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President Elect’s Column

George Tasca
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Statistics 

One of the things that I have noticed over the decades of providing, training, and supervising group therapy is that each group appears to have its own qualities and trajectory. That is, each group seems to have its unique characteristics and growth patterns that set it apart from other groups of its kind. (I don`t mean to imply that there aren`t similarities across groups, but only that in many ways each group is unique). We know from group research that sometimes the group’s path is determined by its pre-group history (personality characteristics of the individuals that pre-dated their membership in the group), sometimes it is affected how members get along with others of the group in which they happen to find themselves (group composition), and sometimes the trajectory is affected by qualities of the leaders. These constituent components (individual characteristics, group composition, and leadership) then interact in complex ways. Gary Burlingame and his colleagues referred to these complex levels of interaction as the structural aspects of groups (member to member, member to leader, and group as a whole). The results of interactions across these structural aspects over time result in what some group researchers refer to as emergent properties of groups. This is akin to what the gestalt psychologists refer to as the “whole being more than the sum of its parts”. It is only recently that group researchers have the tools to catch up to these complexities of groups.

For practice oriented group psychologists and for group psychotherapists the concept of group emergent properties from its structural elements was implicitly known. However, there wasn`t a whole lot of research to quantify, demonstrate, or test these fundamentally group concepts. For decades, group researchers did their best by borrowing methods from individual psychology and psychotherapy to study group phenomena. This severely limited what the researcher could do and could say about groups and the individuals that made them up. For example, in the past, when we studied if an individual`s personality affected their outcomes in group, we simply did what individual therapy researchers did – correlated a pre-treatment personality scale score with change in an outcome. This method essentially ignored the group – even though we knew that the group (composition, leadership, group as a whole) likely interacted with individual personality and outcome. Until very recently there has been little research on how the group affects an individual’s experience of cohesion or alliance and vice versa. New research shows that if the individual and group agree on their experience of the alliance, then the individual`s outcomes are better. This is an example of group researchers finally being able to test what clinicians implicitly knew to be true.

This small revolution in group research has come about because of advancements in statistical theory and methods, and because of powerful computing capacity that is now readily available on anyone`s laptop. For example, multilevel modeling (a statistical advancement in regression equations) has transformed how we conduct group therapy research. For the first time, we are able to: take into account the impact of the group on the individual, test hypotheses about member to member or member to group interactions, and model the unique trajectory that each group takes across time – just to name a few. For years group practitioners have been far ahead of researchers in terms of theorizing about how groups work and advancing the need for more groups. Finally, group research methods have caught up to these rich theories. I envision a day in the near future in which group researchers not only test group concepts, but by way of testing these ideas they will also lead the development of new theories and models of how groups work and how they can be more effective. For that we need young group psychologists who are just as comfortable running a computer model as they are running a therapy or work group.

 

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

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

“I would never want to be part of a group that would have someone like me as a member” – paraphrasing Groucho Marx.

When I ran for President of the Society I was asked to think about and write a statement for what my priorities might be if I were elected. It really didn’t take me long to come up with the key priorities of supporting students and young investigators who were interested in group psychology and group psychotherapy research and practice. The statistics that I have seen about the age of members of our Society were sobering and reinforced this focus. The average age of members of Division 49 is well over 60 years, which means that most members are looking at retirement in the coming decade. On the face of it, it seems that this is a serious challenge for our Society. Without replenishing the membership with younger people, we could face a crisis within a short period of time.

It is important to say that we are not alone with this problem. Most societies and professional organizations are facing the same trends in demographics. Some of the trend is simply a fact of broader societal factors related to aging baby-boomers who in many cases were leading figures in the development of organizations like Division 49. Also, one could speculate that GenY and Millenials tend to congregate in very different ways than their parents and grandparents (i.e., with social media, and more amorphously organized groups), and tend to have different expectations and definitions about community service. One could also take a more optimistic view that people don’t tend to join organizations and societies until they get older – similar to what Erikson described as the generativity phase of human development. That is, at a younger age one is more invested in personal and professional achievements and/or demands of raising a family, whereas later in life one begins to give back to society to create meaning in one’s life by mentoring those who are younger.

With this in mind I hope to spend my time on the Executive of the Board of Division 49 discussion ways in which we can better engage younger members of our organization, particularly those in the 30 to 40 year old bracket. The Division has already invested a portion of its budget to providing the Richard Moreland Dissertation of the Year award, and a student poster award.  We hold a division social that is well attended by students at the APA conference. We are also looking into ways of engaging new members and students and to retaining members who have not renewed their memberships. One possible avenue is to open membership to the Society to non-APA members around the world who nevertheless identify themselves as group psychologists. Further, we are supporting an application to the Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology for recognition of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy as a specialty in professional psychology. This would bring to the attention of the broader professional community the importance of specialized training in group psychology.

Those of us involved in group practice and group research in clinical, social, organizational, military, and sports settings know the importance of group psychology and know the impact of and strength in numbers. For that reason it is important to have a vibrant Society like ours to support the work we do and to support the next generation of researchers and practitioners in group work. I strongly encourage you as a member of the Society to reach out to your younger colleagues. Encourage them to join, and tell them why it’s important to join. Come to our events at the APA conference including the Division Social event on Friday August 4th at 6pm – bring a student or younger colleague with you.

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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.

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP
Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP

I wish to declare again, as I have written before, that group psychotherapy is very important to me. When I agreed to run for president-elect of division 49, I had energy and desire to make a difference in moving group psychotherapy toward increasing prominence. It seemed like a natural next step flowing from my research and affiliations with other professional associations. It felt like a good way to give back to a community that had been supportive throughout my career. I was aware of some of the national issues and had a few ideas about how to contribute.

Following the election, yet prior to the January 1, 2016 beginning of the President-elect year, I was diagnosed with ALS which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the time, the progression of the disease was unknown. I chose to proceed with an expectation that the progression of the disease would be slower and that I might still be able to contribute.  As time has passed, it is now apparent that I will not have sufficient strength or energy to fulfill the duties of President. It is with disappointment that I must step aside at this time. After consulting the by-laws, Craig and Dennis have each graciously agreed to stay for another year. I want to thank them both for their kindness as I have wrestled with this challenge. They, and the rest of the board, have been very helpful and supportive.

I feel that I have had a good career and am happy about the things that got done. While there are always “next projects”, my Division 49 service is one of only a few things that feels unfinished.  Overall, I am ready to let the next generation make their mark.

My religious beliefs are strong and I’m comforted by my relationship with the Savior.  He is sustaining me and giving meaning to this part of my life experience, just as He has consistently over the decades.  My predominant feeling is a willingness to learn these next lessons and a sense of peace.

I want to express thanks to many of you that I count as my friends and to all of you who keep the cause of group psychotherapy alive.

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP
Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP

I have been making plans for APA in Denver and have recognized that I’m most looking forward to the Division 49 events – especially the board meetings. I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my years of involvement in professional associations. The overall feeling I have about professional associations is that I receive much more than I give. Yes, there is a financial cost. There are also time, energy, and personal costs. Anything that is worthwhile comes with a cost of some sort. Life is full of choices that require effort to obtain what is desired. It is said; “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” While one can argue the use of the superlative, the general principle is recognizable. Professional association membership and involvement holds a multitude of benefits that matter to me. I won’t be able to articulate them adequately, but I’d like to share a few thoughts.

When I feel frustrated that something doesn’t make sense or I want to cry out “it shouldn’t be this way,” my next feeling can be helplessness because I know it is unlikely that I can change things alone. With like-minded colleagues who share my frustrations I don’t feel so alone. As we commiserate, energy builds until we jointly say “let’s do something about that.” With multiple talents and various skills we can do so much more together than any of us could on our own. The larger numbers carry additional weight to the positions we are advocating, and public opinion and policy can be influenced.

Like all of us, I occasionally second guess myself or get unclear about some situation that presents itself infrequently. Listserv’s, websites, newsletters, etc. often provide excellent information. Having multiple professionals, who I know well enough to call is an important resource for me. Joining with fellow group psychologists in conferences and workshops provides some of the familiarity that helps to feel connected, but working together in a board, committee, sub-committee, or task force setting builds a different level of connection and friendship.

Working on a project that makes a difference for the profession generally also provides a sense of contributing to a cause that is larger than my everyday routine, and I find that satisfying. I’ve learned new skills and developed important qualities through association service. My time as a lobbyist was a confidence builder, and sharpened my ability to be succinct. My time on an ethics committee helped me to be more thoughtful and to consider multiple positions at the same time. Serving on a continuing education committee gave me a greater appreciation for organization and logistics.

It is important to me to be aware of the trends in my profession. Association involvement assures that I am among the first to be informed of new developments and potential shifts in the field (current changes make this a particularly useful benefit). I have been able to adjust my private practice just ahead of insurance company changes that resulted in preferred status with some insurers (and a more stable business).

Being an active contributor to a profession that has fed and sheltered my family also matters to me. Someone lobbied for me to have a license, someone else challenged the insurance companies attempt to decrease my income, another represented my profession to the public through the media (decreasing stigma and encouraging new patients toward my services), and others planned and provided opportunities for me to learn new things that keep me current (and meet CE requirements). I feel better when I also contribute something to the joint effort, even if all I can do is attend a monthly board meeting and share my views or make a few phone calls to encourage new members or to help a legislator understand an important issue. Maybe my willingness to write a short article for a newsletter or participate on a conference call with the early career committee is all I can offer one year. Still, I can feel that I am a contributor. Most association service requires small amounts of time that is able to be flexibly placed into a schedule.

If this sounds like your experience in the groups you lead, it’s not a coincidence. Association work is working in a group, and thus utilizes the power of group processes. This is another reason I find association service so energizing and rewarding. Wrestling with priorities and ways to implement action items calls forth multiple perspectives and the dialogue around those differences has all of the advantages of group work. Relationships are strengthened, learning occurs, the synergy of interaction promotes a sense of well-being, etc.

Yes, there are costs associated with association membership and service, but I have received so much more than any cost required of me. I am so thankful to those with whom I currently serve and also to the many with whom I have served. Thank you for being willing to press me to understand you and for being willing to hear me. Thank you for modifying my good ideas and making them better and for shooting down my bad ones. In short, thank you for letting me work shoulder to shoulder with you in an important endeavor.

I invite any of you to join us on the board. Just let anyone on the board know of your interest and we will welcome you and find a place for you.

rgleave@byu.edu

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP
Robert Gleave, Ph.D., ABGP, CGP

Group psychotherapy has been an important aspect of my career from its earliest beginnings. For several decades I have watched the field of group psychotherapy grow and become a rich service delivery modality. When I began studying and practicing group psychotherapy the literature was not very clear on many aspects of group processes. Many studies were reporting on experiences with very few groups—several with single group designs. Most of the instruments used to measure constructs were created for the studies without sufficient attention to validity or reliability. My experience was that I was entering (and committed to) a field that was still in its adolescence. I was the group coordinator at a large college counseling center for several years and frequently felt that I was trying to advocate for legitimacy for our group offerings. As time passed, it became clearer that groups were adding significant benefit to our clinical services.

For the last decade and a half I have been part of a very active group psychotherapy research team. The literature has become increasingly rigorous, clear, and cohesive. Studies with larger sample sizes, improvements in statistical methods, greater attention to psychometrics, use of standardized measures, and more replications, have all contributed to more compelling evidence for the effectiveness and efficiency of group psychotherapy.

As I have taught beginning psychologists about group psychotherapy theories, principles, and practices, I have witnessed some of them catch the “Group Bug” and then go on to become strong advocates of group psychotherapy themselves. These have been some very rewarding times in my professional life.

In contrast, I have been somewhat saddened in more recent years as some training programs sacrifice their group courses in favor of other offerings. I have felt discouraged when insurers are unwilling to compensate for group psychotherapy at rates that are comparable to other services. Frustration has followed when other providers are hesitant to refer clients to needed group services and are uninterested in learning what groups can offer. In addition, administrators’ continued dismissals of requests for legitimacy for group programs have also been disappointing. The most recent denial of a petition for specialty status for Group Psychology by CRSPPP (Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology) was a blow to my positive expectations for the field. I began to feel like I did in my early career—the fear that I might not be hired in the jobs I wanted, that I had chosen a dead-end career that was in decline, and that I was destined to barely scrape by and to feel unsatisfied in my work. However, my career has gone better than I could have ever dreamed in spite of cloudy times and disappointments. I now recognize those doubtful times as developmentally important to help me see beyond the struggles of this year or this decade and to remain committed to what I value.

As a member of the International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists and also the Group Specialty Council which is preparing the next petition for specialty status with CRSPPP, I have been able to see more of what is happening in the field. I am more optimistic than ever about the future of group psychotherapy. I am aware of many simultaneous efforts that have potential to propel group psychotherapy into fitting prominence. I am tempering my optimism with my memory that it took much work and several setbacks for my own career to develop. At the same time, my optimism is fueled by confidence that obstacles do not define outcomes. I see great things in our future, and I am pleased to be associated with all of you as we move forward.

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

What Good Are Groups, Anyway?

I’m writing this on a Wednesday at noon. I have just come from my 10th meeting of the week, have another one this afternoon, five on Thursday, and three on Friday. (This is an occupational hazard of being an Assistant Provost.) Most of these meetings are a half-hour, so the time commitment is not bad, but it’s mentally exhausting. Fair play, a typical week for me does not include 20 meetings, but the norm—10 to 12—is still a lot. Looking at my calendar for this week reminded me of a quote from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak: “I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

That quote likely seems odd coming from a leader of Division 49. But Wozniak raises a good point—do we really need to do everything as a collective? Some of the meetings I’ve attended could have been avoided if the convener would have just sent me a summary document and let me read it. One of my favorite emerging lines of research comes out of the Marketing literature, where Terri Barr, Andrea Dixon, and Jule Gassenheimer have documented a “lone wolf” trait. Quite simply, a lone wolf is someone who prefers to complete a task alone, even if that task could be easily divided among group members. The lone wolf well-understands the difficulty of the task s/he is taking on, and devotes full attention and resources to completing it with quality comparable to that which a group would produce. Further, force a lone wolf to work in a group, and s/he will be essentially useless: Motivation goes to zero, s/he refuses collaboration, and may even become obstructive. Barr and colleagues have shown how to measure the tendency, and have found it to be predictive of behaviors in education groups and sales teams. My students and I are in the process of testing it with ad hoc task groups, and are getting the same results.

There are thus some tasks that can be completed just fine by a single, motivated person. We don’t need groups to do everything. But we do need groups to do a lot of things, hence the motivation for this column: We need to make sure the baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bathwater, in that the growing reaction to unnecessary group tasks doesn’t become a reaction against groups.

If you have read Susan Cain’s 2012 book Quiet, you will know that she calls for better support of those who prefer to work alone (like Wozniak), and argues that in at least American culture, there is an overemphasis on group work, beginning in elementary school, to the point where we are biased against the lone wolf. The book is an interesting read, well-grounded in science. Now that the book is three years on, I recently ran some searches to see what kind of impact it is having in both the scientific literature and popular writing on group work. What I found dismayed me. One of the top human resource management web sites used it to argue that group work is nothing more than “shared incompetence” and that one should question the capability of anyone who suggests a collective approach to tasks. A leading publication for math educators identified group work as a prime culprit for the decline in interest in mathematics among students, suggesting that kids are so used to working in groups that they get frustrated when they discover that math is ultimately a solitary enterprise. (Indeed, I was especially bothered to come across a number of trade publications for K-12 educators that questioned whether group-based learning overall does more harm than good.) A trade publication for nurses suggested that the emphasis on being able to work in groups can blind mental health nurses to the needs of introverted adults and children. I could provide more examples, but these serve the point. Much harder to find was the argument that groups are perhaps overused, a point that Cain herself makes.

Trying another line of inquiry, I contacted a friend of mine who is a leading researcher of virtual groups and has an active consulting business helping organizations set up and manage such groups. What he told me was no more encouraging. His work has dropped considerably, replaced by requests to help set up and manage dropbox systems whereby individual workers can upload their ideas and input on an issue for a project manager to collect and use, or to implement a best method for disseminating information and conducting electronic votes via a secure listserv.

In my last column I talked about my interest in offering workshops on group-related phenomena. I think the discoveries I’ve shared with you here underscore how important such outreach is. Let’s talk to the health and business and education practitioners about the many situations for which we know, empirically, that collective effort is preferable to individual effort. Let’s help them find a balance between having too many meetings and not enough. Let’s try to give them tools that will identify who will thrive in a group setting, and who is best left to go off and work alone. Making connections in these worlds will not be hard to do, and we should give it a try.

I’d love to write more, but I have to leave for my next meeting. Fingers crossed that it’s productive.

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Reaching Out as a Division

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

“[He] is a poster child for the notions of positive psychology and resiliency in teaching and coaching small groups.” This quote is from Martin Seligman, about someone, not a psychologist, whose job is to improve performance by small groups. This person has been lauded by others, within our profession and his, for his grasp of the psychology of group and interpersonal dynamics, and his application of cutting-edge research to his work environment. He lists Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers as the book that has had the greatest influence on his professional life. His methods have been the subject of at least one empirical study (Thelwell, Weston, Greenlees, & Hutchings, 2008). And finally, his approach has been so successful within his profession that others are rushing to adapt his methods to their own work environments, and other professions are trying to figure out how to integrate his ideas into their task groups.

For now I’ll let you ponder who this is. (Full disclosure: Some of you will not recognize his name, but I’m confident the majority of you will know of his employer, if not him specifically.) The point I want to make is that this is someone outside of psychology who saw a connection between what we do and what his situation needed, and tried to link the two worlds. The success of this person offers a real opportunity for us to build bridges outside of our discipline. We can all think of real-world groups that might benefit from the theories that we work from, and to my mind the time is right for us to connect to such groups. Like him or not, the popularity of Gladwell’s books demonstrates that the lay public wants to know more about what we do and how it can benefit them. The prominent success of our mystery person, and his readiness to attribute that success to the application of psychology, group and individual (our colleagues who do mindfulness research hold him up as a conquering hero), opens the door wide for us to get involved with other types of groups.

I’m sure at this point, some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “Here’s another call to share our expertise that forgets about the hurdles we face in our jobs to outreach.” I assure you I’m well aware of the difficulties inherent in what I’m calling for. A colleague in my department has received awards from the university and our state legislature for his efforts to help kids in challenging home situations to thrive in school, yet he remains an Associate Professor, because a good chunk of his work is not readily publishable. My suggestion is that we work as a division to initiate some extension efforts. I am thinking in particular of our sponsoring workshops on topics related to group functioning to which professionals and budding professionals (i.e., graduate students) are invited, with an accompanying registration fee. Division 5 (Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics) does this to great effect, regularly advertising one- and two-day workshops on all manner of analytical techniques, usually held at the presenter’s home institution or nearby. The registration fees are first used to pay for the facility and for an honorarium for the presenter, and whatever is left goes to the division. Having participated, as both attendee and presenter, in such workshops, I can say that they are popular, and draw a good number of people from outside of the discipline. The presenter’s time commitment is relatively brief, certainly not at the level of a single person contracting with an agency or organization, and so should not impinge on his/her employment duties. Some work would need to be done to establish contacts with managers of real groups in order to circulate workshop announcements, but there are many professional listservs that look for educational opportunities for their members, and are easy to work with.

I think there is much potential here. Imagine, for example, a workshop in the Maryland-Virginia-DC area run by Dennis Kivlighan on the unique and beneficial aspects of co-led groups, or a session led by Verlin Hinsz on how information-processing errors and biases magnify in groups. Workshops like these would be attractive across the spectrum of types of groups, would provide a real service to society, and would be beneficial to the division.

I’m interested to hear what you think of this. Catch up with me in Toronto. If this still sounds like too much of an intrusion into our work lives, tell me so. If it sounds like it has potential, let’s talk about that too.

And to unveil the mystery person: It is Pete Carroll, coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, winner of two one Super Bowls.

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Columns

President-Elect Column

The Ubiquity of Groups

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

One of the many attractive features of Division 49 to me is that we are one of the few divisions that focuses on an entity that everyone deals with: Groups. It is impossible to get through your day without performing as a group member, often many times a day. Most of us work with other people. Almost all of us are part of teacher-student or therapist-client (or both) relationships. We all regularly engage with our groups of friends. We get involved with community groups, special-interest groups, political associations, recreational teams…the list goes on.

Despite this, the research on group processes and dynamics is in silos. The social psychologists (my cohort) are over here looking at why group discussion is so inefficient. The group therapists are over there studying therapist-client interaction dynamics. The organizational psychologists are in the far corner looking at work groups. The sport and exercise researchers are back there testing whether particular compositions of exercise groups are better or worse at encouraging members to stick with the workout program. The especially unfortunate result of such isolation is that we miss golden opportunities to work together and learn more about principles that are common across the various types of groups that intrigue us. It would be fascinating, for example, to know whether composition is as influential on member behavior in a workplace group as it is in a workout group. Does Leader-Member Exchange theory describe how a group therapist interacts with his/her clients as well as it does a work supervisor and his/her subordinates? Could Yalom’s ideas about the therapeutic factors associated with group psychotherapy be used to help social psychologists move past the stubborn problem of task group inefficiency? Dozens more cross-domain questions like these can be generated without too much thought. Yet it is rare to see such projects undertaken.

The groups’ area has not always been so segmented. In the mid-1950’s, Morton Deutsch augmented his research into the social psychology of conflict by becoming a licensed therapist, in order to better understand the entire spectrum of human behavior. Deutsch’s advisor, Kurt Lewin, helped lay the foundation for modern group therapy with his development of T-group procedures. In writing The Social Basis of Consciousness, Burrow drew upon a number of concepts that would be familiar to a social psychologist today: Power differentials, socialization of norms, trans active memory, shared cognition. Rogers wrote about how his person-centered therapy approach could be applied to problems of group conflict, leadership, and more broadly, interpersonal relations. How these connections fell apart is too complicated of an issue to take up here, and at any rate is mired in more philosophical politics than any of us cares to think about. The important point is that a call for those who are interested in different types of groups to start looking at each other’s bodies of work is hardly unprecedented.

The response that many researchers might have to such a suggestion is that it is a huge challenge to keep up with all of the developments in one’s area of focus—how can one possibly also keep abreast of what is being published in these other areas? This is indeed an issue. I am to the point where I consider myself “up to date” if I have merely scanned the tables of contents of the many journals that I receive. I only visit clinical, counseling, sport, or management journals on rare occasions. But this is exactly why I place such value on Division 49. I know that every year at APA I will get to spend time with other members, who are studying groups of types other than those that I study (groups of unacquainted individuals who are confronted with mixed-motive collaborative tasks, in case you were wondering), and hear about what they have been working on. I am consistently struck by how easily I can ask questions about their work, and how many suggestions for my own projects they provide to me. As importantly, I consistently come away from our conversations with a different perspective on the dynamics of human cooperation, and some of these perspective shifts have been profound. At one of my first divisional meetings, I was telling someone, a counseling psychologist, about my interest in learning how to encourage people to be more cooperative more frequently, and he asked me whether Carl Rogers’ ideas were of any value for the problem. All I knew of Rogers was what I had learned as an undergraduate, so I collected some references from my new friend. The outcome of this reading was a conviction to more strongly integrate personality variables into my thinking, which eventually resulted in my contributing a chapter on the interface between personality and social-group processes to the Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. This is a piece I would have never dreamt of producing before my chance encounter.

I would love for Division 49 to become a place where, once a year, all of the psychologists who are curious about any type of group come to share ideas and learn from one another. Undeniably there are hurdles that have to be cleared in order for this to happen. Those philosophical issues I alluded to earlier will not dissipate overnight. But I am convinced that some outreach on our part, some effort to show members of other divisions that we share common ground, can indeed result in more people coming into our tent. My goal for my year as president is thus to start building these connections. Such would benefit not only those of us in the division, but psychology as a whole.

 

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President-Elect Column

Dennnis M. Kivlighan , Jr., Ph.D.
Dennnis M. Kivlighan , Jr., Ph.D.

Dennis M. Kivlighan, Jr., Ph.D.
President-Elect

Recognizing Excellence

As I write this column I am reflecting on the APA convention where we again met to conduct the business of our society. As always it was a productive, fun and thought provoking meeting. Once again Dr. Lee Gillis ran a wonderful meeting with just the right balance of attention to the task and socio-emotional aspects of our group process. THANK YOU LEE! When I write my next column I will have assumed the reins from Lee and I hope we will be able to work as effectively as under his leadership. I am also reflecting on the content of the convention and the wonderful program put together by Drs. Jill Paquin and Joe Miles. We had a broad diversity of informative and interesting programs and posters. THANK YOU JILL and JOE! For those of you not at the convention, you missed a stimulating presentation by Dr. Les Greene, the recipient of the Arthur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year award. Les challenged us by giving us his list of group therapy research that he would not like to see any more (thank goodness I did not make this list) and group therapy research he would like to see more. I found his second list to be a great blueprint for the next generation of group therapy research. THANK YOU LES! As always, however, my favorite part of the convention was the reception in the president’s suite. It is always a great time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and to get to know new people. For me our social hour always turns a big, and at time overwhelming professional meeting, into an intimate and connected gathering. As Lee Gillis likes to say, when he first came to the Division 49 reception at APA , he knew that he had “found his people”. Most of you know that for a number of years Kathy and John Ritter have coordinated and hosted the reception for the division. This was Kathy and John’s last year of coordinating our signature event and they will be greatly missed. An especially big THANK YOU TO KATHY AND JOHN!!!!

In my last column I asked people to consider recording an interviewed modeled after the StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio, describing their experiences with group, an important group mentor or with the Division. I know that during the APA convention several people who worked with and were mentored by Jack Corazzini. I hope that more of you will also decide to record an interview for our archives. In the rest of the column I want to talk about a second initiative that I hope launch next year.

In developing a new group initiative or advising a student about graduate study we may encounter questions like: “I am the new group coordinator at my counseling center; which counseling center has an exemplary group therapy training program that I can look to for a model?” “I am fascinated by how group work and sometimes do not work, which graduate program will help me learn more about groups?” These and other similar questions highlight the importance of exemplars. We all benefit when we can point to and model after programs of acknowledged excellence. A second initiative that I want the board to consider is to a develop recognition that can highlight exemplars of good training in group psychology and group psychotherapy.

I think that a major role of the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy is to encourage and recognize excellence in group psychology and group psychotherapy training and education. Therefore, during our midwinter meeting I will ask the board to consider creating three Excellence in Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Training and Education Awards: one award to recognize an academic program that provides exemplary training in group psychology, another to recognize an academic program that provides exemplary training in group psychotherapy, and a third award to recognize an internship program that provides exemplary training in group psychotherapy.

The awards that I envision would be modeled after two successful and important programs developed by the American Psychological Association to promote the use of psychological science by schools and to recognize. The Golden Psi Award, which comes with a $1,000 prize, recognizes schools that “do an exceptional job of using psychological science to help students grow and learn.” The Suinn Minority Achievement Program Award is presented “to a program that has demonstrated excellence in the recruitment, retention and graduation of ethnic minority students.” Both of these awards recognize excellence AND they also are designed to encourage schools to make more use of psychological science or to encourage programs to make an “overall commitment to cultural diversity in all phases of departmental activity.”

In the similar manner the Excellence in Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Training and Education Awards would recognize excellence in these areas AND hopefully encourage programs and internships to increase their attention to training and education in group psychology and group psychotherapy.

Jean Keim had the foresight to establish a foundation fund as her presidential initiative. One of the expressed purposes of this fund was to be able to fund awards sponsored by the society. When our fund is fully endowed one possible use of the revenue would be awards like the Excellence in Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Training and Education Awards. The foundation fund is a great way to support our division please consider contributing to this fund.

I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions about this potential award program that could be sponsored by the division. You can contact me at dennisk@umd.edu.