Recently Division 49 participated in a resubmission of a petition to the Education Directorate of the APA Commission for the Recognition of Specialities and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (CRSPPP) to have Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy receive designation as a specialty. This is a joint effort of your Division, the American Group Psychotherapy Association, the American Board of Group Psychology, the American Academy of Group Psychology, and the International Board of Certification of Group Psychotherapists. Together, these organizations developed the Group Specialty Council to prepare the petition. Members of the Division 49 Board did an outstanding job and have contributed to the petition, including: Sally Barlow, Martyn Whittingham, and Nina Brown. The petition is an impressive 500-page document outlining a cogent argument for the unique aspects of group work and why specialty designation is important. Anyone can see the document and comment – and we certainly encourage our members to do so at: http://apaoutside.apa.org/EducCSS/public/.
Below are my comments on the petition on behalf of our division.
On behalf of the Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Division 49 of the American Psychological Association) I endorse this Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Specialty Petition in the strongest possible terms. Increasingly, group work is playing an important role in the delivery of health and mental health care in a variety of organizations. Many settings (health care, education, counseling, workplaces) rely on group work to deliver effective and timely interventions, including psychoeducation and psychotherapy. The evidence is mounting that group psychotherapy works for a variety of disorders, it is as effective as individual therapy, and so it is cost effective. In 2017 alone there were 17 meta-analyses of group work, group factors, or group psychotherapy. Despite this evidence, it would be a mistake to assume that a practitioner who is solely trained as an individual therapist, for example, can effectively transfer their skills to a group setting. There is important overlap between knowledge of individuals and knowledge of groups, such as the role of individual psychopathology in treatment, for example. However, it is well known that groups have unique properties that diverge significantly from individual contexts. The multiple interaction networks that develop between individuals over time represent emergent properties of groups that impact outcomes, and these emergent properties cannot be predicted from knowing about the individuals alone. And so practitioners require specific skills and knowledge to manage the complexities that come with group work. These complexities are now reflected in and studied in the research literature. Novel methods of multilevel statistical modeling, for example, are opening up venues of new knowledge and scholarship about the unique functioning of groups, the impact of the group on the individual, the multiple levels of interactions that occur, and the specific skills required by a group leader to make the most of groups and their interactional properties. Lack of knowledge, expertise, and training in group psychology and in group psychotherapy could result in negative outcomes for clients and antitherapeutic events for social groups. And so it is imperative that this specialty designation is successful in order that public who seek or require the input of group psychologists receive the best possible of evidence-based care. This specialty designation will go a long way to ensure that trainees, therapists, practitioners, supervisors, training programs, the public, and funding partners are appropriately aware of the unique properties and effects of groups, and the skills and professional training required to lead groups.