Categories
Welcome

President’s Column

Craig Parks, Ph.D.
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Getting Along in Groups

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you favor, I think we would all agree that civility between groups is in diminishing supply right now.  Every group seems to be mad at some other group(s).  This has led to calls, again on both sides of the aisles, for a return to calm, mannered conversation.

One can question how nasty the interaction truly has been.  Republicans in 1800 called John Adams a hermaphrodite, and the Federalists in turn labeled Thomas Jefferson an atheist who was hell-bent on opening the borders to foreign radicals.  In the 1884 election, James Blaine was called the “Continental Liar from the State of Maine” because of his past history of questionable business dealings, and James Garfield was exposed as having fathered a child out of wedlock.  And nothing we saw this year rivals 1828, when John Quincy Adams was alleged to have served as a pimp while ambassador to Russia, and Andrew Jackson was portrayed as a mentally unstable illiterate whose mother was a prostitute for the English Navy, and whose wife was a bigamist because she had allegedly married Andrew before her divorce was finalized.  Indeed, this campaign was so brutal that historians generally agree it was a major factor in Jackson’s wife dying of a heart attack a few weeks before Andrew’s inauguration.  But all of this aside, it is certainly clear from polling data that most Americans were unhappy with the tenor of the 2016 election season, and would like to see decorum returned to the process.

This, then, raises a question for me: How important is it for opposing groups to be calm and friendly while discussing their differences?  My colleague in Political Science here at Washington State, Cornell Clayton, is receiving media attention at the moment for suggesting that civility between disputing groups is not only not essential, but may be problematic for resolution of the disagreement.  His argument is that groups that feel powerless make their greatest strides toward rectifying the injustice by being belligerent, forceful, and in your face rather than polite.  By way of comparison, Cornell cites the unrest of the late 1960’s, which was considerably more vicious than today, and was marked by violence and assassination.  In 2016, the Democratic upstart who challenged the presumptive heir was not murdered, cities did not burn as a result of protests by African-Americans about mistreatment by law enforcement, campus buildings were not firebombed, and protesters did not get beaten at the political conventions.  Cornell notes that we emerged from that turbulent time with a centrist outlook that persisted for 40-plus years.

What implications does this line of argument have for those of us who work with small groups?  Quite a few, I think.  It implies that hostile behavior within the group needs to be investigated before it is suppressed.  It implies that group norms need to be periodically revisited and questioned as to whether they remain (or ever were) appropriate for the group.  It implies that different points of view need to be heard and processed, and if they cannot be acted upon, the inaction needs to be justified.  It implies that the majority preference is not always the best preference.  While these might seem common-sense statements to you, we know from much research that they do not often describe what occurs in a group.  Dissenters are pressured to conform, ostracized, and sometimes expelled from the group.  Group members who seek revenge and engage in vengeful acts are usually sending a message to group leaders that a situation needs correction.  Groups hang onto norms long past their sell-by dates, often to the group’s detriment.  Procedural injustice, or the sense that one is not being heard or taken seriously, is the form of injustice that individuals are most likely to report experiencing in a group.  “Majority rules” is by far the most common form of group decision-making rule.  This is not to say that groups need to be in a state of constant revision, or that majorities are never right, or that rebels are always right, rather my point is that too often groups get stuck in their ways, and this might occur with less frequency if we could arm groups with some tools that would encourage self-study and assist with modification of how they go about their business.  Our colleagues in organizational psychology have been working on this problem for a while, and have made small strides, but there remains much room for innovation.

My university has its accreditation review this coming fall, and so our self-study report is due over the summer.  As I write this, our Board of Regents is going over the (hopefully final) draft.  As a member of the team that assembled our magnum opus, I am proud of the report.  It tells a good story about WSU, highlights our successes, documents what we next need to work on.  But getting people to contribute to it was a headache.  Not because of the workload—most contributors had to write no more than a page or two—but because people did not want to engage in the analysis.  “Things are fine, so why do we need to do this?” was a common complaint I received.  How do we get past this mindset?  How do we encourage groups to take a step back, look at what they are doing, and listen to others who have thoughts about different ways to operate?  It’s not a problem that can be solved with one study, or even one series of studies, but it is a problem that we are well-positioned to tackle.

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Welcome

Editor’s Column

Autumn is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter beckons around the corner. For some, this might mean the relief that rain brings to the parched earth. For others, it means frost on the leaves, brilliant colors on the hillsides, and crisp night air. Whatever it brings for you, we hope that you take a few moments to contemplate the changes that this season brings for you.

This issue of TGP brings some change as well. It’s with a heavy heart as we reflect on Dr. Robert Gleave’s column. He is stepping down from the role of President-elect due to his health concerns. Robert, we value all that you have done for the group psychotherapy field, we admire your quiet strength and depth of spirit, and we appreciate the perspective you articulated in your column, “My predominant feeling is a willingness to learn these next lessons and a sense of peace.” May you continue to find that peace.

Another change to this issue of TGP is the introduction to a new column, Notes from the North. We’ll be featuring a “pen-pal” like relationship with CGPA: Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation. If you have questions for our Canadian colleagues, please send them our way!  As a child, I (Leann) had a pen-pal from Iowa. I still remember her specific handwriting, and the way she would dot her “i’s” with small hearts. Ah, life before digital emoji’s! There was always a joy in getting a letter from her in the mail, and then pondering what I was going to write back. Perhaps in 20 years we’ll look back with nostalgia at this first Notes from the North column…and marvel at the relationships it has fostered between Division 49 members and our colleagues up north!

This issue also highlights several award winners that were honored at the recent APA Convention in Denver. Dr. Norsworthy was given the Diversity Award and Dr. Maartijn van der Kamp was recognized with the Richard Moreland Dissertation of the Year Award. We encourage you to read about these two individuals in their respective columns. We also wanted to highlight the second Group Psychotherapy Column by Dr. Tevya Zukor. He tackles an especially important topic, how group members need to remember the value of civility and kindness with each other, even when they see actions that might not match their personal values.

And finally, we’ll close with encouraging you to check out Dr. Craig Parks’ President’s Column. He provides an analysis of several movies with group dynamics or group psychotherapy content…and encourages the reader to check out psychmovies.com, as a repository for movies that incorporate psychological content. I, for one, have already checked out the list and am adding a few of the movies to my Netflix queue. The next rainy and windy afternoon, that might be just what the doctor ordered!

Happy Autumn!

Editor

Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.
Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associate Editor

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

 

 

Categories
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.

Categories
Welcome

President’s Column

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Mr. Carlin, RIP

At the end of August, the actor Jack Riley passed away.  His death occasioned a phone call to me from a newspaper reporter who was inspired by Mr. Riley’s passing to do a story on portrayal of group therapy in the movies and television, because perhaps Mr. Riley’s most notable role was as Elliott Carlin, the chronically downcast member of Bob Hartley’s therapeutic group on The Bob Newhart Show.  (For those of you with children of a certain age, Mr. Riley was also the voice of Tommy’s dad on Rugrats.)  I declined to speak with the reporter because I had no idea what I would say, and I don’t know if the article has been produced, though an internet search of “group therapy Jack Riley” and the name of the newspaper with which the reporter is affiliated turns up nothing.  But it did get me thinking about the question of how group processes are represented in visual storytelling.

One of the most famous depictions of a group in action is the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men, in which a 12-person jury debates the innocence of a young man from a low-income background who has been accused of murdering his father.  At the outset, 11 men feel he is guilty and want to convict right away, and one feels the case should be deliberated.  The movie documents how the men eventually reach a unanimous not-guilty verdict, and brings in stereotyping, ostracism, and memory retrieval processes.  While a riveting movie, the group process it depicts—a lone minority producing unanimous conversion—is just not supported with research.  Rather, the research shows that most “unanimous” groups are truly not unanimous, but rather are a 2/3-majority, with the minority simply capitulating.   Thus, a real group in this situation would likely have reached a guilty verdict immediately after that first vote.  Admittedly, this would make for a short and boring movie.  Interestingly, legal analysis of the movie has shown that the jurors rely almost entirely on inadmissible speculation, which gives it a second procedural flaw.

Then there is The Experiment, a 2010 film that depicts a prison experiment in the manner of Phil Zimbardo’s study.  Here, though, the researchers ultimately decide to let the experiment run.  Violence, homicide, and insanity ensue, and the scientists try but fail to intervene.  Recognizing the entertainment value of this storyline, it is still the case that the narrative does the science a disservice.  We in fact have a good idea of what happens when experiments like these are completed.  In 2006, Steve Reicher and Alex Haslam ran an entire prison study in the basement of the BBC building.  They found the prisoners to be the troublesome group, becoming rowdy and uncontrollable, while the guards largely shrank from their assigned roles.  I acknowledge that I may sound curmudgeonly here, but in the wake of the movie I had undergraduates approach me wondering how long it would take a non-experimental group to devolve into violence, so my concerns are at least somewhat valid.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 2003 movie Manic, about a therapy group in a juvenile ward and the therapist who leads it.  An apparently under-the-radar movie despite having some well-known actors, I did not discover it until a couple of years ago.  The director, Jordan Melamed, wanted to portray the group therapy setting as realistically as he could, with an emphasis on how challenging it is for the therapist.  As such, he and one of his lead actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, spent time with therapists and therapy groups to learn how sessions are conducted, and the actor who plays the therapist, Don Cheadle, is the son of a psychologist.

There are web sites at which you can search for movies that have psychological principles as a theme, and these engines turned up a surprisingly large number of movies that apparently incorporate concepts from our discipline.  Psychmovies, a website maintained by Brooke Cannon of Marywood University, is a major repository.  In browsing Dr. Cannon’s extensive catalog (for example, she identifies 68 films for which treatment is a primary theme), one wonders how many of these filmmakers employed an expert consultant to advise on the fidelity of what was being portrayed.

Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma and the current president of the American Chemical Society, famously volunteered to be the science consultant on Breaking Bad to ensure that the processes used by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were as chemically accurate as possible.  Would most viewers recognize that aluminum mercury is indeed an effective reducing agent for methylamine?  Probably not.  Does the accuracy matter?  Absolutely.  This is another area of outreach that, in my view, is worth pursuing.

Categories
Welcome

Editor’s Column

It’s summer time! For many professionals at a university or college setting, that means more time out of the classroom, laboratory, committee meetings, counseling center, grant writing and so-forth. How are you going to spend that time? What new activities are you going to undertake? If you don’t have a shift in your work schedule, how can you take advantage of longer daylight hours (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere)?

For me (Leann), one of my goals this summer was to try something new and (hopefully) fulfilling. While my first idea (sponsoring a local student in training a wild mustang to enter into a regional competition) didn’t materialize due to a number of complicating factors, I decided to try something artistic. I contacted a local artist and scheduled a one-on-one workshop in nuno felting. The process involves working wool fibers into fabric, in my case, a silk scarf. I rarely consider myself artistic, but I do love color! And working with soft and whimsical fibers for a day was a special treat. It became a grounding experience where I was immersed in the moment, choosing how to lay the wool fiber, what shape I wanted to create, and let me tap into a creative side I rarely get to experience in such a tangible way. Being able to approach the project, which presented a number of brand new experiences, was also a treat. How often do we let ourselves do something new, something we aren’t experienced at, and still find it rewarding? Being a beginner is humbling and a great time to practice some self-compassion. While my finished scarf isn’t the beautiful masterpiece I might have hoped for, it’s still beautiful. And it’s symbolic, both of the Southern California kelp forests that were my inspiration for it, but also of the possibilities that new experiences can hold. As I start my next project, a nuno felted scarf done without the mentorship of my new teacher, I’m excited to see what I’ll learn.

In this issue of The Group Psychologist you’ll read about what inspires some of our leaders. In the President’s column by Dr. Craig Parks, you can learn of his goal of creating an annual meeting where leaders in the field of group psychology can come together with professionals in industry and government organizations. We are looking forward to learning more about how this could become a real meeting! And in the column by Dr. Robert Gleave (our President-elect) you can read how his dedication to service has influenced and enriched him over the years.

As you pursue the articles in this issue, if you find one you like, be sure to comment, send it via email to a colleague, or “like” it on Facebook.

Articles or brief reports and news items can be e-mailed directly to Tom, Letitia, and Leann at ttreadwe@mail.med.upenn.edu, as can Letters to the Editor.

PS. If you have children and are looking for some new ideas to do with them this summer, check out: https://www.care.com/a/101-fun-things-to-do-with-kids-this-summer-1305030150

Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.
Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.

Editor

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

Associate Editor

Letitia Travaglini, MA
Letitia Travaglini, MA
Categories
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

Categories
Welcome

President’s Column

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Difficult Times and What to Do About It, Part II

In my last column I discussed how the controversy over APA’s purported easing of ethical standards so as to allow psychologists to participate in enhanced interrogation techniques has negatively impacted perception of our discipline. I noted that those of us who work with groups have seen critiques of our expertise increase: We subject people to peer pressure so that they will do thing that they don’t want to do, we force people to reveal intense personal information during group therapy sessions, and so on. Further, many of these critiques are coming from experts in other areas, so we cannot simply dismiss the words as being from uninformed laypeople. In this column I want to talk about some ways in which we can connect with other disciplines to help build awareness of what we do, the scientific basis of our inquiries, and the ways in which we contribute to betterment of the human condition.

The BECC (Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change) Conference is a yearly event at which academics, industry, and government people come together to talk about climate-related research and problems. The 2015 (ninth) conference was attended by over 700 people, with 100 of these being research academics. BECC has become a key event, perhaps the key event, for fostering a mutual understanding of how to synthesize research, practice, and policy on energy consumption behavior and its impact on the environment. Given how many different entities are interested in group-based phenomena, it is not inconceivable that a similar yearly event could be developed around groups. I fully expect that many would greet this idea with skepticism, but it is worth pointing out that the original BECC organizers, a group of 15 from academics, government, and industry, had attendance far in excess of what was anticipated. I acknowledge that energy and climate are urgent and visible topics, certainly more urgent and visible than the kinds of things we investigate, but the point remains valid that a lot of people came out of the woodwork to search for common ground on energy issues. There is no reason to think the same could not happen for a conference on groups.

One could argue that there are already sessions devoted to complementary perspectives and common concerns on groups. This is true, but these meetings are oriented toward collecting researchers from different disciplines who are all interested in groups. I am aware of no meetings (no regular meetings, anyway) at which a psychotherapist who is an expert on leader dynamics in therapy groups can talk to a state government official who is seeking interventions to help his governmental subcommittees be more functional, or a sport psychologist who is studying social comparison in cardiovascular rehabilitation groups can compare notes with a US Army official who is trying to understand how social comparison impacts members of a platoon. (And make no mistake; there is a lot of common ground underneath the individuals in both of my examples.) A yearly conference of this type could be enormously fruitful for identifying research connections, as well as opportunities to extend the practice of group psychology into realms that would like it, but do not know best practices, nor have the time or resources to acquire that knowledge. At our end, regular interaction with those in the industry and governmental sectors would give us the chance to hear about emerging challenges that we could study. And of course, an annual meeting would give us the chance to show that group’s research, and psychology in general, is a rigorous and careful science that generates valuable insights and recommendations. In my last column I encouraged you to conduct a search on “psychology sham science” to see who criticizes us. Noticeably absent from those criticisms are representatives of the energy sector. BECC has shown them that psychology has a vital role to play in their world.

I have begun some informal conversations with some industry and government people to assess their level of interest in such a meeting. I will continue to work on this in the coming months, and I hope that I find a sufficiently strong level of interest that I can begin looking more formally into arrangement of at least a small get-together. I hope to have information on this to share in Denver.

And speaking of Denver, the Division 49 hospitality suite will be at the Hyatt Regency. Please join us at one of our events for food, drink, and conversation. I hope to see you there!

 

 

Categories
Welcome

President’s Column

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Difficult Times and What To Do About It, Part I

I’m sure APA members are well aware of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Hoffman team’s investigation into whether APA relaxed its ethical standards as they apply to psychologists involved in abusive interrogations. Much has been written, and no doubt will continue to be written, about the report, and 8 months on emotions continue to run high among both those who believe psychology should have a strict no-involvement policy with regard to abusive interrogation, and those who feel that, if such approaches are going to be used by the government, a mental health professional should be present to monitor the proceedings. My intent here is not to discuss the report or my views on it. Rather, it is to look at the collateral damage from the incident and how that damage is reverberating into the groups world.

I had some early, semi-personal exposure to its effects. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who contracted with the CIA to advise on interrogation tactics, were practitioners in Spokane, Washington, a little more than an hour from my home campus of Washington State University and where WSU’s health sciences campus is located. Formerly educators at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild AFB in Spokane who taught pilots how to resist harsh interrogation tactics, about 10 years ago they began consulting on how to defeat the very resistance techniques they were teaching. When news of the controversy broke, my department chair received a number of calls from news organizations assuming that Mitchell and Jessen had some kind of connection to our department. While some of the callers made polite inquiries and excused themselves when my chair said that she did not know who Mitchell and Jessen are, others were provocative: One asked her why Mitchell and Jessen’s actions were supported by the clinical psychological community in Spokane (they weren’t); another wanted to know if Mitchell and Jessen had partnered with our Experimental faculty to conduct tests of interrogation techniques (no—again, we don’t know them, and in any event we wouldn’t conduct such research); yet another wanted a list of our Clinical graduate students who had done internships with their consulting firm (none—once again…). Luckily nothing blossomed from these questions, but for a brief period we were braced for a news story that speculated on the strength of Mitchell and Jessen’s WSU connections.

Our discipline is feeling similar types of collateral effects. Many articles and commentaries, written by experts outside of psychology, appeared in the wake of the Hoffman Report, to take us to task as a sham science that pursues sensationalist research questions with shoddy methodology, and purports to better the lives of citizens by applying flavor-of-the-week therapies that are not grounded in reality, with all of us having a shared enjoyment of human suffering, because if humans aren’t in anguish, psychologists won’t have jobs. Some have gone so far as to argue that APA’s apparent easing of its ethical standards was driven by a desperate desire to gain credibility as a discipline with value. While our first reaction might be to not dignify such statements with a response, I think this is a bad strategy. A consistent finding in social psychology is that people equate silence with consent, so by not responding, we run the risk of leading people to think that yes, we have come to the realization that we are charlatans. We need to work hard to explain to the public that our work is careful, empirically based, and oriented toward resolution, not prolonging, of human problems.

Some have reserved special comments for those of us who work with groups. We are “touchy-feely.” We see no value in privacy, because when we conduct a group therapy session, we expect people to share everything with everybody, and scold them when they do not. Research on group processes is all about subjecting people to intense peer pressure to do things they do not want to do, agree with things they actually do not like, and make them feel incompetent when they see that they cannot perform as well as others. So while we all suffer from the general misperception of psychology, those of us who work with groups have an extra need to share our work, our outlook, and our goals.

The reactions that I have briefly reviewed for you (and rest assured there are many, many more than I have noted here—do an online search of “psychology sham science” and see what you turn up) are not coming from crackpots. They are appearing in respectable media and forums connected to other disciplines. This phenomenon is not new. For example, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman famously referred to psychology as a cargo-cult science in his 1974 Caltech commencement address. This was based on his visits to a conditioning lab when he was at Cornell in the 1940’s, and his insight that the researchers were overlooking an obvious alternate explanation for how the rats were able to learn the maze. But such comments have historically been confined within small subgroups. Now we are seeing questioning of the value of psychology at a breadth that I have not experienced in my years in the field.

I noted in one of my president-elect columns of last year that I have a strong interest in outreach and connection. Then I was referring to connecting Division 49 to other divisions within APA that share interest in group processes. We still need to do this, and we have efforts underway, as you will see when you attend the division meetings this August. But I think we also need to go beyond this, and begin working with other disciplines to show them what we do, how we do it, and how we add value to the human enterprise. In my next column, I will talk about how such an initiative might be undertaken.

Categories
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.

Categories
Welcome

Editor’s Column

As I was driving through a nearby town recently, I saw a billboard that caught my eye. It featured three pairs of muddy boots, with the quote “You’ll need these, it’s election time”. While it made me chuckle (with an accompanying grimace for the truth it reflected in this season’s election), it also made me curious. Is “mudslinging” a more recent occurrence in our electoral history?

When I consulted our modern encyclopedia (Wikipedia, of course!) I found the following definition of mudslinging, “trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent rather than emphasizing one’s own positive attributes or preferred policies” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_campaigning). Colloquially known as “mudslinging”, an early example of negative campaigning comes from the presidential election of 1828. In the race between Andrew Jackson and the incumbent President John Adams, numerous negative campaigning tactics were used, including attacking Jackson’s marriage and his propensity for dueling! Contrary to my idealistic perspective of our history, apparently mudslinging has a long legacy in our elections.

Fortunately, we are part of an organization whose candidates don’t need to resort to negative campaigning. As you’ll read in this issue, it’s election time for the Society, as we are looking for a President-elect, Secretary, Member-at-Large, Student Representative, and Council Representative. Each nominee for these positions has prepared a brief candidate statement so you can learn a bit more about who they are. We urge you to become an educated voter by investigating the candidates, and if you have questions, please reach out to them to get more details about their visions for participating in the leadership for our Society.

Also in this issue, you can learn more about Scholarships for students to attend the Annual Convention in Denver, CO, E-mail application materials to rosamondjanesmith@gmail.com and a Virtual Learning Hour hosted by the Early Career Psychologist Task Force on Women in Leadership. Please RSVP for access to div49group@gmail.com.

If you like one of the articles you read, be sure to comment, send it via email to a colleague, or “like” it on Facebook.

Articles or brief reports and news items can be e-mailed directly to Tom, Letitia, and Leann at ttreadwe@mail.med.upenn.edu, as can Letters to the Editor.

Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.
Tom Treadwell, EdD, T.E.P. C.G.P.

Editor

Leann Diederich, Ph.D.
Leann Diederich, Ph.D.

Associate Editor

Letitia Travaglini, MA
Letitia Travaglini, MA