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Canadian Group Psychotherapy Update

Kasra Khorsani, M.D.
Kasra Khorsani, M.D.

I am happy to report that we accomplished many of our goals that we set out in the last year, and we are looking forward to building on our accomplishments. I like to thank our board of directors and our committee members for all their hard work.

Our main aim continues to be building our membership services, and grow our membership. We hope you will be as committed as the Board and I are to establishing a sustainable association of group therapists in Canada.

We did not reach our membership goal of 150 by October 2016 but we slightly increased our membership over last year having around 115 members compared to 110 from the year before.

We need your continued help to grow our membership.

Invite a new member to CGPA. Please keep in mind for every new member that you invite you get a discount towards your next year’s membership fee.

We accomplished the following in the last year:

  • Our pilot mentor ship program was a success thanks to Dr. Samantha Surkis leadership. We are trying to make the association attractive for the students and therapists who are just starting out. We hope to attract more mentors and mentees to this initiative. Please consider being a mentor or suggest to someone you know to take advantage of being a mentee. This membership benefit in my opinion is priceless for both the mentor and the mentee.
  • Our Annual conference in Toronto on Oct 2016 was a success and we had an overwhelming positive response from most attendees. The three-day format worked well and we hope to repeat that in the coming years though we will stay flexible in the design of our annual meetings to adapt to the various locations and needs of the communities we hope to attract. The next Annual Meeting will be in Halifax in October of 2017 and in Winnipeg in October of 2018.
  • The Sunday night educational seminars continue to be popular. The teleconference is from 8-9 pm EST on the first Sunday of each month. It is offered free of charge to members and non-members. Please invite a colleague or a friend interested in group work to register and benefit from the experience and wisdom of senior group therapist from across Canada.  This we hope will show case group therapy and introduce CGPA to the therapist communities across Canada.
  • Financially we will post a gain in 2016, that is mostly due to the generous contribution of our patron members and the success of Multicenter Experiential Groups in May of 2016.  We will be repeating both those initiatives this year.  Please consider being a patron member. Please consider getting involved in the 2017 May 13 ETG’s by either volunteering to run an experiential group or support hosting an ETG in your location, Spread the word in your communities about this event. We Hope to run groups in Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver. We are always open to have more sites around the country join in this one day ETG initiative.
  • Our Training committee under the leadership of Aida Cabecinha will continue to work on developing Web based Group Therapy Modules. That committee is also actively exploring the idea of developing a program for group therapy certification.
  • And finally, we hope to upgrade our website in the coming year. So, that it can be more accessible and efficient and useful for our members.

Please Give us feedback.  Let us know how we can all support each other to have a more vital and fulfilling association. Consider getting involved by volunteering to join our committees or the Board of Directors.

Best wishes,

Kasra khorasani MD

Toronto, ON


Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you want to send me any information.

Alternatively, you can send any material to

First Stage Enterprises


Fax: 416.426.728

Early Career Psychologists

Notes from the North: History of Experiential Groups in Canada

Kasra Khorsani, M.D.
Kasra Khorsani, M.D., President, CGPA

CGPA multi-centre Experiential Training Groups (ETG) are on Saturday May 13, 2017. This is the second annual ETG day run by CGPA. This was a very well received event in 2016, with 50 people who participated in five groups in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary. This year Halifax and Vancouver have joined the program.

The day consists of two three-hour process groups divided by lunch. These groups offer an opportunity for therapists of all modalities to learn about group dynamics by participating as members of the ETGs. Transference and countertransference issues, intimacy, attachment, boundaries, group cohesion, and issues around termination are reflected upon by the members who are committed to examining their own process.  For more details please see

For over six decades, ETGs have been an important part of group psychotherapy training in Canada.  According to Dr. John Salvendy, these can be put in three categories. The first two categories are all trainee process groups and all trainee therapy groups. In both cases, members could be from the same program or from different programs. In these instances, the frequency could be one time, periodic, or continuous short- or long-term.  Finally, an all patient group that trainees could join have also been used in some programs as a requirement for training (3).

Initially, the training groups in Canada were based on the Tavistok group therapy model (which many experience as an anxiety provoking model). However, since the early ’80s the model applied has been a relational/interpersonal model. This shift has resulted in almost uniform positive assessment of ETGs by trainees (5).

The most prevalent training groups in academic centers are the training process groups. The members of the groups are trainees in the same programs and depending on the size of the program, members may or may not know each other in their professional settings.  The frequency of meeting varies from one time to multiple meetings for the duration of the program. The largest and longest running program in Canada was started in University of Toronto in 1977 and continues to be a successful once per year all day experiential group for the psychiatry residents. This is a very successful and well rated event by the participants. Seventy out of 140 residents attended the latest goup day which was a four and half-hour group experience divided in to a morning and an afternoon session (4,5).

The various non-university group psychotherapy training programs in Canada started in the mid 1960’s in Toronto (Ontario Group Psychotherapy Association), followed by programs in Montreal in early 70’s. With inception of CGPA in 1980, additional training programs were established across the country. These included ones in Calgary, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. The Toronto Group Psychotherapy Training Program operated from 1978 until 2008. They had twenty-four 90-minute experiential sessions led by three different group leaders over the two-year program. The present Toronto-based taining program, Toronto Institute of Group Studies, includes a 90-minute experiential component on each of the 12 days of the program (2). This highlights the variety of training experiences available, as the Calgary program required each trainee to have 90 hours of experiential training obtained either through an all trainees process group or joining a patient interpersonal group.

The CGPA May ETGs is a one-time process group, for mental health professionals (including trainees) from different professional backgrounds and from different settings. CGPA has had a noteworthy history of offering process groups for therapists (initially modeled after AGPA Institute groups).  CGPA’s first national conference (Banff Alberta, 1980) was exclusively experiential/process groups. Impressively, 160 therapists participated in 15 two-day training groups during this first conference (1).

CGPA has continued to offer ETGs in its annual conferences since then. From 1980 until 2007 the conference began with two days of process groups. More recently the experiential groups have been a day to day and half duration and offered at the end of the conference. Over the years, the experiential/process groups have been lead and monitored by exceptionally experienced group psychotherapists from across Canada.

With the start of the multicentre May ETG event now we offer this special training opportunity twice per year, once at the annual meeting in October and again in May at multiple centres simultaneously across Canada.

I would like to thank the following colleagues for their communications regarding this summary: John Salvendy, Molyn Leszcz, Allan Sheps, Joan-Dianne Smith, Anthony Joyce, Linda Goddard, and Eric Jackman.


  1. CGPA News Letter March 1981 vol. 1, No 1
  2. Joyce, Anthony S. Ph.D., Tasca, Giorgio A. Ph.D. & Ogrodniczuk, John S. Ph.D. (2015) Group Psychotherapy in Canada, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 65:4, 583-593
  3. 3. Salvendy, John T.: Group Therapy Trainees as bona fide members in patient groups. Group and Family Therapy 1982, Brunner/Mazel, Inc., NY 1983, 166-181
  4. Salvendy, John T. M.D., Stewart, Mary F.: Periodic T-Groups for Psychiatric Residents, Journal of Psychiatric Education 7:4, 287-295
  5. Sunderji, Nadiya, M.D., Malat, Jan, M.D. Leszcz, Molyn, M.D. (2013) Group Day: Experiential Learning About Group Psychotherapy for Psychiatry Residents at University of Toronto, Academic Psychiatry 37(5):352-4.
Early Career Psychologists

Notes from the North

We are pleased to introduce TGP readers to a new column, Notes from the North, in which we’ll be hearing from our colleagues in Canada. In this first column you’ll find an introduction and general background on the CGPA from their President, Dr. Kasra Khorsani. We hope that this column can provide a “virtual pen-pal” relationship with our colleagues up north. So, if you have questions for them, please pass them along,, and we’ll feature your question and the response from CGPA in upcoming issues of TGP.

Kasra Khorsani, Ph.D.
Kasra Khorsani, Ph.D.

Hello from Canada!

We are CGPA: Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation. We are a vibrant multidisciplinary association of group psychotherapists who work together to foster and provide education and training for mental health professionals in group psychotherapy across Canada. Furthermore, CGPA aims to encourage research in group psychotherapy; to set national standards for quality in training, practice and research; and to gather together group therapists from various disciplines in a spirit of professional development and mutual learning.

Our annual conference took place October 19 to 21 in Toronto, and was accredited by the American Medical Association, the European Union of Medical Specialists, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. We see this accreditation as important as a way to give value to the people south of border to make a trip to our conferences. We will try to carry this forward for future conferences.

Our Sunday night seminars are now free for members and non-members. We encourage Division 49 Members to call into our seminars for free, check out our listing online for the schedule:

We are excited about our recently launched mentorship program in which our senior members are able to support and be a guiding light to our junior and student members. You might hear more about this in an upcoming Notes from the North column.

Let me close with a bit of a discussion how our process groups at conferences might differ from ones that you might be used to. In our groups in general, we tend to be less confrontational and less passionately engaged. We tend to be more accepting and more gentle with each others’ differences and we value tolerance and forgiveness a little more than our southern members might have experienced elsewhere. This I feel is both our strength and our weakness. 🙂