Early Career Psychologists

The Early Group Psychologist Update

ECP Task Force Co-Chairs: Leann Diederich, Ph.D. and Tracy Thomas, Psy.D.

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Tracy Thomas, Psy.D.
Tracy Thomas, Psy.D.

The Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Recognized as the Division with the Best ECP Engagement

At the 2014 APA annual convention, our Society entered a poster into a competition hosted by APA’s Committee on Early Career Psychologists (CECP). Criteria included having an array of ECP activities, leadership development, and mentoring opportunities. They also evaluated ECP resources, such as social media, and upcoming plans for ECP engagement. To our delight, we won!
Below are selections of the text from the poster, which is linked in full here. While many of these goals and initiatives may be familiar to readers, we wanted to share them here so they are all in one location.

ECP Members and the “Leadership Pipeline”

As is true with many divisions of APA and the membership as a whole, most members are over 60 years old. Over the past 5 years, the Society has taken a number of steps to address this. Since 2011 the numbers of ECPs has increased (from 19 members in 2011 to 30 members in 2014), both in general membership in the Society and in leadership positions (2 ECPS involved in Board or committees in 2011 to 8 involved in Board or committees in 2014).

The Early Career Psychologist Task Force group was created to help introduce ECPs to the Society governance in a graduated method, with many members then moving onto other leadership positions. For instance, in the past few years members have moved from this committee into positions such as the Society’s Secretary, Program Chair, and Member-at-Large.

A secondary component of this pipeline is to have consistent support from the Executive Board. This includes both a stated commitment to ECP participation in avenues such as Presidential addresses at convention; attention to ECP needs our newsletter, The Group Psychologist (TGP), but also practical support through financial support for ECP events at Convention and nomination of ECPs for Board positions.

Preparation for Leadership

New ECPs involved in the Task Force, are encouraged to publish short articles in The Group Psychologist. This includes articles introducing themselves, talking about their involvement in a committee or liaison to an APA group, or articles stemming from our Conference Calls (see below). Each newsletter has an ECP Column which provides an established forum for these publications. Publishing in the newsletter helps promote name recognition for the ECPs, which is a crucial step towards later election to the Executive Board.

ECP Task Force & Group Dynamics

Our ECP group has been through a number of different identities. We originally were an Ad Hoc committee appointed by the President. However, our by-laws require yearly reappointment for this, which we found cumbersome. We then moved to a sub-committee under the Membership Chair (which was co-chaired by an ECP). However, this did not allow for an optimal group identity. Imagine having to introduce yourself as “a member of the Early Career Psychologist Sub-Committee of the Membership Committee”. That didn’t allow for a high group salience (e.g., the “felt significance of a particular social identity” [Gastil, 2010, p. 205]) within the members, so we brainstormed ways to make additional changes.

Thus, at the mid-winter meeting in 2014, the Board approved our formation of an Early Career Psychologist Task Force. There are several benefits to this identity; it is a group that does not require yearly approval for its continuation, it provides a unique group identity, and provides a recognition and status for the ECPs who volunteer their time for the group.

Focusing on group cohesion is a key role for the co-chairs of the Task Force. Taking the lead from the current literature on cohesion, we focus on developing:

  • An understanding of the shared tasks of the Task Force through regular meetings to brainstorm and create goals
  • Creating bonds through personal introductions, social hours with fellow members (e.g., happy hour following the open committee meeting at APA)
  • Creating channels for feedback to attend to the relationships between members (e.g., one to one conversations with upcoming leaders taking on more

ECP Initiatives

The ECP Task Force has several initiatives to aid with ECP engagement. Our goals with these initiatives are to provide services to members, as well as the public at-large. We choose initiatives that the Task Force members are interested in, do not take a large amount of time each week, and are relevant to students and ECPs.

Social Media Presence

The first initiative is to create content for our Facebook and Google+ pages. We started a new series of Wisdom on Wednesdays (#WOW) posts. These are short, educational, and group focused posts which provide resources for our followers. Each Task Force member also creates 4-5 educational posts, thus providing psychological content for our followers, but that isn’t necessarily tied directly to

Since we started our Facebook page in January 2013, we have gained 450 followers. We are reaching our target audience, as 78% of our followers are ages 18 to 44 years old. Our Society Secretary, Dr. Jennifer Alonso (ECP Task Force member) also works closely with our newly hired Social Media Coordinator, Tanya Dvorak, to have posts that are inspirational and motivating. Our Coordinator uses HootSuite to push content to multiple platforms, to capitalize on the work of our small Task Force, without relying on it to manage the content daily. We also are starting a small Twitter presence which we hope to expand in the future.

Conference Calls

A second initiative is to host regular conference calls that are open to the public. This initiative was approved at the 2013 mid-winter Board Meeting.

Topics have included:

  • Diversity in Group Therapy
  • Referring and Recruiting for Groups in College Counseling Centers
  • Teaching Group Therapy Course
  • Groups in Private Practice
  • Group Psychotherapy Research (with special guests Drs. Gary Burlingame and Dennis Kivlighan)

These calls are moderated by members of the Task Force, but are geared towards providing a forum for dialogue for participants and to provide resources related to group therapy and group psychology. A summary of the conference call is sent out to all members, as well as interested parties who couldn’t attend. We then use the content from the call to create an article for The Group Psychologist, so that all Society members can benefit from the ideas discussed.

Member of the Month

A new initiative we are starting in August 2014 is to randomly select one of the Society’s Member’s to feature in a Member of the Month (#MOM) posting on our webpage and pushed to our social media outlets. We hope to feature a member monthly, as a way to bring attention to the great work that our members do in the field of group psychology and group psychotherapy.

Future Initiatives

We are proposing a new initiative of a group based Mentee/ Mentor program at the Executive Meeting during this year’s APA Convention. Due to the small size of our Society, we wanted to take advantage of our Mid-Career Psychologist’s expertise, without overburdening them with a 1:1 ratio. We also wanted to utilize their knowledge in group dynamics to model some of the exact principles they’d be talking about (e.g., creating cohesion in groups) with their mentees.

We hope that this program will take advantage of Google Hangouts by hosting monthly or bi-monthly group meetings between the mentees and the Mid-Career Psychologist. Depending on the interest in the program, we hope to match ECPs with career trajectories that are similar to their Mid-Career Psychologist Mentor.

How to Get Involved

Getting involved in the Society is quite easy. There are several ways to get in contact with us:

  • Visit our social at APA to meet many of the key leaders within the Society. It’s a small group at the social (30-40 people) which allows you to socialize and network with psychologists who share similar interests to you.
  • Speak to one of our volunteers at any of our Society events at Convention. We have a group of students and ECPs who are handing out materials and Society information at each event at the convention.
  • Email us at

Special thanks to the ECP Task Force Members: Joe Miles (Div. 49 Program Co-Chair), Jennifer Alonso (Div. 49 Secretary), Rachelle Rene, Jennifer Smith, Misha Bogomaz, and Sasha Mondragon.