Book Review

The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict



“Depending on the circumstance, you should be: hard as a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing as water, or as empty as space.” – from Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, as quoted in “The Spirit of Dialogue”

Aaron Wolf trained as a groundwater hydrologist and he would often meet with groups of people angry about the fate of their local river or lake, so he used his science background to try to convince them that a solution was at hand.

It usually didn’t work.

So he began to shift his career to engage in conflict resolution and quickly discovered that neither science nor the Western model of resolving conflicts were enough to engage many people around the world. He eventually began looking at how people of faith addressed conflict to see if there were lessons he could translate into his world of water rights. He was surprised to find there were.

After 12 years of traveling and research, the Oregon State University professor has written a book called “The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict,” which will be published by Island Press on Sept. 14. In the book, Wolf describes, for example, how the Buddhist practice of true listening can identify the root cause of anger, and how Christian grace can look at an energy beyond oneself to transform personal goals into community concerns.

As a scientist, Wolf engages religion not for the purpose of dogma, but for the practical process of mediation.

“Many of us were brought up thinking that science will answer all of our questions,” Wolf said, “but people are people and my background is not going to solve all their problems. The Western model of engaging conflict is based on science, pragmatism and often economics. But there also are transcendental moments of sudden understanding that occur by engaging people spiritually.”

Wolf’s “aha moment” came in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he was one of the facilitators at a tense series of meeting about water rights between Azerbaijan and Armenia. After conducting a series of simple ice-breaking exercises, the leader of one of the delegations stood up, threw down his notebook, and began shouting at Wolf from across the room – loudly and angrily, in Russian.

“My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in immediately but I knew that something must have triggered that reaction,” Wolf said. “As it turns out, many of the scientists in former Soviet republics felt marginalized because outsiders coming to ‘help’ them were treating them as if they were uneducated. He said some aid agencies had actually tried to teach him how to properly wash his hands and he had a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

“Now when I work internationally, I try to team up with a local facilitator for precisely this reason – you can never fully understand all the political nuance and sensitivities of a region, and a poorly informed facilitator can do more harm than good.”

Although he has done most of his work with water conflicts – including working as a facilitator in the Middle East with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders – Wolf believes the lessons he has learned in his career are applicable in many areas.

That includes gun control and climate change.

“When people express anger, it usually is a shield that masks vulnerability,” Wolf said. “So when people get indignant about gun control, it often can mean they feel their physical well-being is threatened. One person will argue that they feel unsafe and therefore want fewer guns on the street. Someone else will have similar feelings of not being safe, but wants more guns around for protection.

“When you peel away the anger and look at the vulnerability, then you can begin to look for ways to move forward. The good thing about conflict is that it can get two sides into a room to begin a conversation.”

Wolf said climate change arguments frequently result from one group or person expressing disbelief that the other is ignoring overwhelming evidence, while the counter-argument revolves around data manipulation or extrapolating results.

“Many climate skeptics actually believe the Earth is warming, but they don’t believe humans are the cause. Cramming science down their throat hasn’t worked. If you skip the causation for a moment, and begin working on adaptation – “if the Earth is warming, how will we handle it?” – you take the first step toward something positive.”

Wolf said when he began looking at spirituality for lessons, he learned that many faiths look at conflict through the same four lenses – physical, emotional, perceptual and spiritual. He recently returned from the Ganges River region, meeting with water resource managers who were Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist.

“When you sit around a table with them, you can talk from the same construct because of those lenses,” Wolf said. “Then it becomes a matter of transforming conflict by focusing on shared values.”

Understanding this apparently universal structure is extremely helpful in facilitating difficult conversations, Wolf noted.

“When I’ve worked on water disputes, the physical or intellectual nature of water is generally the focus of discussion, while it is actually the emotional or spiritual relationship communities have with their water resources that make the dispute so difficult.  Addressing these aspects explicitly allows for the conversation to be elevated and enriched.”

Wolf is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Island Press is a non-profit publisher founded in 1984 to shape ideas for solving environmental problems. “The Spirit of Dialogue” is available at:

Note to editors: A photo of Aaron Wolf is available at: Journalists who would like a review copy of the book should contact Katharine Sucher of Island Press at 202-232-7933, ext. 43, or

By Mark Floyd,

Source: Aaron Wolf,

Book Review

The College Counselor’s Guide to Group Psychotherapy: A New Resource for the Practice of Group Psychotherapy in College Counseling and other Group Settings

Michele D. Ribeiro, Ed.D., CGP
Michele D. Ribeiro, Ed.D., CGP

The College Counselor’s Guide to Group Psychotherapy: A New Resource for the Practice of Group Psychotherapy in College Counseling and other Group Settings

Counseling and Psychological Services

Oregon State University

Groups in college counseling center settings have long been an effective albeit under researched modality of treatment.  Most college counseling centers offer a variety of groups ranging from psychoeducation, to support and interpersonal process.  Little research to date within college counseling settings, has captured the variety and clinical outcomes that these varying types of groups offer.  Furthermore, not only do clients benefit from the modality of group, clinicians working in this setting are also given the opportunity to further their training while honing their skills as facilitators and co-facilitators.  

Many doctoral students often get their first real training experience within their practicum and in the arena of college counseling centers.  They then often further their development within their internship.  As an example, I recently began working with a new intern at the counseling center, in which I work, who shared that his tendency was to pull for individual responses more than responses geared toward the group as a whole.  This in turn influenced his behavior and resulted in him sitting back and refraining from verbally engaging in our first group.  I encouraged him to take a risk, to offer a possible group intervention, like a bridging technique or posing a question to the group as a whole.  By the end of our second group, this intern experienced a shift in his perspective and began intervening on a “group as a whole” level.  I was impressed by how quickly he began working on a group level rather than through individually oriented interventions and by his overall shift of trust in the group process.  After our group members left the room, we both looked at each other and with two thumbs up, we agreed “awesome group.”  Upon processing his experience, he shared both his uncertainty regarding how group cohesiveness happens and his amazement in the manner in which the group members opened up one by one, thereby creating an interactive, trusting group.  

My role is to teach this intern and all trainees, how facilitators, through their understanding of stages of group development, assist in creating norms that build a culture of trust and vulnerability.  Sharing vulnerability does not automatically happen; however, through the leader’s facilitation, members begin to follow the norms being set.  Another key to a group’s success, that I am interested in helping this intern and others like him understand, is that of member selection.  Though we do not always know what will happen when we put someone in a group, it is the leaders’ assessment of readiness, ego strength, and matching of issues that play a role in creating the experience that we were fortunate to have in the two groups we have led thus far, this term.  There are other dynamics such as our race, gender, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. that are also interfacing with our co-leader dynamics, while impacting group members and their social identities.    

My hope whenever I start a new group is that my co-facilitator/trainee is able to experience what I call the “magic” of group psychotherapy.  This magic of client vulnerability and connection keeps me captivated and yearning for the next term or academic year to roll around so I/we can begin group again, and again.  I believe, the magic of group is particularly cultivated and supported within the setting of higher education.  Although many group psychotherapy resources exist, a new book entitled The College Counselor’s Guide to Group Psychotherapy by Routledge Press is the first of its kind that aims to capture group, as we know it in higher education and in the context of college counseling centers.  

College Counseling Centers are a diverse and rich setting for the implementation of group psychotherapy.  The book responds to the many layers of college counseling group work including social identity issues, the group coordinator’s role, practice-based evidence assessments, marketing, co-leadership, and facilitating groups covering support, psychoeducation, mindfulness, therapy and interpersonal process.  Most if not all of the authors work, have worked and/or have consulted within the college counseling center arena with center staff on best practices.  This book is a helpful guide for those who are just beginning to lead groups in college counseling centers as well as those who help coordinate these efforts.  This book can also be an excellent resource for seasoned professionals.  I recently provided a colleague with whom I have been working with for over 15 years, the chapter on multiculturalism and diversity in groups.  She later shared the material was not only readily accessible as a teaching tool to her, but also to the interns.  The writers who have authored the chapters that comprise this text, practice group psychotherapy in the field and are passionate about learning, teaching and training.  Although the book’s title emphasizes groups and college counseling center settings, it can also be a useful resource for a variety of therapeutic environments that utilize group treatment.  I recently shared another chapter of the book with a colleague who works within a hospital setting and has been charged with creating an effective group psychotherapy program.

This book is a resource for any therapist interested in understanding the complexity of group within settings that aim to build or maintain effective functioning of group therapy programs.  If reading this short article has sparked your interest, then I encourage you to find out for yourself what the book has to offer.  If you do decide to take a peek, you may find a new level of intrigue and excitement about groups in your work setting as well.   For more information on the book, visit:

Book Review

From The Couch To The Circle: Group-Analytic Psychotherapy In Practice

From The Couch To The Circle:  Group-Analytic Psychotherapy In Practice

London, Routledge Isbn 9780415672207

by John R. Schlapobersky

Endorsed by Prof Jerry Gans MD, DLFAGPA

Incredibly rich in clinical vignettes, steeped in heart, mind and scholarship and faithful to how group therapy heals, Schlapobersky’s From Couch to Circle beautifully depicts how ‘the troubled group that each individual has within’ is played out among the other group members.  A simple testimonial cannot do justice to this monumental effort that is destined to become a classic in the field of group psychotherapy.

Endorsed by Molyn Leszcz MD, FRCPC, DFAGPA

In his wonderfully well-written textbook John Schlapobersky does a great service for the field of group psychotherapy – a remarkable synthesis of accrued clinical wisdom, cutting-edge knowledge and thoughtful clinical application.  The author builds articulate, eloquent bridges between individual and group psychotherapy; between members and leaders within the therapy group; between European and North American models of group psychotherapy and, most importantly, between depth theory and accessible technique.  There is no better resource that brings together the worlds of group analysis and group psychotherapy.

Endorsed by Jeremy Holmes MD, FRCPsych

‘To make soup the cook doesn’t need to get into the pot.’ (Gorky quoted Schlapobersky, characteristically illustrating the role of the group conductor).  This book is the most glorious potpourri of everything one wants to know and feel and experience about group therapy, group analysis, and group dynamics – and more.  It magically combines, theory, science, clinical illustration, personal revelation, anecdote, apposite quotation, allusions from the literary canon, and social and cultural wisdom.  Schlapobersky and his book – the literary analogue of a group at its best – are worthy successors to his predecessor giants: Foulkes and Anthony, Yalom, Skynner, Pines.  Read him: for instruction, for joy, to live and laugh more fully, more contentedly, more dangerously – and become a better, braver, more compassionate, more confident yet questioning therapist whilst doing so.

Book Review

Group Therapy Workbook: Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice

Group Therapy Workbook:

Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice


Thomas W. Treadwell

Letitia E. Travaglini, Debbie Dartnell, Maegan Staats, and Kelly Devinney

As Director of Group Psychotherapy at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, I have ample opportunity to experience how important treatment models such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mentalization – Theory of Mind, Mindfulness, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Expressive Therapies, Interpersonal Therapy, Milieu Therapy, Psychopharmacology, Electro Convulsive Therapy, Group Psychotherapy, and other modalities are systematically utilized in a treatment environment encompassing inpatient, residential, partial hospital, and outpatient programs. Though falling under the rubric of “hospital-based” treatments with stabilization and step down programs to assist individuals and families, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has emerged as an essential part of the hospital’s treatment repertoire across all treatment programs. In fact, one of our excellent partial programs, Adult Behavioral Health, is often described by participants as “being in college,” learning important information and strategies to assist recovery. Psychodrama, because of necessary limitations for more vulnerable treatment populations, is significantly less utilized as a method and finds more applicability as role playing.

Tom Treadwell’s contributions to the integration of action and experiential methods with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are significant steps for both theoretical models. On the one hand, psychodrama, as practiced in classical styles, often relied on spontaneity and the importance of action rather than just telling. Cognitive Behavioral therapy developed a protocol with systematic methods that integrated thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Mirroring my first exposure to one school of CBT in New York City, a la Albert Ellis, Tom Treadwell has created a bridge in which each method can inform and expand the relationship in the cognitive triad. He introduces a group format that utilizes multiple measures to inform each group member concerning particular areas of concern, educates group members on the Cognitive Behavioral treatment model, and gives feedback that stimulates both the individual and the whole group in behavioral change.

This synthesis is not an easy endeavor. I would suspect that Treadwell, with the support of Aaron Beck, would have to establish a training program that initiates professionals in the utilization of action methods and cognitive behavioral methods and strategies. When I project an image of the two methods on to a Field Diagram created by Freed Bales, I would probably predict that CBT would be rated as an “intellectually controlled, rationally energized” method and Psychodrama would be “more emotionally expressive, intuitive.” Both mirror the oscillating patterns in groups, i.e., the need for task completion and, on the other hand, the need for socio-emotional connection. Treadwell’s Group Therapy Workbook makes a substantial contribution for practitioners in CBT and Psychodrama to practice in their accustomed method by expanding the range and applicability of each method.

I recommend this Workbook for practitioners in both methodological arenas: CBT therapists could well utilize action methods to expand their practice in important concepts such as the cognitive triangle and defeating schemas. Psychodramatists could well utilize the basic components of CBT in the practice of psychodrama, helping protagonists to better understand the internalized thought, feeling, and behavior patterns that are related to the here and now. Treadwell’s contribution is an important milestone in the connection of these two important modalities. As the process unfolds, more learning will emerge and the integration and development of “integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice” will certainly make a significant contribution to peoples’ lives.

Reviewed by:

Joe Powers Ph.D
Joe Powers, Ph.D.
Book Review

Book Review: Impromptu Man by Jonathan D. Moreno

Joe Powers Ph.D
Joe Powers Ph.D.

In February 2013 I was in New York City and had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art for a show entitled: “Inventing Abstraction – 1910 to 1925.” When I arrived at the museum and went up the escalator to the exhibit, I was transfixed by a 30’ by 20’ network wall map that graphically displayed the connections that some 90 artists had had with each other via personal communications or actual meetings. These were the individual artists who played an important role in the creation of abstract painting, a radical departure from what had preceded in terms of art. The wall map delineated by color highlighting those artists who had more than 24 connections in the network and those artists who had less than 24 connections, graphically linking these many people. Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Francis Picabla, Alfred Stiegliz, Wassily Kandinsky, and Guillaume Apollinaire were the major “stars” in this artistic social world.

The birth of abstract painting was embedded in social relations – these artists were not isolated individuals. They communicated with each other, formed schools, met frequently in groups in Munich, Berlin, Russia, and France, creating works that were certainly influenced by these relationships. Wassily Kandinsky, trained as a lawyer, but also a multi-talented artist, philosopher, a controversial charismatic leader, and a skilled marketer of his art, had a synesthetic sense (a person who could see colors in sounds) and was influenced by Arnold Schonberg’s music. When he attended a concert, Kandinsky could see colors in Schonberg’s music. His abstract art then became his endeavor to put colors on canvass, inspired by what Schonberg had created in his music.

On a wall in my office at McLean Hospital is a print of J. L. Moreno’s “Sociometric Geography of a Community – Map III” (from his epic work: “Who Shall Survive?”) that depicts the social relations of young juvenile delinquent girls in a treatment facility in Hudson, New York in 1932. This social network map portrays 13 cottages in which the young girls actually lived at the Hudson facility and contrasted their current living conditions with the cottages and people with whom they would like to live. 435 young teenagers made 4350 choices and, much like the Museum of Modern Arts’ graphic social network, their choices were graphically depicted. It is an extraordinary document, clearly demonstrating Moreno’s pioneering efforts to understand group psychology and to offer interventions that would remedy common individual and group problems. Giving the members of this Hudson community choices with whom and where they wanted to live was an empirical study for the purpose of reducing common events in this community: running away, violence, recidivism, and individual conflict. Moreno understood the intricacies of group ecology in a way that few theorists and practitioners at the time did.

impromptu manI mention these two social network displays, one from 1932 and another from 2013, to highlight the importance of Jonathan Moreno’s significant work detailing how his father, J..L. Moreno, impacted the historical, social, theatrical, philosophical, religious, political, psychiatric/psychological forces that are still emerging today. Reading his biography of his father could be likened to that social network wall map at the Museum of Modern Art. Moreno was simply at the center of multiple, multiple connections and a force in the development of our modern culture. Like Kandinsky, no matter in what direction you turned, J.L. Moreno was there: a creative, charismatic force, challenging the psychiatric hegemony of the times and daring to create theory and methods to promote growth in individuals, groups, and society. He, like no other, influenced many, many theorists and practitioners in the field of psychology, social psychology and sociology with his emphasis upon the importance of our “group health life” and the centrality of spontaneity and creativity in everyday living.

Jonathan Moreno has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the origins and development of group psychology and group psychotherapy. His book should be required reading for all graduate students and group practitioners in this field. This book is a compendium of contributions, innovations, controversies, and events in the life of J. L. Moreno which provide rich and long-needed testimony to the brilliance of this man. Here are several important highlights in Jonathan’s comprehensive biography of his father:

  1. “The God Player” – Moreno discovered early on that we are all fallen gods and, in the spirit of the religious traditions, he warmed himself up to take on the spirit of religious figures, even to the point, perhaps shrouded in his own self-proclaimed megalomania, where he wrote a book entitled, “The Words of the Father.” In contrast to the Bible and the Old Testament where frequently “God” was angry and demanding, the New Testament where the Son of God was charismatic and portrayed love and the golden rule, Moreno emphasized that within each of us is a godhead and that we approach our relationships in the spirit of “I-Thou.” Godhead need not only be externalized by the Old Testament, nor personified only in the personhood of the Son of God in the New Testament, but also within each of us – we too are sources of the Godhead. His 1919 chant echoed this perspective entirely: “God is spontaneity. Hence, the commandment is: “Be spontaneous!” Moreno’s “Invitation to an Encounter” was a clarion call for all of us to treat ourselves and others as creators and be willing to see the world through others’ eyes. This was the bedrock of his many innovations. Jonathan Moreno’s description and details of this phase is a wonderful exegesis of Moreno’s early development.
  1. “Spontaneity Theatre” – similar to a “new perspective” reflected in the birth of abstract art which rejected the limitations of representational art, J. L. Moreno founded a new order of theatre called, “The Theatre of Spontaneity.” He rejected the traditional theatre as a “worship of death,” that is, theatrical presentations were finished products: actors memorized other peoples’ scripts, took positions and postures on stage that were previously “blocked,” music and lighting created context, and the audience was just that: “listeners” who voiced appreciation at the end with applause. Moreno would have nothing of that, following his principles of spontaneity and creativity. He wanted theatre to be forum for all to create together: no script, no actors, no three act format with plots and directions. The Theatre of Spontaneity was to live in the “here and now;” the process of birth was as important as the finished product or what Moreno called the “conserve.” Much like Kandinsky seeing “colors” in listening to music, Moreno saw the centrality of process, the here and now, and wanted to “search for a new order of things.” His book, “The Theatre of Spontaneity,” is a magnificent treatise on this “new order,” a primary source for the development of improvisational theatre, appreciation of the arts as manifestations of spontaneity and creativity, and the primary impact upon a long list of well known actors, artists, dancers, musicians who were influenced by these ideas.
  1. Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama – though he was not successful in making Theatre of Spontaneity an acceptable and appreciated form of theatre, Moreno transported his ideas and innovations into therapeutic endeavors. Again, much like prophets in religious traditions, he proposed that the “group” was the primary source of treatment and that action methods (for example: role play, role training, role reversal, social atom enactments, current events, and surplus reality) were formidable avenues for individuals and groups to embrace growth and healing. He challenged the “talking cure” and the hegemony of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic principles to develop a philosophy and method that utilized the whole group to assist in the emergence of a “protagonist” who would represent a common dilemma that group members experienced in their own lives. Once the individual protagonist had completed his/her psychodrama, assisted by group members, the group psychotherapy process would commence. There was no analysis, no interpretations, no advice giving during the group psychotherapy phase, only personal sharing, compassion, understanding, only how each person could identify with the protagonist. This was the enactment of his “Invitation to an Encounter.” Psychodrama and its companion method, sociodrama, were instruments to promote healing and moderate group and individual obstacles for growth.
  1. Social Network Theory – as any person who is familiar with the internet, social media, and smart phones, there are constant reminders of how all of us are connected to the whole as John Dunne spoke about several centuries ago. The “need to belong” plays a substantial role in all of our lives and when that need is met, that is, when we have satisfying, reciprocal relationships, an important aspect of our psychological health is satisfied. Moreno’s pilot study at Hudson, the utilization of social network analysis in therapeutic endeavors, and frequent visual depiction of social connections revolutionized the way that we understand how groups develop and exist. Whether it be marketing research, political polarizations related to reading materials, economic stratification related to income distribution, friendship development throughout middle school and high school, a New York Times Sunday Magazine article written by a Harvard sociologist utilizing time-lapse photography to show group development at a fashion show, Moreno’s ideas and methods depicted our real world – our relational climate. The important and empirically supported method, “Interpersonal Therapy,” utilizes social network analysis as an important centerpiece in the treatment of affective disorders such as depression and bipolar illness. The examples are endless. Moreno’s creative ideas on how those networks influence our well-being, starting at a very young age, established the principal components that blossomed into Social Network Theory.
Jonathan Moreno
Jonathan Moreno

As I had substantial contact with J.L. Moreno, and his wife, Zerka Moreno, during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, and knew Jonathan Moreno when he was a teenager and young adult, reading this biography of his father was a gift and a joy. Having lived in the Beacon, New York training center for an entire year as a resident fellow and led psychodrama demonstrations in the New York Center on West 78th street, I had unlimited access to J. L. Moreno’s writings and publications. I was honored to have spent time with him at his dining room table and asked questions about his work and his ideas. I read all the early journals: “Sociatry,” “Sociometry,” “International Journals of Group Psychotherapy;” read the seminal contributions by prominent social psychologists, such as Kurt Lewin, who published in Moreno’s journals. At that time, Zerka Moreno was the principal trainer in developing skills in group psychotherapy and psychodrama and was just an incredibly skilled therapist and person – she had a tremendous impact on my professional and personal development as well as the many professionals who came for training from all over the world. The synergy created in those training groups was incalculable. The Moreno Institute in New York, where demonstrations of psychodrama were held every night of the week, was gifted with exceptional leaders: Jim Sacks, Bob Siroka, Ellen Siroka, Hannah Weiner, and Marcia Karp. All of this, and much more, is captured in Jonathan’s biography — a wonderful recounting of this great leader whose influence is still felt and is still important. This biography is an honest and essential narrative of his father’s life and the people in his grand social network as a result of his innovations, charisma, controversial challenger to the status quo, gifted group theorist and clinician, or as a prophetic voice for the future of psychiatry, psychology, social psychology, and sociology.

There is one more, most important item of “unfinished business” that Jonathan Moreno has accomplished in writing this biography of his father. Having taught seminars in group psychology and group psychotherapy and read numerous narratives about the origins of group psychotherapy, there is no doubt in my mind that J. L. Moreno has not received the recognition that he fully deserves. He is the founder of Group Psychotherapy. Not only did he give us the name, “Group Psychotherapy,” but he gave us theories and methods in which to practice this important treatment modality. He emphasized that the group was the essential component in our society and he focused on the “group.” Many other claimants for group psychotherapy innovations were based upon migrating theories of individual development and dressed up to be applied to group work. Many theories and practices of group work, even presently, were unaware of the importance of group dynamics and how group dynamics affected individual functioning.

Jonathan Moreno’s biography is a must read for group practitioners in the field. The narrative creates the historical and social forces that enveloped his father and propelled him into prominence as an agent of change who gave us ideas, methods, and theories that have assisted all of us to look at the world and people in a kinder, empathic, and creative way. This book is a wonderful gift from a son to his father and to all of us who knew and treasured him.

Book Review

Book Review: The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling

The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling

Edited by Robert Conyne

Reviewed by Ed Jacobs, Ph.D.

Coordinator of master’s counseling program at West Virginia University

Fellow in ASGW


Robert Conyne’s edited book, The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling, truly lives up to the title. The chapters are written by some of the leading group educators. Each chapter is comprehensive and filled with rich information about the literature regarding the chapter’s focus on some specific aspect of group counseling. In the introductory chapter, Robert Conyne gives an excellent overview of what’s to come and also briefly discusses important concepts related to group counseling. In Part II, the various authors do a first-rate job giving the history and definition of groups along with describing the role of social justice and diversity in regards to group work. Lynn Rapin’s chapter on ethics is thorough and thought provoking. Janice Delucia-Waack provides an excellent discussion regarding diversity in groups.

Conyne gives Part III the title of Key Change Processes and has different authors write about therapeutic forces, cohesion, group climate, and group development. Each of these chapters gives the reader an in-depth look at the literature and development of these constructs as they relate to group counseling. This book is excellent for the reader who wants to delve into the research on aspects of group counseling. The chapter on group development is the most thorough discussion I have ever read on the various models of stages of groups. Part IV is titled Research but actually the whole book is filled with research. In this section, there are chapters on evidenced based practice, general research models, assessing groups, and qualitative research approaches to group counseling.

In Part V (Leadership), Conye includes six chapters. Two chapters are about the personhood of the leader and the style and function of the leader. Both of these chapters go deep into the literature regarding various aspects of the leader as a person. Also in this section is a chapter titled “Group Techniques” which more appropriately should be titled “Group Exercises.” In his chapter, Sam Gladding urges leaders to be more creative. Gladding also offers some specific ways to use creativity in group sessions. The chapter on teaching and training group leaders gives an excellent account of the different ways educators approach the task of training students to be group leaders. Nina Brown discusses many of the pros and cons of the different forms of experiential learning when it comes to teaching.

Part VI covers many aspects of the applications of groups in different settings and different formats. Groups in the military, schools, across the life span, sexual minorities and international groups are presented. One of the drawbacks of the book is that it is somewhat dated since the copyright is 2010. With that said, the reader will still find every chapter valuable in regards to the literature on the given subject of the chapter through 2009.The chapter on group work internationally is well done and gives an overview of group work in numerous countries. The Online Groups chapter is filled with excellent resources regarding the history and development of online groups; however, anyone researching this subject would need to review the literature from 2010 to the present since so much has occurred with socials media since 2010.

Conyne’s finishes this book with a very interesting chapter that he titles; Group Counseling: 50 Basic Premises and the Need for Mainstreaming. The chapter causes the reader to reflect on all the main issues pertaining to group work based on the writings found in the book. Overall I think anyone interested in the study of group counseling will find this book to be a valuable book to read.