse populations.  Thank you, Dr. Norsworthy, for your personal and professional contributions to our profession and to our communities!

Other activities at the APA convention this year included focusing on involving the student members of our committee in suite programming.  This activity was related to a 2015-16 goal on increasing student involvement in committee work.  Regarding our goals for 2016-17, we met in Denver to discuss developing a student award in the near future.  We also want to focus on recruitment, with the goal of increasing the number of students and professional members across different disciplines and add international members to our committee.  Finally, we want to focus on providing accessible resources for culturally sensitive and multiculturally competent group practice to our community of mental health providers.

As always, the members of the diversity committee invite you to notice those colleagues around you who are working to engage others, who are writing, mentoring, teaching and researching multicultural issues in group work and making contributions to group psychology practice, with a focus on promoting understanding and respect for diversity.  We want to recognize these outstanding individuals—individuals such as Dr. Norsworthy—and we invite you to nominate such individuals for the 2017-18 diversity award by contacting us.  In addition, as the outgoing chair of the Diversity Committee, I want to encourage you all to contact the diversity committee regarding a few other issues in particular.  First, let us know what topics you would like Dr. Miles to cover in the diversity columns over the next several years.  Secondly, if you would like to suggest a guest columnist, please do so.  We have been discussing the idea of asking past Diversity Award recipients to write a column or two.  Lastly, we encourage Division 49 members to become active in the diversity committee this year.  Any interested members please contact us.  Our activities and goals keep in mind our original focus of promoting the inclusion and visibility of underrepresented populations in our communities across the globe through group psychology and psychotherapy practices.

The contact information for Joe Miles is: joemiles@utk.edu.  I have enjoyed very much reaching out to all of the members of our Division and others who have read the Group Psychologist over the years.

Categories
Committee Reports

Finance Report

Amy Nitza, PhD
Amy Nitza, Ph.D.

Division 49 continues to be in good financial condition.  We ended 2015 with $45,312 in revenue, which included $40,911 in royalties from the journal, and $3,864 in membership dues.   Expenses were slightly over revenue at $48,388; this net loss was planned in order to pay off our contributions to the Foundation in full.  Our overall assets remain strong; we ended the year with net assets of $87,766 (cash balance and investments).

With our commitment to the Foundation paid off in 2015, there was room in the 2016 budget to use some of our revenue in new ways. In doing so, the board prioritized two related goals: reinvesting our revenue into division membership, and encouraging the involvement of student members.  With these goals in mind, the board voted to dedicate funds to establish Student Travel Awards and Research Grants.  Additionally, the board voted to provide stipends for the Group Psychologist of the Year, Diversity, and Practice awards.  The breakdown of these funds for 2016 is as follows:

Group Psychologist of Year                          $1,000
Diversity                            $1,000
Practice Award                            $1,000
Student Travel Awards                            $4,000
Research Grant                            $4,000

 Other highlights of the 2016 budget include joining with other organizations to hire a professional writer for the CRISP application, supporting the activities of the ECP task force, and promoting suite programming and social time at upcoming conventions. We have also begun investing in the recording of Fellows talks at conventions as well.

If I can answer any questions related to Division 49 finances, please feel free to contact me at amynitza@gmail.com.

Categories
Columns

Group Psychotherapy Column: Sex, Drugs, and…Politics

Tevya Zukor, Ph.D.
Tevya Zukor, Ph.D.

More than 65 years ago, Rock ‘N Roll was invented as its own musical genre.  From its inception, many people were confused by this new-fangled music and feared that simple exposure might compel one to engage in sinful thoughts, or even worse, sinful behaviors. I can only imagine that somewhere in the early-‘50s, the following group transcript may have existed:

Member 1: If Marilyn Monroe marries a guy like Joe DiMaggio, what chance do I have of ever finding happiness?

Member 2: Not that your love-life isn’t important, but has anyone heard this new song on the radio – “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets? I got to admit, it’s pretty catchy!

Member 1: That’s the DEVIL’S MUSIC!!!  How can you listen to such filth?!? First you’re swinging your hips to the son; next thing you know you’re sleeping with every suitor who comes a’ calling. Harlot!!!

As absurd as this notion may seem in the modern era, the birth of Rock was a tumultuous time for American culture.  Many people thought that the messages contained in rock songs were “Un-Godly” and contrary to traditional biblical values.  Fans of the music were just as quick to dismiss these fears and often had no problem telling detractors to shut their word holes and let them Rock Out in peace!

Cultures shift and evolve, but human behavior is much slower to change. While it is certainly rare to still find someone who adamantly believes Rock music is the primary cause of all the world’s social ills, we have simply shifted the blame from music to whatever the new fad of the moment may be. We continue to re-package and re-brand the supposed cause, while keeping the effect (ie. “The destruction of all that is Good and Holy”) the same. The human mind is conditioned this way. We understand the world works on a cause-and-effect basis.  The worse the effect, the more we fear not understanding the cause. To prevent this from happening, we are more than willing to invent any cause that can mitigate our responsibility for the effect.

“Why was that woman assaulted?”
“You saw the way she was dressed!!”

“Why was that teenager shot?”
“He shouldn’t have run. If he would have just done what the officer said, there wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Hopefully, anyone reading this column can immediately understand the logical fallacies and the immoral conclusions of the two statements above. However, we can also probably agree that we have heard other people; whether friends, family, or so-called celebrities; espouse such victim-blaming attitudes. We are quick to judge these people – we often think of them as stupid, worthless, or something worse. We question their heritage and their upbringing.  We sleep soundly in the knowledge that we are right and they are wrong. We are enlightened; they are ignorant.

The reality is that issues of equality and fairness are as old as humankind. Societies have wrestled with what it means to be just and civil since the dawn of time. Again, the exact circumstances change with the times, but the underlying questions endure. People are passionate about these discussions because it taps deeply into our beliefs about what it means to be a “good” human being.

The stakes are high, which means people are passionate.  With intense passion, we are often driven to try and convince others to our way of thinking. After all, if we are certain we are right, then why would we want our friends to be wrong about something so important?

In our pursuit to be “right,” we often forget to be civil…and that is where all of us mental health practitioners and group psychotherapy clinicians have a vital role in bettering the lives of our clients.  Somewhere in the vitriol and passion that emerges around social justice issues, people forget that their “enemy” is another human being with drives, passions, and motivations that make them more similar than different to us.  Just as we do, these people on the other side of the issue also have people who love them and care about them. They want good things for their loved ones, just as we want for ours.

Group therapy has often been described as a microcosm for the larger society.  The skills that group members learn translate into the real world because group is a reflection of that real world, but on a smaller scale. The benefit of group is that it can also be a social laboratory – a place to explore new and different ways of being with other people. However, as is true in the larger world, group is also a place that when core beliefs of members clash, conflict often emerges. Conflict can be destructive, but it doesn’t have to be. Fortunately, unlike the larger world, there are facilitators in the group and our role is to assist members in navigating challenges that might otherwise be overwhelming.

I work at a university; which means all of the members of my groups are college students – the “best and the brightest” who are motivated to learn and grow and share that knowledge with the world.  However, in recent years, I have noticed an alarming trend. Specifically, there seems to a disturbing lack of civility when disagreement is involved. The old expression, “Reasonable people can disagree reasonably,” seems to have been replaced with, “I’m right and you’re wrong. Either change your position or accept that you’re terrible human.”

I have seen conflicts emerge in group that have become personal very quickly.  I think back to a few years ago when I was running a process group at a fairly conservative university.  One of the group members was facing a personal crisis in their life.  She had recently learned that she had unexpectantly, and unwantedly, become pregnant. She was torn about what to do. She knew that one day she wanted to be a parent and that having children was important to her identity, but she was also concerned that having a child at that point in time could not only derail her ability to graduate college, but might also lead to a poor quality of life for her child; as she did not have the means to support a family.

The woman truly did not know what to do.  She considered having an abortion, but also contemplated adoption or keeping the child and raising it on her own. She recognized that each option presented the possibility of some wonderful positives, but also some terrifying negatives.  Finally, when faced with such a significant, life-altering decision; she did what we would want almost anyone to do in that situation – she brought this dilemma to the group; not because she wanted the other group members to make the decision for her, but because she knew that she would need support and compassion from people she had learned to value – no matter the decision she ultimately made.

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending…and I honestly have no idea what choice she ultimately made regarding her pregnancy.  The reason for this is that the young woman; who was seeking support, empathy, and kindness from her cohort; instead was greeted with divineness and judgement.  Within minutes of her sharing her situation with the group, one member told her, “You’re not a murderer, so I know you won’t get an abortion.” Another member asked her how she got pregnant if she wasn’t planning on having a baby. A third decided to shift the focus of the group away from the woman’s particular situation and instead to the larger issue of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.

While each of these three group members were passionate about their perspectives and points of view, none were able to adequately attune to the woman’s primary purpose for disclosing to the group; which was her need for support and empathy while navigating the most challenging situation she had ever experienced. Within minutes, the woman was in tears. She had been seeking support, but instead found hostility and judgement from people she valued.  Shortly after her disclosure, she ran out of the room in a panic.  Before any of the facilitators could intervene, she had left the counseling center and would not return e-mails or phone calls. She would not respond to repeated requests to meet and process what has happened.

It is one of the saddest moments I have ever witnessed in group.  For weeks, I could not stop thinking about this young woman who was trying to make the best decision she could in a brutally tough situation. Instead of finding solace and support, she was driven out of the group and further isolated at the very time she needed connections and empathy.

In the aftermath, I wondered what I and the other co-facilitator could have done to assist this young woman. Was there some intervention that we missed? Was there an opportunity to refocus the group to the emotional needs of the woman rather than the alternate agendas of the three other group members? Like most moral conundrums that emerge in group, there are no easy answers or ideal solutions to such complicated issues.  Ultimately, my co-facilitator and I had to accept that while we may have acted differently with the benefit of hindsight, there are no guarantees that this situation would have ended any better (or worse).

As often happens, I hadn’t thought about this situation in years…until a colleague shared a story about something that occurred in their group last week. A young man on the Autism Spectrum arrived for their first group of the semester.  He was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, in support of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Another group member, upon seeing the hat, immediately stated that she would not participate in a group with a bigot. She explained that her parents immigrated to the United States from the Middle East and that her entire family was proud to be American. She deeply believed that if Donald Trump were to become President, her family would risk deportation. She was scared; afraid of this possibility for her and her family. Instead of remaining in the group, and possibly talking with the new group member about his reasons for supporting Mr. Trump and using it as an opportunity to learn and educate, she walked out of the group when the facilitators refused to ban the newest member, or at least insist that he remove his hat.

These two situations have one thing in common: People who most needed the opportunity to process their intense feelings of sadness, rage, and potential loss never got the opportunity. The attitude of “My beliefs are right, so I will not tolerate those that are different” ended up winning the day at great cost to the members who may have simply needed some support and understanding.  While it may be easy to blame people for their close-minded attitudes, the truth is that we are products of our environment. We grow up and develop in the context of a larger society.  When our current political system reinforces divides and differences; when society tacitly accepts that it is okay to demonize and shun those who disagree with us; it is hard to blame the group member for being a product of that environment. After all, they are simply behaving in a manner consistent with their years of upbringing.

If we, as group facilitators, want these scenarios to have a different ending, then we need to model the change that we believe to be important.  We all have an obligation to teach and encourage discussion. Conflicts do not have to be dogmatically reinforced and highlighted, but instead can be explored and gently challenged. We need to set a clear message for our groups: Disagreements are not automatically personal. People can still like and care for one another; even when we do not share every value or belief.  We know that our similarities are far more important than our differences, but we must forgive some of our clients who have never received this message…and we must teach them a better way.

Categories
Awards News

Dissertation Award

Division 49 is proud to announce the winner of our Dissertation Research Award for 2015.

Maartijn van der Kamp, Ph.D.
Maartijn van der Kamp, Ph.D.

He is Dr. Maartijn van der Kamp, from the University of Melbourne, and his dissertation was entitled “Group Faultlines” in strategic alliances.  His research focuses on faultline activation, defined as the process by which members of a team come to perceive subgroups, and faultline deactivation, the process of minimizing the salience of perceived subgroups in teams, in the context of strategic alliances.  Dr. van der Kamp has won $1000 in case, a free three-year membership in the Division, and a commemorative plaque.

Division 49 makes such an award every year.  To enter next year’s contest, if you completed a dissertation during calendar year 2016, contact Dr. Richard Moreland (cslewis@pitt.edu) for information.

Categories
Committee Reports

Diversity Committee Report

Division 49 Diversity Committee

Chairs:  Joe Miles, Ph.D. and Eric Chen Ph.D.

Person Submitting Report:  Jeanne Steffen

Members of Committee:

Eric Chen Lee Gillis
Maria Riva Jennilee Fuertes
Cheri Marmarosh Keri Frantell
Joe Miles Carol Cho


Brief Summary of Activities Undertaken:

Our activities since the August update of the June 2016 report have included:

August

  • This was the year to elect a new chair for the diversity subcommittee. Joe Miles was nominated, however, due to his commitment in other Division 49 activities, we discussed and decided on splitting up the responsibilities of the chair position.  Joe Miles and Eric Chen agreed to split the role and we welcomed them as co-chairs.
  • Eric and Keri arranged suite programming at the APA Convention to invite conversations re: multicultural group therapy. We were hoping to use the opportunity for suite programming to recruit more members to our subcommittee.  Unfortunately, only one guest attended so the program was cancelled and the time was use to explore future goals for the committee.
  • Subcommittee members met at APA to discuss goals for 2016-17, which are: 1) increase numbers and diversity of members (e.g., international members and members across different disciplines); 2) increase communication resources (e.g., message boards, culturally sensitive/multiculturally competent group resources); 3) increase APA programming (e.g., processing current events, welcoming first time attendees, partnering with APAGS/17, utilizing award winners as speakers or writing for the newsletter); 4) developing a product (e.g., books, videos).
  • We also discussed the diversity award and: 1) the idea of emailing the runners up so they know that they were nominated, even if they didn’t win; 2) adding a student diversity award; 3) asking the executive board to submit nominees

Items Needing to be Discussed: 

Discuss action items/objectives to complete each quarter to further goals as described above.

Items Needing Action:

Establishing action items.

Recommendations, if any:

Jeanne to send Joe information re: responsibilities and an outline of annual deadlines for chair position

Categories
Committee Reports

Liaison Report CAPP

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

I attended a two day CAPP board meeting in early September as a liaison from our Society. The CAPP board members and fellow liaisons are a group of talented individuals who are invested in coming together as a group to advance the needs of practicing psychologists. The focus of the board, and by extension, the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) can be seen by examining the “four Ps”: payment, prestige, practice protection, and products.  Highlights from the September meeting, as organized by these four areas, can be found below:

Payment:

  • APAPO has been working to help develop a new CPT code which would provide better reimbursement for psychologists who use certain testing practices and assessments.
  • APAPO is going to start working on developing a Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) which will help psychologists control their own outcome measurements (to aid in reporting relevant outcomes to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). This QCDR would be a system that psychologists could use for the upcoming requirement of Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which will replace PQRS (as it expires on December 31st). I hope as they move forward with selecting outcome measures, that group based outcomes will be represented.
  • Legal and Regulatory Affairs (LRA) staff reported success in their fight with the New York Attorney General’s office regarding Cigna’s exclusion of neuropsychological assessment for all psychiatric disorders and autism spectrum disorders.
  • LRA is also continuing their work on advocating for intern reimbursement under Medicaid and report continued progress in several states.

Prestige:

  • The Government Relations staff of APAPO continues to advocate for psychologists inclusion in the Medicare “physician” definition (H.R. 4277/S. 2597).
  • CAPP formed a workgroup to discuss and determine if there are aspects or implications of the APA resolution on psychologists in integrated care settings. This workgroup would also focus on what CPT codes might be appropriate for telehealth within integrated care. This also ties into payment concerns for psychologists engaged in these activities.

Practice Protection:

  • Recently LRA also provided input to the Texas State Board regarding the Serafine decision by the 5th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision invalidating parts of the licensing law.
  • APAPO and LRA consistently tackle issues relating to mental health parity. They recently met with Federal Parity Enforcement officials to review key issues and concerns. They are actively involved in cases regarding parity issues with several insurance companies, including Regence BCBS and Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia.

Products:

  • As was described above, a product in development is the QCDR. However, another product that was strongly supported at the CAPP meeting was for APAPO to update the HIPAA product. This is especially salient in light of upcoming Phase 3 HIPAA audits from HHS.

I am honored to represent Division 49 as a liaison to the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice. Due to budget constraints, CAPP will only meet once in person next year, currently scheduled for October 2017. However, if there are significant updates that are provided to liaisons via electronic meetings, those will be included in future issues of TGP.

Categories
Brief Articles

Prevention Corner: Everyone Learns Differently

Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D.
Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D.

With the onset of a new school year, many parents are worried about their children’s progress in school.  The problem of reading failure is of particular concern.  Research has shown that prevention groups can be very effective in helping children overcome reading problems (Berking et al., 2008).  What kind of help can we as group psychologist offer to parents and teachers?

EDITORIAL QUESTION POSED:

Dear Prevention Corner:  I saw the article in the newspaper this week that talked about your reading program. You did not talk about dyslexia. The school says that my son has dyslexia.  They sent me to a private tutor.  Which is better– group or tutor?  The tutor says that I am wrong because I have not told my son that he has dyslexia.  Should I tell him? 

Confused

RESPONSE

 Dear Confused:

There are many different philosophies on whether a child should be told or not told that they have a learning disability.  There have been instances where children were diagnosed with dyslexia and have used such a diagnosis as an excuse for not being able to read.  As one student said to me one day: “You know I can’t read; I’m dyslexic.”  On the other hand, another student said, “Wow, that’s how I feel.  Now that I know that we’re all having the same problem, I’m going to learn to read.”  In my group-centered prevention program, I neither identify or label children. I believe that labels stigmatize.  Instead of saying the child has a learning disability, I say that everyone learns differently; therefore, we have learning differences.  In my opinion, whether you tell or do not tell your child is up to you.

As to your second question, which is better:  group or tutor.  I believe that prevention groups offer a major advantage over tutoring and research supports this opinion.  In my own research, children who participated in my group-centered prevention program outscored children who received one-on-one tutoring (Clanton Harpine & Reid, 2009).  Prevention groups offer many benefits that cannot be obtained through one-on-one tutoring.  Groups create a healing atmosphere, allow children to interact and work with others, and make it easier for the child to transfer what they learned back to the classroom.  In my group-centered program, Camp Sharigan, that was described in the newspaper article that you mentioned, I use six different methods for teaching reading and incorporate 11 different therapeutic factors into the group.  By combining learning and counseling together, I am able to provide a much stronger program.  Other researchers have also found this to be true (Baskin et al. 2010; Jones et al. 2015).

In my after-school Reading Orienteering Club, I use the same learning and counseling group concept.  Every child starts by learning the lower case alphabet and then begins to expand their phonemic awareness through vowel clustering.  Neuroimaging studies of the brain have shown that dyslexia results from differences in how the brain functions, particularly the posterior left hemisphere.  This is not a deformity or structural problem.  It simply means that through functional brain imaging (fMRI), researchers have been able to detect that children diagnosed with dyslexia use a different part of the brain.  This in no way means that children diagnosed with dyslexia are less intelligent.  One particular student that I worked with was extremely intelligent in science, history, and math.  Yet, the student could not read at the beginning (pre-primer) kindergarten level.  The student was in third grade, and I’m grateful to say that when he left my program at the end of the year, the student was reading beginning chapter books.

If your child has dyslexia, you want to find a program that will help your child visually identify letter shapes– the lines and curves of both capitals and lowercase letters.  We read primarily with a lowercase alphabet.  Yet, when we teach the alphabet in school, we teach capitals and lower case letters side-by-side.  One of the first big problems that I find with children who come into my program is that they may know their capitals but they do not know their lower case alphabet letters.

The second thing that a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia needs is phonemic awareness– being able to translate letter symbols into phonemes or sounds.  This is a major step for all children.  There are many children who are labeled as being dyslexic, but in actuality, their problem is that they have never been taught phonemes or letter sounds.  Children must be able to translate written letters into sounds before they can learn to read.  Simply memorizing a word list does not teach phonemes or letter sounds.  Not all children learn the same way which is why I use six different teaching methods in my group program, but each teaching method that I use starts with phonemic awareness—translating letter symbols into sounds.

The third critical aspect in the program for a student diagnosed with dyslexia is that the student must understand the meaning of words.  Without understanding the meaning of words, there cannot be comprehension.

Reading fluency is also another major concern of children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia.  I use puppet plays and reading for a puppet to help children improve their fluency.  Reading out loud is the most effective way to help children improve reading fluency; stop watches and timing students while they read is harmful, especially for dyslexic readers.

Finally, to return to your question:  Which is better—group or tutor?  A prevention group can offer your child advantages and motivation that a one-on-one tutoring situation cannot provide.  It is the combination of being an accepted member of the group and working with others in a positive, supportive environment.  I believe that groups achieve their most success when they combine learning and counseling together in one single program.  I also believe that hands-on programs offer lots of opportunities for all students but especially students diagnosed with dyslexia.

Good luck to you and your child, and I hope that I’ve answered your questions.

For others who might wish to join this discussion, please send your comments and group prevention concerns to Elaine Clanton Harpine at clantonharpine@hotmail.com

References

baskin, t. w., Slaten, C. D., Sorenson, C., Glover-Russell, J., & Merson, D. N.  (2010).  Does youth psychotherapy improve academically related outcomes?:  A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 290-296.  doi:  10.1037/a0019652

Berking, M., Orth, U., Wupperman, P., Meier, L. L., & Caspar, F.  (2008).  Prospective effects of emotion-regulation skills on emotional adjustment.  Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55, 485-494.  doi:  10.1037/a0013589

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M.  (2015).  Early social-emotional functioning and public health:  The relationship between kindergarten social competence in future wellness.  American Journal of Public Health,105, 2283-2290.  doi:  10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630

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Travel Grants – 2017 APA Convention

Jean Keim, Ph.D.
Jean Keim, Ph.D.

As you are thinking about APA and convention programming, remember your APF Div. 49 Foundation has funding for scholarly work and travel. Deadlines for the grants are Oct. 1st. Available grants include travel, scholarly work in group psychotherapy, and scholarly work in group psychology. Links to the grants are provided below:

http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/div-49-travel.aspx

http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/div-49-psychotherapy.aspx?tab=1

http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/div-49-psychology.aspx

Feel free to email me if you have questions.

Jean, Keim jkeim@unm.edu