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Editor’s Column

From Your Editors at The Group Psychologist

In this issue of The Group Psychologist you’ll find authors speaking to the powerful roles that groups can have in our lives. While at the recent American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Meeting, I (Leann) experienced this in many ways. However, one depiction of the power groups have, that caught me off-guard, was while watching the musical Cats. Arguably, one of the most emotional plot lines in the show is that of Grizabella, the old “glamor cat” who is an outcast from the Jellicle tribe of cats. Her anguish at not be accepted, the impact of being shunned, and the loneliness she feels is palpable.  One of the most magical, and at times haunting, songs comes from her singing Memory. Without providing too much of a spoiler, it’s a moving moment in the musical when she is accepted back into the tribe. There is a dark side to groups, their ability to shun, to cut-off, and to wound individuals. Yet, Cats, provides a beautiful visual reminder of the healing power of groups: through acceptance, welcoming, and re-incorporation into something bigger than one’s self.

We encourage you, dear reader, to send us your reactions to the articles in this issue. Better yet, post about them on Facebook! Start out by checking out our President-elect’s recent experiences wondering what attending the Division 49 Mid-Winter Board meeting will be like. Our current President, Dr. Craig Parks, while reflecting on the current state of political discourse takes on the question, “How important is it for opposing groups to be calm and friendly while discussing their differences?”

In a different sort of response to the current political state, in his Group Psychotherapy Column, Dr. Tevya Zukor, points out, “We have the training and experience to understand the dynamics of scapegoating, oppression, and irrational fear-based behavior. Not only do we understand how these processes emerge, but we have thousands of years of combined experience helping people navigate through the worst times of their lives and being there as they to emerge from the darkness that once overwhelmed them.”

Finally, we encourage you to check out the range of awards described in the Diversity Column. These include cash awards of $500 and $1000 for members (or those whose membership is pending) of Division 49. These awards are to “recognize excellence in group psychology practice, research, service, and/or advocacy with a focus on promoting understanding and respect for diversity.” It’s not too early to start thinking about the APA annual convention. The Diversity Committee is hoping to use the Suite to foster dialogue among Division members about diversity in group psychology and group psychotherapy in an informal setting. Please email Dr. Joe Miles (joemiles@utk.edu) if you have ideas or requests about what could be offered.

Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.
Tom Treadwell, Ed.D., T.E.P. C.G.P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associate Editor

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

I am thrilled to join the Board of the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. I have been a member of the Society for years and have served on the Group Dynamics Board as a regular member and as an associate editor. But, to be honest, I really did not know what specifically the Board of the Society did and how it operated (well, I should clarify that I know what Boards do in general: they set policy and bylaws for the Society, run the academic journal, produce a newsletter for members, set the programming for the convention, keep a responsible budget, encourage membership, maintain records, etc.). What I did not know was how this Society’s Board operated, how the members got along, what the climate would be like, how decisions were made, how formal was the process, and did it have an effective leadership. After all, I was a virtual outsider – I mean I knew a few people on the board, but I had never been part of this particular system. To make matters more interesting, I came onto the Board in an emerging leadership capacity as president-elect. I wondered how that would go over with longer serving members. In reflecting back on my first Board meeting I was struck by how the process of joining this Board paralleled many such group processes (spoiler alert: it went very well, the Board members were very warm and welcoming, and I felt that I can make a real contribution to an already well-run group/organization).

I have been running, researching, or teaching about therapy groups for over 30 years now. Of all the hats that I wear, my role as a group therapist, teacher, and researcher is the most satisfying and rewarding. Yet why was I somewhat surprised that similar concerns, expectations, and pressures that new therapy group members face were also on my mind at that first Board meeting? Before I got there I wondered if I would feel included, engaged, and effective – and I hoped that the meeting and my role would be a good use of my time. I am well aware that group processes operate in many organizational contexts, and I have experienced this first-hand in multidisciplinary health teams, on other organizational boards, in classrooms, group supervisions, research collaborations, and on academic committees. So why was I surprised? I think, in part, it has to do with group therapists and group psychologists operating as if in separate silos. We inhabit different worlds of work and so we assume that the concepts we work with and interactions we participate in are independent.  But clearly they are not.

I was on a multidisciplinary health team early in my career in which one of the professionals seemed somewhat agitated as she repeated the same point about a patient to the rest of the team. The team did not openly disagree with her, but nevertheless there was a palpable tension and discomfort in the room. The psychiatrist, who I did not know well at the time but grew to respect over the years, turned to the professional, said something understanding and calming, and repeated something similar to the rest of the team. The professional seemed calmer, the tension dissipated, and we moved on to review the next patient. When I asked the psychiatrist some time later about the incident, he said that people in the room were not feeling heard, and all he did was to repeat what everyone had already said. Whether he knew it or not, the psychiatrist did more that simply repeat the words –he offered respectful leadership, security, empathy, and direction to the team in what was developing into a tense situation. So in this team-based organizational context, I saw group therapy dynamics play themselves out and managed skilfully (albeit implicitly) used by someone who was attuned to the group’s climate.

One of the impromptu discussions we had during the Society Board meeting was about how many people assume an overlap between group therapy and group psychology (e.g., organizations, sports teams, classrooms, work groups), but how little is written or discussed about these common areas of research, theory, and practice. One of the unique and special roles of the Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy is that it is a big tent in which both group therapists and group psychologists can dialogue, find common ground, and feel included.

Categories
Welcome

President’s Column

Craig Parks, Ph.D.
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Getting Along in Groups

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you favor, I think we would all agree that civility between groups is in diminishing supply right now.  Every group seems to be mad at some other group(s).  This has led to calls, again on both sides of the aisles, for a return to calm, mannered conversation.

One can question how nasty the interaction truly has been.  Republicans in 1800 called John Adams a hermaphrodite, and the Federalists in turn labeled Thomas Jefferson an atheist who was hell-bent on opening the borders to foreign radicals.  In the 1884 election, James Blaine was called the “Continental Liar from the State of Maine” because of his past history of questionable business dealings, and James Garfield was exposed as having fathered a child out of wedlock.  And nothing we saw this year rivals 1828, when John Quincy Adams was alleged to have served as a pimp while ambassador to Russia, and Andrew Jackson was portrayed as a mentally unstable illiterate whose mother was a prostitute for the English Navy, and whose wife was a bigamist because she had allegedly married Andrew before her divorce was finalized.  Indeed, this campaign was so brutal that historians generally agree it was a major factor in Jackson’s wife dying of a heart attack a few weeks before Andrew’s inauguration.  But all of this aside, it is certainly clear from polling data that most Americans were unhappy with the tenor of the 2016 election season, and would like to see decorum returned to the process.

This, then, raises a question for me: How important is it for opposing groups to be calm and friendly while discussing their differences?  My colleague in Political Science here at Washington State, Cornell Clayton, is receiving media attention at the moment for suggesting that civility between disputing groups is not only not essential, but may be problematic for resolution of the disagreement.  His argument is that groups that feel powerless make their greatest strides toward rectifying the injustice by being belligerent, forceful, and in your face rather than polite.  By way of comparison, Cornell cites the unrest of the late 1960’s, which was considerably more vicious than today, and was marked by violence and assassination.  In 2016, the Democratic upstart who challenged the presumptive heir was not murdered, cities did not burn as a result of protests by African-Americans about mistreatment by law enforcement, campus buildings were not firebombed, and protesters did not get beaten at the political conventions.  Cornell notes that we emerged from that turbulent time with a centrist outlook that persisted for 40-plus years.

What implications does this line of argument have for those of us who work with small groups?  Quite a few, I think.  It implies that hostile behavior within the group needs to be investigated before it is suppressed.  It implies that group norms need to be periodically revisited and questioned as to whether they remain (or ever were) appropriate for the group.  It implies that different points of view need to be heard and processed, and if they cannot be acted upon, the inaction needs to be justified.  It implies that the majority preference is not always the best preference.  While these might seem common-sense statements to you, we know from much research that they do not often describe what occurs in a group.  Dissenters are pressured to conform, ostracized, and sometimes expelled from the group.  Group members who seek revenge and engage in vengeful acts are usually sending a message to group leaders that a situation needs correction.  Groups hang onto norms long past their sell-by dates, often to the group’s detriment.  Procedural injustice, or the sense that one is not being heard or taken seriously, is the form of injustice that individuals are most likely to report experiencing in a group.  “Majority rules” is by far the most common form of group decision-making rule.  This is not to say that groups need to be in a state of constant revision, or that majorities are never right, or that rebels are always right, rather my point is that too often groups get stuck in their ways, and this might occur with less frequency if we could arm groups with some tools that would encourage self-study and assist with modification of how they go about their business.  Our colleagues in organizational psychology have been working on this problem for a while, and have made small strides, but there remains much room for innovation.

My university has its accreditation review this coming fall, and so our self-study report is due over the summer.  As I write this, our Board of Regents is going over the (hopefully final) draft.  As a member of the team that assembled our magnum opus, I am proud of the report.  It tells a good story about WSU, highlights our successes, documents what we next need to work on.  But getting people to contribute to it was a headache.  Not because of the workload—most contributors had to write no more than a page or two—but because people did not want to engage in the analysis.  “Things are fine, so why do we need to do this?” was a common complaint I received.  How do we get past this mindset?  How do we encourage groups to take a step back, look at what they are doing, and listen to others who have thoughts about different ways to operate?  It’s not a problem that can be solved with one study, or even one series of studies, but it is a problem that we are well-positioned to tackle.

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November 2016 – Vol. 26, No. 3

November 2016 – Vol. 26, No. 3

Welcome

President’s Column
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

President-Elect’s Column
Robert Gleave, Ph.D.

Editor’s Column
Tom Treadwell, Ed.D., T.E.P, CGP, Leann Terry Diederich, Ph.D., and Letitia Travaglini, MA


Election Results

Division 49 Candidate Results


News

Div49 APA Convention Program Co-Chairs Call for Proposals
Martin Kivlighan Ph.D. and Debra  O’Connell, Ph.D.

Travel Grants – 2017 APA Convention
Jean Keim, Ph.D.

Dissertation Award
Dick Moreland, Ph.D.


Columns

Group Psychotherapy Column: Sex, Drugs, and…Politics
Tevya Zukor, Ph.D.

Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Column
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.


Book Review

From The Couch To The Circle: Group-Analytic Psychotherapy In Practice
by John R. Schlapobersky


Early Career Psychologists 

Training in Group Psychotherapy Virtual Learning Hour
Barbara Greenspan, Psy.D., MHSA

Notes from the North
Kasra Khorsani, Ph.D.


 Brief Articles

Prevention Corner: Everyone Learns Differently
Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D.


Committee Reports

Liaison Report CAPP
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

Diversity Committee Report
Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

Council of Representatives Report
Sally Barlow, Ph.D.

Finance Report
Amy Nitza, Ph.D.


Other Information

Division 49 August Convention Board Meeting Minutes
Norah Chapman, Ph.D.