Committee Reports

APA Council Meeting Report

Sally Barlow, PhD
Sally Barlow, PhD

Friday February 20-23, 2014 Washington DC

Sally H. Barlow, Ph.D. – Council Representative

For 3 days I attended my first ever Council meeting including Thursday activities for new council representatives and the regular agenda items from Friday through Saturday. It was a very packed agenda, during which I learned the “ropes” of 1) networking with other council reps who might share our society’s interests, 2) understanding how to bring questions to the floor (long lines at the microphones), 3) getting the electronic voting gizmo to work, and 4) appreciating the enormous challenge of parliamentary procedure as varied interests war on the floor. Below is a summary of action items that I noted and/or voted upon as a representative of the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. If you would like a more thorough report please feel free to email me at

Council Items of Public Interest

  • APA adopted as policy the resolution on Gun Violence Research and Prevention.
  • Endorsed Multidisciplinary Competencies in the Care of Older adults at the Completion of the Entry-Level Health Professional Degree (adopted in partnership with Health in Aging).
  • Received the “Report of the Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls” in order to develop a policy that weds action with scientific research in order to stop this blight.

Professional Development

  • Impact of Affordable Care Act on Psychology and Psychologists—long discussion about this.
  • APA Center of Psychology and Health—a new initiative of APA to strengthen psychology in the new era of health care addressing 4 challenges: 1) workforce (ensuring well-trained psychologists of part of primary care team), 2) being included and paid, 3) image challenge—helping public and workforce see psychologists as primary care team, 4) self-image challenge—psychologists themselves often do not consider they are part of primary teams.
  • Gun Violence—developing an up-to-date policy on prediction and prevention of gun violence in the wake of the Newtown school shootings.
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines—the happy marriage between interventions and scientific evidence.
  • Governance—Council has been struggling to streamline governance procedures initially voted upon in 2013, being further refined and eventually implemented in 2014. Bottom line is that representation is being shifted in order to be fairer to all stakeholders. The Implementation Work Group (IWG), is made up of an impressive array of psychologists: Chair: Melba J.T. Vasquez, Ph.D.; Vice chair: Bill Strickland, Ph.D.; Mark Appelbaum, Ph.D.; Martha Banks, Ph.D.; Armand Cerbone, Ph.D.; Ayse Ciftci, Ph.D.; Helen Coons, Ph.D.; Paul Craig, Ph.D.; John Hagen, Ph.D.; Jo Johnson, Ph.D.; Linda Knauss, Ph.D.; Bonnie Markham, Ph.D., PsyD; Ali Mattu, Ph.D.; Marsha McCary, Ph.D.; Gilbert Newman, Ph.D.; Allen Omoto, Ph.D.; Vivian Oto Wang, Ph.D.; Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D.; Nancy Sidun, PsyD; Kristi Van Sickle, PsyD; Emily Voelkel, MA; and Milo Wilson, Ph.D.

Dr. Vasquez led an extremely useful discussion regarding the next step (choosing the representative structure—variously known as 7A, 7B, 7C).

Bear with me—this is complicated. The Good Governance Project (yet, another acronym—GGP) has worked diligently over several years to improve functionality of COR. A group of 175+ psychologists to run an organization of 134,000+ members is no easy thing. Principles for New Governance Structure: Consistent with overall APA structure; transparent, timely, nimble; reflects diversity; actively engages all members at all stages of their career; has appropriate checks and balances; allows for adaptation based on periodic review. There was a great deal of wrangling about this topic—I will spare you the political-jockeying details. Further refinement of this will happen at the August 2014 meeting in DC.

As a note to irony, since one of the key features of this new governance idea was a nod to better technology in order to further communication between council and APA, and Council at general membership, a proposal for a new division—Society for Technology and Psychology—was turned down. After listening to all the details regarding this new division, I have to say I thought it was a really good idea, voted for it, and watched it go down in defeat to traditionalist divisions who didn’t want their territory stomped on.

Other Council Items:

Internship Stimulus Project—addressing internship shortage problems with allotted three million dollars.

Approving multiple documents that will now be posted on APA Website: CRSPPP—update on the organization (Committee on Principles for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology)—details to follow as we go for CRSPPP approval for Group; Health Service Psychology; Competencies for Older Adults; Report re trafficking of girls and women; user-friendly resource for educators on program improvement; supporting the Center for History of Psychology at the University of Akron.

Creating a uniform definition of “Early Career Psychologist” ECP—to be 10 years post-doctoral

Making APA into a data-driven organization (improving electronic reports, record-keeping etc)

Developing a centralized application service for graduate education in psychology

Money—very complicated budget. Majority voted for it as well as keeping Norm Anderson as the CEO (who makes a lot more money than any of us)

Council was taught a very interesting CE session on Transgendered Identity in psychological care. See for a useful update about this.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye—Council honored him for his strong support of human rights and psychological services.

Early Career Psychologists

Highlights from the Early Career Task Force’s Supervision of Group Psychotherapy Conference Call

Joe Miles Ph.D.
Joe Miles Ph.D.

Periodically, the Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Task Force of the Society hosts conference calls on topics that are of interest to group psychologists. The most recent of these conference calls was held on June 16th, and focused on supervision of group psychotherapy. Over 30 people RSVP’d to participate in this conference call, which covered issues related to supervision models at various training sites, multicultural issues in supervision of group work, and issues in co-leader relationships (e.g., building the relationship, sharing power, and dual relationships). The call offered the opportunity for group psychotherapists from a variety of different settings to raise questions, discuss challenges and successes in group supervision, and to share resources with each other. Below are some of the highlights from this phone call.

Supervision Models in Various Settings

Several participants shared that they use developmental approaches to group supervision at their training sites. One such approach involves having practicum students serve as process observers who write process notes for psychotherapy groups that are facilitated by more advanced trainees (e.g., postdoctoral interns and staff). The process observers are then responsible for sharing these notes with the group in the following session. After a semester or two of process observing, these practicum students move on to co-leading a psychotherapy group with a licensed staff member. These licensed staff members serve as both models and the trainees’ supervisors. In addition, some participants mentioned that the group coordinators at their sites also meet with group trainees for one hour per week.

Another model of group psychotherapy supervision discussed was the use of agency-wide group case conferences. These provide an opportunity for the entire staff, not just the trainees, to meet, watch videos from group sessions, discuss particularly difficult situations, and to share group experiences with one another. An advantage of these agency-wide case conferences is that they provide the opportunity for licensed staff members to engage in additional learning about group work, thus providing opportunities for all participants to grow, not just trainees. These different models highlight the many levels on which group psychotherapy supervision may be offered.

In discussing different models for group psychotherapy supervision, the question was raised as to how different individuals have gotten “buy in” from other staff members about the importance of group work and group training. Several participants from a large counseling center at a major, public state university talked with pride about their group program. They stated that, in the face of ever-increasing demand for services, their center has put a lot of effort into strengthening their group program. Specifically, they said that group treatment is discussed as a viable treatment with all clients at intake, and clients are encouraged to consider group over individual treatment. In addition, this center holds a “Fall Group Kick-Off” at the beginning of the year, in order to reenergize staff about groups and to provide some group training. For example, they provide staff with client scenarios and then have the staff members discuss which groups offered at the center might be possible treatment option for the client. They also do periodic “Group Spotlights” at staff meetings about groups still accepting new member. These efforts to strengthen their group program have paid off, and have led to a “culture shift” in their center over the past few years, such that group is now seen as just as good of an option for clients as individual treatment.

Co-Leader Relationships and Group Supervision

The participants discussed the importance of talking about cultural issues among co-leader pairs, and Leann Diederich shared a handout that she, Eri Bentley (Utah State University) and Joeleen Cooper-Bhatia (Auburn University) developed on establishing effective co-leader relationships (see attached “Discussion Guide for Building Effective Co-Leadership Relationships”, along with the a handout called “The One-Minute Co-Therapist”). An important part of this handout is the discussion of “Personal Background Information,” which should include cultural information. This handout provides guidelines for sharing cultural influences with supervisees. Others shared that they find it important to openly discuss any potential biases that one might have. Participants noted that it is important to be aware of and talk about power differentials, however, when engaging in conversations about multicultural issues with supervisees, and to realize that this should be an ongoing process.

The conversation turned to some of the difficulties in managing conflict in the co-leader relationship, particularly when one co-leader is a trainee and the other is a staff member with an evaluative/supervisory role. One participant shared a resource that she has found particularly helpful: an article by Miriam Berger called Envy and Generosity between Co-Therapists (citation below). This article may be helpful for naming and talking through some of the challenges that we might expect in any co-leader relationship.

Several participants noted that, when one co-leader is a trainee and the other a senior staff member/supervisor, the supervisor might intentionally “miss” a group session, in order to provide the trainee to lead the group on her own, and to work on developing her own voice. This can also be helpful in creating a greater sense of equality in the co-leader relationship. Others mentioned that, as a senior staff member or supervisor, they often ask their trainee co-leaders to take on the role of opening and closing the group, in order to share ownership of the group, and to help the group members see the co-leaders on the same level.

Participants discussed a shared challenge of balancing between allowing a trainee co-leader to feel empowered to intervene as they deem fit in the group, with the desire to intervene themselves when they think there is a different or “better” intervention to be made that the trainee has not made. One participant said that in his own struggles with this challenge, he has learned discipline in allowing trainees to find their own voice and providing a place for them to speak, even if he sees an opportunity for a slightly different intervention. Another participant talked about setting very specific goals with supervisees, such as making sure that they are responding at least twice every half hour in the group. Another suggested that it is helpful to talk to supervisees about their different experience co-leading with different co-leaders, and to periodically have meetings where the entire staff discusses group work.

Other Issues in the Supervision of Group Psychotherapy

Participants shared a variety of different structures for supervision of group psychotherapy. For example, several suggested that it is especially helpful to set aside a half hour immediately following the group to debrief, when possible. Another participant discussed meeting in the 10 or 15 minutes directly before the group starts. He said that, in his experience, this has helped him to solidify his relationships with co-leaders, and to allow them the opportunity to discuss what they, as leaders, are bringing to the group.

A group therapist in private practice described another model of supervision, a consultation group. He described a model that he developed for facilitating consultation groups for group psychotherapists. In these 80 minute consultation groups, participants begin by talking about dilemmas that they are facing in their group work. Following this aspect of the group supervision, the second part of his consultation groups become process groups, in which group members have the opportunity to experience being group members. He ends the groups by talking about what went on for him as the leader of the process group portion, what he felt was happening in the group, and how he tried to determine the best interventions. Another participant asked about obtaining informed consent, and it was noted that there is definitely a need to attend to dual relationships in this work.

Finally, several participants discussed balancing supervision with more didactic methods. Several participants discussed having seminars in the summer, or early on in the semester, before trainees’ caseloads fill up. Another participant mentioned seminars that included both trainees and all staff members who are leading groups. This may even include discussing articles on group counseling. A few resources that were shared are listed below. Please look for information on upcoming ECP Task Force conference calls in the near future!


Berger, M. (2002). Envy and generosity between co-therapists. Group, 26(1), 107-121.

Davis, F. B. & Lohr, N. E. (1971). Special problems with the use of cotherapists in group
psychotherapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 21, 143158.

Dick, B., Lessler, K. & Whiteside, J. (1980) A Developmental Framework for Cotherapy.
International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 30(3), 6476.

Fernando, D. M., & Herlihy, B. R. (2010). Supervision of group work: Infusing the spirit of social justice. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 35, 281-289.

Gallagher, R. E., (1994). Stages of group psychotherapy supervision: a model for supervisiong
beginning trainees of dynamic group therapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 44(2),169183

Heilfron, M. (1969). Cotherapy: The relationship between therapists. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 19(3), 366381.

Hoffman, S. et. al (1995) Cotherapy with Individuals, Families and Groups,Jason Aronson McGee, T.F., & Schuman, B. N. (1970). The nature of the cotherapy relationship. Presented at American Group Psychotherapy Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Paulson, I, Burroughs, J., Gelb, C., (1976) Cotherapy: What is the Crux of the Relationship? International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 26(2), 213224.

Roller, W., & Nelson, V. (1991). The Art of Co-Therapy. New York, NY: Guildford Press.

Rutan, J. S., Stone, W. N., & Shay, J. J. (2007). Chapter 11: Special Leadership Issues. In
Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy (4th ed.). (pp. 212-225). New York, NY: Guildford Press.
**Read 212-219

See also handouts available from ECP Task Force ( “The One-Minute Co-Therapist,” and “Discussion Guide for Building Effective Co-Leader Relationships.”

Brief Articles

Prevention Corner

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

This is our second column on our series on developing training programs in group prevention. In our last column, two experts in the field of group prevention, Robert K. Conyne, Ph.D. and Arthur M. Horne, Ph. D., presented two perspectives on training prevention groups: (1) the American Psychological Association Guidelines for Prevention in Psychology (APA, 2013) and (2) training with an awareness toward social justice. We received a response to that column and continue the discussion.


Dear Prevention Corner:

I read the column each time, and I know that you are talking about training programs at the college level—course work training. My question though is: what is the best way to train workers for a community or school program? I attended your APA convention workshop a couple of years ago on developing and designing group prevention programs. I came home excited and overflowing with ideas. I followed the workbook that you gave us, set up my program, held a training session, but then I ran into a brick wall. I work in a school where half of our students drop out before graduation because they cannot read. I want to keep students in school by helping them learn to read. The other teachers who volunteered to work in the program wouldn’t listen; they went back to teaching reading using the same way they have for years. My program failed. How can I train people to use these new prevention ideas?


In Need of Help.


Dear In Need of Help:

I want to thank you for bringing to the discussion a very important point that we have failed thus far to emphasize: training in group prevention must include (1) training at the university level for professionals planning to specialize and work with prevention groups and (2) training in the community or at the prevention group level with volunteers, health practitioners, teachers, or others who may be leading or working with prevention groups. While it is essential that we increase course work and training at the university level, it is just as essential that we provide effective training programs for volunteers or others who use the group prevention format.

Universities do not always see the necessity for adding new courses in group prevention, and community and school prevention groups do not always see the need for extensive training in prevention techniques and interventions. Change is often hard to accept.

Introducing a change or new group prevention approach for solving an old established long-standing problem is even more difficult. I truly understand your frustration, and trust me, you are not alone. I just spoke this past week with a nurse working with obesity prevention groups. She was also complaining that her prevention group leaders would not change and try new prevention techniques. Her nursing staff was accustomed to lecturing to obesity patients and therefore saw no need to change to a more interactive format.

In reading, change is twice as hard. You are not only trying to train workers to use new group prevention techniques (such as cohesion and interaction); you are also trying to train workers to use a totally new and different approach to teaching reading.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, approximately 40% of students across the nation are unable to read at grade level (Nation’s Report Card, 2013). This is not a new statistic, and the problem did not occur yesterday. The problem has been compounding without any sign of significant improvement for the past 12 years. With such a staggering history of failure, you would think that we would be eager to engage in a new approach. Such is not the case. Even after Congress commissioned the National Reading Panel (2000) to ascertain the most successful method for teaching reading and the panel stated that phonemic awareness (the teaching of sounds and decoding of sounds) was the best method for teaching students to read, the whole- language fight goes on.

The National Reading Panel (2000) stated emphatically that phonemic awareness worked better than “old style” phonics and better than whole-language—even blended methods. Yet, the majority of schools across the nation today still handout sight word strips for students to memorize each week (whole-language); even though, such methods have been proven ineffective (Blaunstein & Lyon, 2006; Fleming et al., 2004; Foorman et al., 2003; Keller & Just, 2009; McGuinness, 1997; National Reading Panel, 2000; Pullen Paige & Lane, 2014; Vaughn, Denton, & Fletcher, 2010). Phonemic awareness is not the same as old-style phonics or the new blended method. Shaywitz and Shaywitz (2007), Co-directors for the Yale Center for the Study of Learning, state it best: In order for a child to learn to read, the child must learn that (1) each and every word is composed of individual sounds (phonemes), (2) these sounds are represented by alphabetic letters, (3) some letters represent several sounds, and that (4) children or any struggling reader (Shaywitz, 2003) must learn how to pull words apart into their elemental phonemes and then put the letter sounds back together into words that have meaning.

Research has solidly proven that phonemic awareness (sounds) and the phonological understanding of those sounds and how they work together to form a word is by far the best way to teach children to read. Yet, there are still universities teaching new prospective teachers the whole-language method for teaching reading. Just this past week, a parent complained that her Kindergartener was failing because she could not memorize her sight word list each week (a whole-language technique). A college professor spoke to me recently and explained that all children need is more exposure to books. “If someone would just read to them, then the children could learn how to read.” Reading is a skill that must be taught; you cannot simply learn how to read by listening to someone else. Community groups are organizing to purchase and distribute new books in order to teach children to read, but simply handing a child a book, even a new book, will not teach the child how to read.

The newest trend is excitement. Pep rallies, costume characters, book collection drives, and free gifts are the latest fad in teaching children how to read. No, excitement is not the answer. Such an approach would be like giving someone a book in French. If they had not learned French, the book would be worthless because someone not schooled in reading French would not be able to read the book. Don’t get me wrong. I think that giving a child or teenager a book (new or used) is the best gift that you can ever give, but simply handing a child a book will not teach a child to read (even if the book is distributed through a very exciting program by a costumed character). You must teach the child to read first, and then give the child a book.

If you want to develop a group prevention program to teach children and teens to read, you must first combat this age old unwillingness to change from whole-language teaching techniques to phonemic awareness and phonological teaching techniques. Therefore, in your group prevention training program, you are not only teaching that prevention groups must be interactive (Conyne & Clanton Harpine, 2010); you must also prove that there is a need for a change and that prevention groups will offer the best means of change for your students. No, this will not be easy because you are combating years and years of denial. The challenge will be to change the ideology of your group leaders in respect to reading. You may not be able to accomplish this within the schools. If you encounter too much resistance to change, you might try establishing an after-school program through a community organization. After-school community-based programs can offer you more freedom and the opportunity to try new prevention ideas.

You may also find that you want to set up skill-building training sessions for your workers or volunteers so that they can learn how to work in a group setting. A prevention group is more than just a discussion, and it is certainly not the time for a lecture. Your training sessions may need to incorporate interaction and cohesion so that your workers can see how to use interaction and how to help group members build a cohesive group atmosphere. I find the best way to do this is by using group prevention techniques and interventions in my training sessions. Instead of the age old tradition of standing in front of your workers and explaining to them what you want them to do or lecturing to them about how the program will be conducted, set up training sessions that use a group prevention format. For example, I use group-centered prevention workstations for my program and my training sessions. In this way, workers and volunteers get to experience prevention techniques during the training program instead of just listening to me talk about interaction, cohesion, and working together as a group.

My answer to your question, how can you best teach people to use new prevention techniques, is to show your workers and volunteers how group prevention works during your training program. Let them experience group prevention in action.

We would like to continue this discussion and invite your comments and responses. Our next column will be devoted to the responses that we receive. Let us hear from you. We welcome your participation. We invite psychologists, counselors, prevention programmers, graduate students, teachers, administrators, and other mental health practitioners working with groups to network together, share ideas, problems, and become more involved. Please send comments, questions, and group prevention concerns to Elaine Clanton Harpine at


Blaunstein, P., & Lyon, R. (2006). Why kids can’t read: Challenging the status quo in education. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Education.

Conyne, R. K., & Clanton Harpine, E. (2010). Prevention groups: The shape of things to come. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14, 193-198. doi:10.1037/a0020446

Fleming, C. B., Harachi, T. W., Cortes, R. C., Abbott, R. D., & Catalano, R. F. (2004). Level and change in reading scores and attention problems during elementary school as predictors of problem behavior in middle school. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 12, 130-144.

Foorman, B. R., Breier, J. I., & Fletcher, J. M. (2003). Interventions aimed at improving reading success: An evidence-based approach. Developmental Neuropsychology, 24, 613-639.

Keller, T., A., & Just, M. A. (2009). Altering cortical connectivity: Remediation-induced changes in the white matter of poor readers. Neuron, 64, 624-631. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.10.018

McGuinness, D. (1997). Why our children can’t read and what we can do about it: A scientific revolution in reading. New York: The Free Press.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The nation’s report card: Reading 2013 (NCES 2012-457). National Center for educational statistics, Institute of education sciences, US Department of Education, Washington DC.

National Reading Panel, (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Pullen Paige, C., & Lane, H. B. (2014). Teacher-directed decoding practice with manipulative letters and word reading skill development of struggling first grade students. Exceptionality, 22, 1.

Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Knopf.

Shaywitz, S. , & Shaywitz, B. (2007). Special topic: What neuroscience really tells us about reading instruction: A response to Judy Willis. Educational Leadership: Improving instruction for students with learning needs, 64(5), 74-76.

Vaughn, S., Denton, C. A., & Fletcher, J. M. (2010). Why intensive interactions are necessary for students with severe reading difficulties, Psychology in the Schools, 47, 432-444.

Committee Reports

July 2014 Diversity Committee Report

Jeanne Steffen, PhD
Jeanne Steffen, PhD


Chair: Jeanne Steffen, Ph.D.

Members of Committee: Eric Chen, Ph.D.; Maria Riva, Ph.D.; Cheri Marmarosh, Ph.D.; Joe Miles, Ph.D.; Lee Gillis, Ph.D.; Brittany White, Ph.D.; Joel Miller, Ph.D.; and Jennilee Fuertes, Ph.D.


Brief Summary of Activities Undertaken:

January: Jeanne was informed of responsibilities of chair and began focusing on identifying which committee members would be returning.

February-March: The committee focused on recruiting new members. Scott Conkright and Allison Regis were not returning as committee members for 2014. We added members Brittany White, Joel Miller, and Jennilee Fuertes.

April: Chair worked with members to identify tasks for the term, which included:

1) Identify at least one new method to attract underrepresented members to the Division/Committee. Would we like to further operationalize this goal? Would anyone like to take this goal under their wing?

2) Create a formal process to engage people to nominate Diversity Award candidates. This is a major task of our committee and the Division would like us to select an award recipient by July 1. Would anyone like to take point on this goal?

3) Create diversity programming to help in diversity education for the division. We have an opportunity to have a conversation hour our other programming event at APA (Aug. 7-10 in Washington DC) this year. Would someone like to take the lead on creating a program? We need to move on this ASAP so that we can reserve a time for it. Our choices for a program/business meeting are: Thursday, Aug. 7 in the 8-5 block of time; Friday 12-1; Saturday 8-5. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend so Eric has agreed to run the business meeting portion for our committee.

April-Current: Members were asked to distribute the diversity award nomination invitations. The deadline to receive nominations was pushed back twice. The last deadline for nominations was 6/13/14.

Items Needing to be Discussed:
We have yet to receive a diversity award nomination for 2014. Not all Diversity Committee Members are responding to tasks/deadlines.

Items Needing Action:
Although the committee identified two methods of distributing the nomination information, we have yet to receive a diversity award nomination for 2014. The next action item is for the chair to check back in with the members regarding redistributing the information for a nomination. Since the second deadline was June 13, the chair will push back the deadline again with a goal of having a nomination by July 1, 2014.

Focus on our major goal of identifying diversity award nominations/ an award recipient


Experiential and Didactic Group Therapy Program: The Sad Lady’s Group

John Breeskin, Ph.D.
John Breeskin, Ph.D.

Somatization Disorder is a condition that is both hard to diagnose and hard to treat. For many years, I was Chief Psychologist of a thousand-bed hospital outpatient mental health clinic. While I mean absolutely no disrespect by this comment, I would classify many of the clients referred to as “sad ladies.” These were women with multiple medical folders with each thicker than the next. Their bodies were cross-hatched with medical and surgical interventions, all of which were ultimately futile. In a fit of irritation and despair, the most recent in a long line of defeated physicians would disclaim, “Get thee hence to the Outpatient Mental Health Clinic!” As a result, these dear ladies would show up in my office, rejected yet another time. Often, they were “empty nesters,” low in self-esteem and self-image, and cemented into maintenance type marriages. It became apparent to me that their numerous outpatient visits symbolically represented a deep need to be touched intimately by a caring human being.

In response to this obvious human need, I quickly designed an intensive six-week group therapy program composed of both experiential and didactic components. We covered such topics as communication skills, assertiveness training, and trust-building.

I remember clearly our very first meeting. The ladies introduced themselves one at a time, and each would outdo the next in terms of the doleful, painful details of her journey. I was astonished! I pointed out that they were competing for “Victim of the Day” awards, and, for now at least, I was less interested in what was wrong than what was right with them. I told them that they did not need to compete for my attention. I was aware that they were problematic individuals in pain and all were well worthy of my concern. After we got that initial dynamic out of the way, we launched into team-building, trust, self-disclosure, and interpersonal bonding. The ladies grasped these principles quickly and firmly, and it changed their lives. One group, because the chemistry was so great, made me an honorary woman at the end of the six weeks, an honor that I will always carry with me.

Another group that I remember with great fondness, at the end of our six weeks together, decided to carry on the group by themselves. They proceeded to hire an attorney, a financial planner, a personal trainer, and, of all things, a psychologist to provide them with ongoing therapy. The psychologist called me in great bewilderment indicating that the ladies had called him and were interviewing him to see if he met their criteria. He called me to ask if this was on the level. I told him it was and that he would be normously enriched if he passed the evaluation. When I left the base two years later, the group had started an investment club and had accomplished several humanitarian tasks. Their manifold visits to the hospital clinics had dramatically diminished.

This model can be replicated easily in many different settings. Once these powerful healing forces are energized and released, much positive change can occur. It is important to take this model very seriously. On the surface it looks very simple, but it is not at all. The twin concepts of intentional kinship and reciprocity are central components of my theoretical model, together with the ever-present mystery of agape.


Division 49 Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Award Nomination

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

Division 49 Diversity Committee Chair

The Diversity Committee, a subcommittee under the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy, is currently asking our members to nominate a person or persons who have made significant contributions to group psychology practice, research, service, and/or mentoring, with a focus on promoting understanding and respect for diversity. The individual selected based on these nominations is then honored as an award recipient at the Annual APA Convention in August. Time is running out! Follow the directions below to nominate a candidate by July 1:
Please consolidate this information into one document and email it to the Diversity Committee Chair,, by July 1, 2014

1. Include names phone numbers, program and institutional affiliations, APA divisional membership of yourself (the endorser) and of your nominee

2. Include a brief letter highlighting your nominee’s contributions in promoting understanding and respect for diversity in group psychology practice, research, service and/or mentoring.

3. Include the nominee’s vita.


Increasing Multicultural Competency in Group Psychology: Balancing Etic and Emic Approaches

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

As Chair of the Diversity Committee for Division 49, I wanted to focus my columns on building multicultural competency in group therapy practices with an emphasis on providing something useful to the practitioner. To set the stage, I’d like to review a bit of theory related to a particular debate in the late 1990s regarding the importance of emic (culturally specific) versus etic (culturally universal) factors related to multicultural competency. This debate was lively because around the same time mental health professionals were discovering that the medical model (treatment specific approach) did not do an adequate job of identifying what accounted for client change in psychotherapy. This was around the same time that Common Factors theory became quite popular. Common Factors theory research found that the factors that accounted for the greatest amount of client change in psychotherapy were actually those that were common or universal to the therapeutic relationship: client, therapist, and relational variables.

This finding probably did not surprise group therapists, particularly those who facilitated process oriented groups. It is the group interpersonal process, after all, that provides the curative factors resulting in the positive outcome of the individual. However, like physicists concluded when debating the wave versus the particle theory of light, and like biologists concluded when debating nature versus nurture, mental health researchers found that both emic and etic factors are important in client change or healing. I point this out because I think that we as group therapists may get a bit too comfortable with the etic side of the debate because, unless you are facilitating a culturally specific group such as “Estamos Unidas” (an outreach group for Chicana/Latina students offered by UC Irvine this Spring), you are likely to have a mix of folks with differing cultural backgrounds and beliefs, not to mention genders (the “a” on the end of Chicana/Latina indicates the group is for females), ethnicities, races, abilities, sexual orientations/gender identities, religious identities, ages, and socioeconomic/class statuses to name a few emic groupings. Although both types of groups would likely experience those 11 Therapeutic Factors identified by Irvin Yalom (Universality, Altruism, Instillation of Hope, Imparting Information, Developing Socializing Techniques, Interpersonal Learning, Cohesiveness, Catharsis, Existential Factors, Imitative Behavior, Self-Understanding, and the Corrective Recapitulation of the Primary Family Experience), it might be less clear in the mixed group how your emic skill-set might be useful.

In order to provide more clarity and, I admit, more encouragement to the practitioner to develop more multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skill about culturally specific issues, it might help to pose the following question: if the therapeutic effectiveness of group process comes from existential factors, which are those that are universal to all human experience, why apprise ourselves of human specific knowledge because how would this be useful? The answer actually lies within the question, which is: one of the existential challenges we all face is that we are “alone”, that is, that we are all individuals who are different. So while it is helpful for someone to learn “I’m not alone—all of us suffer at one point or another (‘I’m okay’)”, it is also helpful for someone to learn “I’m different so no wonder people respond to me in these ways/contexts—it’s not my imagination/I’m not crazy (‘I’m okay’)”. Therefore, I think group is a treatment where it’s important to emphasize both attachment/universality as well as separation/individuality because they are both an existential reality.

My goal in this column, as I noted earlier, is to provide something useful to the practitioner. Therefore, I encourage you to try a new intervention in one of your groups, the intent of which is to plant the seed and give permission for more multicultural discussions during the group process. That is, at the beginning of your group announce that you may be posing more cultural questions to the group so that members think more about how individual differences may play a role in their current experiences. Then ask both questions during the process: How are these struggles universal to all of you? How are these struggles specific to your particular cultural experience? These questions work in both heterogeneous and homogenous groups. If you don’t already ask these types of questions, I hope the answers you get increase your multicultural awareness and intrigue you enough to seek out more multicultural knowledge. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple intervention such as the one mentioned can really add to your multicultural skill set. By the way, if you haven’t already, check out the APA site regarding multicultural guidelines at: As always, I welcome questions, concerns and ideas for future columns. Please email me at:


Fischer, A.R., Jome, L.M., & Atkinson, D.R. (1998). Reconceptualizing Multicultural Counseling: Universal Healing Conditions in a Culturally Specific Context. The Counseling Psychologist, 26, 525-588.

University of California, Irvine Counseling Center (n.d.). Groups at UC Irvine Counseling Center [www page]. URL http://

Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Committee Reports

Treasurer’s Report

Rebecca MacNair-Semmands, Ph.D.
Rebecca MacNair-Semmands, Ph.D.

Rebecca MacNair-Semands, Ph.D., FAGPA

The 2014 proposed budget was submitted and approved by the board in January. Our projected 2014 income was $74,450 with projected expenses of $38,828, including our $12,000 contribution to the Foundation, Midwinter and Convention meeting expenses, newsletter and journal costs, and administrative services. Each year, the board attempts to budget for 80% of the project income in expenses so we are in excellent shape for 2014 with this ratio.

We decided at the Midwinter board meeting to spend $1,000 to hire a social media consultant, Tanya Dvorak, who works closely with Jen Alonso, Ph.D., CGP to put forth information for the Society. Some more positive news this year included that the Society’s royalty payment for Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice exceeded projected amounts by over $3,000 in May and totaled over $43,000 in income. Congratulations to our talented editorial staff! Midwinter meeting expenses also came in under projected costs by over $2,000. Additionally, investment assets totaled over $43,609 by the end of May, 2014. For more budget details, please see the division website.

We are currently also working to scan financial records and store them electronically. In the last year, APA brought the servicing of Division Accounting in-house and implemented a new accounting system, Serenic NAV. As they described it, “It has certainly been a bumpy road!” but progress has been made in recent months. Recently, The Division Finance team in APA filed an extension for division taxes this year so we are in process of completing tax forms for August with the manager of Division Finance and that is going well.


Speak Up and Let It Go: Exploring the Meaning behind Holding Back

Iowa State University

Like many “first” experiences we have had in graduate school, attending our first group therapy class was anxiety-provoking. When we heard that we would engage in “experiential” activities, our minds raced. What does “experiential” mean? How much would I have to disclose? How would I be evaluated? Question upon question filled our minds about how much this class would feel like group therapy. The line between group class and group therapy seemed too blurry.

Gradually, we found that the most powerful and engaging classes were those where we and our classmates disclosed. However, we both felt scared walking the fine line between learning group interventions and experiencing them first-hand. What would others think of us if we shared more deeply? How would this impact our professional relationships with our instructor and peers? We wanted to connect with others on a deeper, emotional level, but we were also very aware of the boundaries of a classroom environment. It became very easy to rationalize holding back in these moments. Yet, it also felt limiting.

We decided to attend a conference hosted by the Illinois Group Psychotherapy Society where therapists and trainees learned about why they and their clients hold back. The conference included didactic presentations, experiential exercises, and work in small process groups. Groups consisted of five to six members at various stages of their professional development. Not surprisingly, we were both inclined to hold back in both the large and small groups as we did in our group class. However, a turning point was when our leaders clarified the nature of the small group work. One leader put it nicely when he said, “While our main focus is to process the material and experiences we have in the large group, part of our work can be therapeutic, or address some members’ concerns related to the topic of this conference. This is not a therapy group in that when members disclose, the goal will be to help them resolve or move past their concerns. You can voice concerns as much or as little as you like.” After hearing this and establishing trust in the group, we gathered the courage to share our stories. The fear of being evaluated by the other members did not fade, but we felt relieved and empowered. Our fear had taken a “back seat” in our minds.

The conference has gained a place on the list of our most valuable experiences as graduate students. Why? First, we learned that just because we place ourselves in a vulnerable position doesn’t mean we are engaging in therapy. Second, self-disclosing seems like it may have more risks, but doing so may help us understand what we ask our group members to do in therapy. Lastly, we should challenge ourselves to attend experiential conferences where we place ourselves in members’ shoes. Some activities may be uncomfortable, but they help us learn to trust ourselves, trust the process, and experience first-hand the healing power of disclosing. So, speak up, and let it go.


Publication Chair Report / Secretary

Jennifer Alonso, Ph.D, CGP
Jennifer Alonso, Ph.D, CGP

Jennifer Alonso, Ph.D., CGP

I am honored to be serving as the Society’s Secretary from 2014 to 2016. I had the privilege of attending the February mid-winter meeting where I was surrounded by board members incredibly committed to groups. The energy, ideas and desire to support you as a member of the Society was inspiring. As the secretary, I also serve as the Publication committee chair which includes integrating and updating the information between the Society’s journal, online newsletter, conference programming, website and social media. There have been exciting changes in support of the President Dr. Lee Gillis’ theme of increasing connection to the group experience. The Society’s demographics show that 85% of current members are above the age of 50. It was hoped that engaging members online would be a way to begin connecting, particularly with Early Career Professionals. Since January, the Society’s Facebook page has increased the ‘likes’ to the page by 112%! Of these ‘likes,’ 78% of the users are under the age of 55. We have also added Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and invite you to join us on the webpages. In addition, members are invited to utilize APA’s new online forum, APA Communities, where we post previous meeting minutes, the bylaws and more. I look forward to meeting many of you at the APA Convention in D.C.