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President’s Column

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

President’s Column

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.

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George Tasca Named Editor of Group Dynamics

Tasca Selected as Next Editor of Group Dynamics; Term to Begin in 2019

Dr. Giorgio Tasca has been selected by the Division 49 Executive Committee as the next editor of Group Dynamics.  Dr. Tasca currently serves the division as President-Elect.  He will assume editorship in January 2019, after completion of his term as division President.  The Executive Committee has asked current editor David Marcus to extend his term by one year through December 2018, and he has agreed to do so.

Dr. Tasca is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa.  He is an expert on attachment theory and its influence on eating disorders; group therapeutic approaches to the treatment of eating disorders; and application of statistical modeling approaches to group data.  In 2016 he guest-edited an issue of Group Dynamics on statistical methods in group psychology and group psychotherapy, and prior to that served as both an Associate Editor (2012 – 2015) and Consulting Editor (2008 – 2011) for the journal.

To assist with the transition, the Executive Committee has elevated Associate Editor Jay Jackson to the position of Senior Associate Editor.  Dr. Jackson will continue to serve the journal in this capacity after Dr. Tasca takes over.  Dr. Jackson is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.  He is completing his seventh year as an Associate Editor of Group Dynamics.  He is an expert on intergroup relations, with particular emphases on expression of intergroup hostility, and the influence of goal conflict on cooperation in mixed-motive settings.  He also has expertise in group decision-making and social identity.

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Welcome

President Elect’s Column

George Tasca
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Statistics 

One of the things that I have noticed over the decades of providing, training, and supervising group therapy is that each group appears to have its own qualities and trajectory. That is, each group seems to have its unique characteristics and growth patterns that set it apart from other groups of its kind. (I don`t mean to imply that there aren`t similarities across groups, but only that in many ways each group is unique). We know from group research that sometimes the group’s path is determined by its pre-group history (personality characteristics of the individuals that pre-dated their membership in the group), sometimes it is affected how members get along with others of the group in which they happen to find themselves (group composition), and sometimes the trajectory is affected by qualities of the leaders. These constituent components (individual characteristics, group composition, and leadership) then interact in complex ways. Gary Burlingame and his colleagues referred to these complex levels of interaction as the structural aspects of groups (member to member, member to leader, and group as a whole). The results of interactions across these structural aspects over time result in what some group researchers refer to as emergent properties of groups. This is akin to what the gestalt psychologists refer to as the “whole being more than the sum of its parts”. It is only recently that group researchers have the tools to catch up to these complexities of groups.

For practice oriented group psychologists and for group psychotherapists the concept of group emergent properties from its structural elements was implicitly known. However, there wasn`t a whole lot of research to quantify, demonstrate, or test these fundamentally group concepts. For decades, group researchers did their best by borrowing methods from individual psychology and psychotherapy to study group phenomena. This severely limited what the researcher could do and could say about groups and the individuals that made them up. For example, in the past, when we studied if an individual`s personality affected their outcomes in group, we simply did what individual therapy researchers did – correlated a pre-treatment personality scale score with change in an outcome. This method essentially ignored the group – even though we knew that the group (composition, leadership, group as a whole) likely interacted with individual personality and outcome. Until very recently there has been little research on how the group affects an individual’s experience of cohesion or alliance and vice versa. New research shows that if the individual and group agree on their experience of the alliance, then the individual`s outcomes are better. This is an example of group researchers finally being able to test what clinicians implicitly knew to be true.

This small revolution in group research has come about because of advancements in statistical theory and methods, and because of powerful computing capacity that is now readily available on anyone`s laptop. For example, multilevel modeling (a statistical advancement in regression equations) has transformed how we conduct group therapy research. For the first time, we are able to: take into account the impact of the group on the individual, test hypotheses about member to member or member to group interactions, and model the unique trajectory that each group takes across time – just to name a few. For years group practitioners have been far ahead of researchers in terms of theorizing about how groups work and advancing the need for more groups. Finally, group research methods have caught up to these rich theories. I envision a day in the near future in which group researchers not only test group concepts, but by way of testing these ideas they will also lead the development of new theories and models of how groups work and how they can be more effective. For that we need young group psychologists who are just as comfortable running a computer model as they are running a therapy or work group.

 

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

“I would never want to be part of a group that would have someone like me as a member” – paraphrasing Groucho Marx.

When I ran for President of the Society I was asked to think about and write a statement for what my priorities might be if I were elected. It really didn’t take me long to come up with the key priorities of supporting students and young investigators who were interested in group psychology and group psychotherapy research and practice. The statistics that I have seen about the age of members of our Society were sobering and reinforced this focus. The average age of members of Division 49 is well over 60 years, which means that most members are looking at retirement in the coming decade. On the face of it, it seems that this is a serious challenge for our Society. Without replenishing the membership with younger people, we could face a crisis within a short period of time.

It is important to say that we are not alone with this problem. Most societies and professional organizations are facing the same trends in demographics. Some of the trend is simply a fact of broader societal factors related to aging baby-boomers who in many cases were leading figures in the development of organizations like Division 49. Also, one could speculate that GenY and Millenials tend to congregate in very different ways than their parents and grandparents (i.e., with social media, and more amorphously organized groups), and tend to have different expectations and definitions about community service. One could also take a more optimistic view that people don’t tend to join organizations and societies until they get older – similar to what Erikson described as the generativity phase of human development. That is, at a younger age one is more invested in personal and professional achievements and/or demands of raising a family, whereas later in life one begins to give back to society to create meaning in one’s life by mentoring those who are younger.

With this in mind I hope to spend my time on the Executive of the Board of Division 49 discussion ways in which we can better engage younger members of our organization, particularly those in the 30 to 40 year old bracket. The Division has already invested a portion of its budget to providing the Richard Moreland Dissertation of the Year award, and a student poster award.  We hold a division social that is well attended by students at the APA conference. We are also looking into ways of engaging new members and students and to retaining members who have not renewed their memberships. One possible avenue is to open membership to the Society to non-APA members around the world who nevertheless identify themselves as group psychologists. Further, we are supporting an application to the Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology for recognition of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy as a specialty in professional psychology. This would bring to the attention of the broader professional community the importance of specialized training in group psychology.

Those of us involved in group practice and group research in clinical, social, organizational, military, and sports settings know the importance of group psychology and know the impact of and strength in numbers. For that reason it is important to have a vibrant Society like ours to support the work we do and to support the next generation of researchers and practitioners in group work. I strongly encourage you as a member of the Society to reach out to your younger colleagues. Encourage them to join, and tell them why it’s important to join. Come to our events at the APA conference including the Division Social event on Friday August 4th at 6pm – bring a student or younger colleague with you.

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Welcome

President-Elect’s Column

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

I am thrilled to join the Board of the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. I have been a member of the Society for years and have served on the Group Dynamics Board as a regular member and as an associate editor. But, to be honest, I really did not know what specifically the Board of the Society did and how it operated (well, I should clarify that I know what Boards do in general: they set policy and bylaws for the Society, run the academic journal, produce a newsletter for members, set the programming for the convention, keep a responsible budget, encourage membership, maintain records, etc.). What I did not know was how this Society’s Board operated, how the members got along, what the climate would be like, how decisions were made, how formal was the process, and did it have an effective leadership. After all, I was a virtual outsider – I mean I knew a few people on the board, but I had never been part of this particular system. To make matters more interesting, I came onto the Board in an emerging leadership capacity as president-elect. I wondered how that would go over with longer serving members. In reflecting back on my first Board meeting I was struck by how the process of joining this Board paralleled many such group processes (spoiler alert: it went very well, the Board members were very warm and welcoming, and I felt that I can make a real contribution to an already well-run group/organization).

I have been running, researching, or teaching about therapy groups for over 30 years now. Of all the hats that I wear, my role as a group therapist, teacher, and researcher is the most satisfying and rewarding. Yet why was I somewhat surprised that similar concerns, expectations, and pressures that new therapy group members face were also on my mind at that first Board meeting? Before I got there I wondered if I would feel included, engaged, and effective – and I hoped that the meeting and my role would be a good use of my time. I am well aware that group processes operate in many organizational contexts, and I have experienced this first-hand in multidisciplinary health teams, on other organizational boards, in classrooms, group supervisions, research collaborations, and on academic committees. So why was I surprised? I think, in part, it has to do with group therapists and group psychologists operating as if in separate silos. We inhabit different worlds of work and so we assume that the concepts we work with and interactions we participate in are independent.  But clearly they are not.

I was on a multidisciplinary health team early in my career in which one of the professionals seemed somewhat agitated as she repeated the same point about a patient to the rest of the team. The team did not openly disagree with her, but nevertheless there was a palpable tension and discomfort in the room. The psychiatrist, who I did not know well at the time but grew to respect over the years, turned to the professional, said something understanding and calming, and repeated something similar to the rest of the team. The professional seemed calmer, the tension dissipated, and we moved on to review the next patient. When I asked the psychiatrist some time later about the incident, he said that people in the room were not feeling heard, and all he did was to repeat what everyone had already said. Whether he knew it or not, the psychiatrist did more that simply repeat the words –he offered respectful leadership, security, empathy, and direction to the team in what was developing into a tense situation. So in this team-based organizational context, I saw group therapy dynamics play themselves out and managed skilfully (albeit implicitly) used by someone who was attuned to the group’s climate.

One of the impromptu discussions we had during the Society Board meeting was about how many people assume an overlap between group therapy and group psychology (e.g., organizations, sports teams, classrooms, work groups), but how little is written or discussed about these common areas of research, theory, and practice. One of the unique and special roles of the Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy is that it is a big tent in which both group therapists and group psychologists can dialogue, find common ground, and feel included.

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Welcome

Candidate Statement: President Elect, Giorgio Tasca

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

I am deeply honored to be nominated to run for president of APA Division 49, Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. I have been a member of the Society for a number of years and have always felt a close connection with the Division and its membership. Most recently, I was an Associate Editor of Group Dynamics and will be editing a special issue on statistical methods in group psychology and psychotherapy this coming year. I have been a group therapist for over 30 years, and I have been an active group researcher for the past 15 years. I am proud of the fact that I was a full time group practitioner well before becoming a researcher, as I think it gives me a unique perspective on researching groups. My practice is primarily focused on group treatment of eating disorders, especially binge-eating disorder. I supervise residents in psychology and psychiatry in group work, and I continue to research new approaches to group treatments. If elected president I would like to focus on supporting students within the Division, including efforts to increase student membership through greater visibility of trainees at the convention by providing small awards, recognitions, and scholarships. In keeping with my dual identity as a clinician-researcher I would like to find ways to increase a dialogue between group practitioners and group researchers so that practice is more consistently influenced by the evidence, and so that research is more specifically informed by the experiences of practitioners and clients.

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Other Information

Call for Papers in Statistical Methods in Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.
Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D.

Group Dynamics, Theory, Research, and Practice publishes state of the art research on group psychology and group psychotherapy. The study of people nested in small groups represents unique challenges to the researcher. Group members interact with each other, they share common experiences within their group that may be different across groups, and each group may be affected by different compositions and histories. These factors make groups and group research interesting, but they also complicate the analyses of grouped data. Group Dynamics invites authors to submit papers that address salient issues related to the design and analyses of grouped data. The focus will be on conceptual issues that are addressed by the method, and on its practical applications. As such, each paper should be structured to include the following: (1) a conceptual introduction of the issues being addressed and their importance to group research, (2) a concrete running example of real or simulated data and their analyses to make the concepts and data analytic approach come to life, (3) instructions or suggestions on which relevant findings to report and how (e.g., parameters, variance components, model fit statistics, effect sizes, etc.), (4) practical suggestions on how and under what circumstances to apply the method, (5) common pitfalls or problems in applying the method and/or interpreting findings, (6) a short annotated bibliography of software, web sites, and key articles or chapters, and (7) if appropriate, online supplementary material with syntax, computer codes, or macros. Equations or figures should be fully described and all parameters should be clearly and concretely defined using the running example. Emphasis should be place on interpreting the statistical findings in the context of the running example (data in the running example does not need to be new as it is primarily being used as illustration). The manuscript should be: aimed at the level of a new researcher or a graduate student who will use the paper to guide them in their own data analyses; or aimed at readers who may use the paper to help them understand and evaluate group research. Authors might assume for example that the reader has only basic knowledge of statistical concepts (i.e., regression equations) and of group psychology and psychotherapy. Papers should be no more than 30 pages in length, not including online supplementary material. All submissions will be peer reviewed. This special issue of Group Dynamics on statistical methods will bring together in one volume papers that will serve as a reference for authors, reviewers, and students who wish to conduct and evaluate state of the art group psychology and group psychotherapy research.

Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2015. Submissions can be made through the journal submission portal on the American Psychological Association web site. Authors should indicate in the cover letter that the manuscript is intended for the special issue on statistical methods in group psychology and group psychotherapy. Authors are encouraged to contact Giorgio A. Tasca (gtasca@toh.on.ca) to discuss the suitability of a potential topic for submission.

Evidence-Based Case Study

Parallel in purpose to the Practice Review articles, I would like to issue an open invitation for authors to submit an Evidence-Based Case Study for possible publication in Psychotherapy. I believe developing such a series of Evidence-Based Case Studies will be extremely useful in several ways. First, such investigation will provide much needed information to bridge the gap between research and practice. Second, such studies will provide important templates of how to integrate basic research into applied work at the individual case level. In addition, I hope to open an avenue for publication to those in full time private practice who are interested in integrating research measures into their clinical work. Finally, I wish to provide a readily identifiable aggregate of systematic case studies from various forms of treatment that meet the American Psychological Association’s criteria for Evidence-Based Practice (APA, 2006) as well as the Clinical Utility dimension in the Criteria for Evaluating Treatment Guidelines (APA, 2002).

The goal of these Evidenced-Based Case Studies will be to integrate verbatim clinical case material with standardized measures of process and outcome evaluated at different times across treatment. That is, authors should describe clinical vignettes highlighting key interventions and mechanisms of change regarding their specific approach to treatment in the context of empirical scales. With this goal in mind I offer the following guidelines for those who are interested in preparing an Evidence-Based Case Study:

  1. At minimum the report should include the assessment (from patient or independent rater perspective, not therapist) of at least two standardized outcome measures, global functioning and target symptom (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc), as well as one process measure (i.e. therapeutic alliance, session depth, emotional experiencing, etc) evaluated on at least three separate occasions. Optimally, such a report would include several outcome measures assessing a wide array of functioning such as global functioning, target symptoms (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc), subjective well-being, interpersonal functioning, social/occupational functioning and measures of personality, as well as relevant process measures evaluated at multiple times across treatment.
  2. At minimum specific outcome data should be presented using standardized mean difference (i.e. effect size) and clinical significance methodology (i.e. unchanged, reliable change, movement into functional distribution, clinically significant change, and deterioration; see Jacobson et al., 1999). Submission of both successful and unsuccessful treatment cases are encouraged. In addition, it might be quite instructive to compare and contrast the technical interventions that occurred during a positive change case with that of a clinically unchanged or deteriorated case from the same approach to treatment.
  3. Verbatim clinical vignettes with several patient and therapist turns highlighting key interventions and mechanisms of change regarding the specific approach to treatment should be provided. Discussion of therapeutic interventions should not be presented from a global or abstract perspective.
  4. Appropriate informed consent must be obtained. It is suggested that interested authors review several Evidence-Based Case Studies that have been published since 2011 as templates for their work (Escudero, Boogmans, Loots, & Friedlander, 2012; Grasso, Joselow, Marquez & Webb, 2011; Satir et al., 2011; Tasca et al., 2011). In addition, Hill and colleagues (2008) as well as Mayotte-Blum and colleagues (2012) provide a good template of this Evidence-Based Case Study format. Finally, Strupp and colleagues (1992) provide extensive verbatim clinical vignettes from a failed treatment that are quite instructive regarding possible indicators of treatment termination, with initial scores on several assessment measures. Simple analyses of standardized outcome measures by way of clinical significance and effect size methods are sufficient, all of which can be readily tabulated by hand or with a calculator. Any authors who have conducted an effectiveness or efficacy trial on a particular type of treatment that have collected standardized process and outcome measures across treatment in addition to the use of audio/videotape of sessions should consider submitting an Evidence-Based Case Study. Likewise, any clinician in private practice who would like to add these elements at the initiation of a new case should also consider submitting to this special series. Anyone who may have an interest in submitting an Evidence-Based Case Study is invited to contact me if they have any questions about this process at: Psychotherapy@adelphi.edu.

References:

American Psychological Assciation, (2002). Criteria for evaluating treatment guidelines. American Psychologist, 57,   1052–1059.

American Psychological Assciation, (2006). Evidence-based practice in psychology. American Psychologist, 61, 271–285.

Escudero, V., Boogmans, E., Loots, G., & Friedlander, M. (2012). Alliance Rupture and Repair in Conjoint Family Therapy: An Exploratory Study. Psychotherapy, 49, 26–37.

Grasso, D., Joselow, B., Marquez, Y., & Webb, C. (2011). Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of a Child with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Psychotherapy, 48, 188–197.

Hill, C., Sim, W., Spangler, P., Stahl, J., Sullivan, C., & Teyber, E. (2008). Therapist immediacy in brief psychotherapy: Case study II. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45, 298–315.

Jacobson, N., Roberts, L., Berns, S., & McGlinchey, J. (1999). Methods for defining and determining the clinical significance of treatment effects: Description, application, and alternatives. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 300–307.

Mayotte-Blum, J., Slavin-Mulford, J., Lehmann, M., Pesale, F., Becker-Matero, N., & Hilsenroth, M. (2012). Therapeutic Immediacy Across Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: An Evidence-Based Case Study. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59, 27–40.

Satir, D., Goodman, D., Shingleton, R., Porcerelli, J., Gorman, B., Pratt, E., Barlow, D., & Thompson-Brenner, H. (2011). Alliance-Focused Therapy for Anorexia Nervosa: Integrative Relational and Behavioral Change Treatments in a Single-Case Experimental Design. Psychotherapy, 48, 401–420.

Strupp, Schacht, Henry, & Binder (1992). Jack M.: A case of premature termination. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 29, 191–205.

Tasca, G., Foot, M., Leite, C., Maxwell, H., Balfour, L., & Bissada, H. (2011). Interpersonal Process in Psychodynamic-Interpersonal and Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy: A Systematic Case Study of Two Groups. Psychotherapy, 48, 260–273.