Dennis M. Kivlighan, Jr., PhD
I just returned from the mid-winter meeting, where we were conducting the business of our society. It was a productive, fun, and thought-provoking meeting. As you would expect when a meeting is run by someone with extensive group experience, we paid appropriate attention to both the task and social aspect of group process; thanks, Lee Gillis. The members of the board are smart, hard-working, and they care about and want to enhance our society and research and practice in group psychology and about group therapy. I feel honored to be working with such a great group of people. If any of you are thinking about getting more involved with the society, either by running for an office or a board position or by participating in one of our committees, I can guarantee that your involvement will be rewarding both professionally and personally.
In his column Lee addresses the theme of his presidential year. It may seem early, but our bylaws ask me to already be thinking about the theme for my presidential year. It is important to me that the theme that I choose both support and build on the theme that Lee has articulated, “connecting to the group experience.” I especially want to further his desire to “see a stronger connection between group psychology and group psychotherapy.” Simply put, my theme will be AND.
Our society is the Society of Group Psychology AND Group Psychotherapy. I love the aspirational goal implied in this name; to bring together all people interested in, working with, and examining groups and group processes, regardless of disciplinary subspecialty, to advance our understanding of and our practice with groups. I know that my research on and thinking about psychotherapy and training groups has been greatly influenced by and benefited from theory and research from social, organizational, and sports psychologists studying small groups. Unfortunately, our society seems to act more like the Society of Group Psychology OR Group Psychotherapy.
For example, several years ago my colleague Joe Miles and I did a study examining the articles published in the first five volumes of Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. We analyzed these articles in two different ways. First, we used a language analysis program to examine the content of the articles and develop themes based on this content. Second, we developed themes among these same articles by analyzing the articles’ reference lists. When we looked at the content of the articles we came up with broad themes, like cohesion, that cut across different sub-disciplines of group researchers. When we examined references, however, the articles clumped into sup-disciplinary areas ( e.g., sport teams). We concluded that we were studying similar phenomena but were not learning from or incorporating each other’s scholarship.
I want to provide a second example of how we seem to function as the Society of Group Psychology OR Group Psychotherapy. As acknowledged by Lee, Dr. Jill Paquin and Dr. Joe Miles have put together an exciting and interesting program for the APA convention in Washington, DC (I hope you will all come and attend these Division 49 programs). We have one poster session as part of the program with a number of what look like informative and interesting posters. However, all of these posters are examining some aspect of group psychotherapy or group counseling (the program chairs are limited by what types of proposals they receive). By contrast, under Dick Moreland’s leadership and continued stewardship, Division 49 annually offers an award for the best dissertation research on small groups. This Dissertation Research Award is now entering its 15th year. I have been fortunate to be part of the review committee each year for these awards and have been privileged to see the high-quality small group research being produced. In reviewing these awards it is striking that almost none of the submissions and none of the award winners are studies examining group therapy. I am absolutely convinced that the program chairs are not biased toward accepting only group psychotherapy proposals and the Dissertation Award committee members are not biased toward only awarding organizational or social psychological research. Rather, we seem to be selectively sorting ourselves into different aspects of the division and by this selective sorting process inadvertently creating the Society of Group Psychology OR Group Psychotherapy.
Therefore, I am asking for your help in addressing my AND presidential initiative. I would like to develop a number of proposals to concretely create more AND in our Society. If you have ideas related to AND or you would like to be involved with this AND initiative when I take over as president in 2015, please contact me at email@example.com.