We are pleased to introduce the Division 49 mentorship program! The program was created based on requests from Division 49 student members and is intended to help the next generation of group psychologists enhance their training and professional development and ultimately to help the division and the field grow stronger. We accept applications on a rolling basis and will make every effort to match mentorship pairs as suitable matches become available. We welcome mentees in any stage of graduate training or early career, within the first three years of graduation. We welcome mentor applications from anyone who has obtained their doctoral degree and has some demonstrated expertise in group psychology and/or group psychotherapy. Early career psychologists, do not underestimate what you have to offer!
Provide your mentee an email address or phone number where they could contact you to ask questions related to professional development (coursework, future employment, practicum, training experiences, etc.) as needed
Be accessible to have for a face-to-face meeting (lunch, dinner, coffee) with the mentee 1-2x per year, such as at APA, and/or meet through another means, such as phone, email, or Skype
Assist mentee in networking and meeting with other professionals and/or students in Division 49 or APA at large. This could occur at the Division 49 social and/or other events
Commit to a one-year mentorship relationship
Refrain from entering into a supervisory relationship with your mentee
Respond to mentee challenges and follow grievance procedures, as appropriate
Maintain Division 49 member status
Contact your mentor as needed to ask questions related to professional development (coursework, future employment, practicum, training experiences, etc.)
Be accessible to have for a face-to-face meeting (lunch, dinner, coffee) with your mentor 1-2x per year, such as at APA, and/or meet through another means, such as phone, email, or Skype
If attending APA, network with your mentor to meet with other professionals and/or students in Division 49 or APA at large. This could occur at the Division 49 social and/or other events
Commit to a one-year mentorship relationship. After this point, you could exit the mentorship program or ask to be connected with another mentor to gain broad exposure to professionals in the field
Avoid entering into a supervisory relationship with your mentor by refraining from discussing any client concerns with your mentor
Maintain Division 49 student member status
Thanks to the AGPA CC-SIG for their model of a successful mentorship program, from which some of these materials were adapted.
Please complete the following questions and submit your application to the mentorship director, Rosamond Smith email@example.com. Applications for both mentors and mentees will be taken on a rolling basis, and as such, we will try to match mentees as soon as possible.
Graduate program and date:
License and date:
Current employer and title:
Current group research (if applicable):
Current groups leading (if applicable):
What do you think you have to offer a mentee? If you are interested specifically in research collaboration with a mentee, please list that here.
Do you have preferences about the stage of training or development of your mentee? (If so, please list.)
Do you have any other preferences regarding your mentee?
Graduate university and program:
Year in program or graduation date:
Current employer and title (including clinical practicum experience):
Career goals (generally):
Current group research (if applicable):
Current groups leading (if applicable):
What are you looking for from a mentor? If you are interested specifically in research collaboration with a mentee, please list that here.
Are you looking for a mentor involved primarily in practice or academia?
Do you have preferences about the stage of career of your mentor? (If so, please list.)
Do you have any other preferences for your mentor?
I’m taking a chance here. Most of these reports from the ECP Task Force have been simply a report of our activity for the past six months. When I looked at the last one, I wondered, “How many people actually read it?” And if no one reads it, why am I writing? Perhaps this reveals to you more about me than I actually intend: my worry about wasted work, energy, and for my voice to be wasted.
I’ve asked myself, “What would I want to read if I was not a part of the Division 49 ECP Task Force? What would matter to me?” During my first APA Annual Meeting, I wanted to find my place within a large organization and feel like what I did mattered. My friend and I sat on a rooftop at APA in DC and talked with a senior psychologist. She was impressive! I loved her stories about the history of APA and it seemed like she was involved through it all. She talked about APA like it was her professional home for many decades and there would be nothing that stopped her from attending annual meetings.
When asked how she got so involved, she encouraged my friend and I to show up to meetings, volunteer for a project, and deliver on that promise. This is the advice I want to pass to other ECPs who are reading this column and wondering how to fit into APA and make their voice heard. Here I must confess, my fear is for my voice to not matter or to be irrelevant. I would like to have a say, no matter how small, in the events to come. Things might not work out the way I want, but I still want to have a voice in the process.
If you share my fear or have some other internal motivation to become involved, I say to you: “Show up to that meeting, volunteer for projects, and deliver.” It’s that easy.
Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Diversity Column
The Diversity Committee met in the Division 49 Hospitality Suite at the annual American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, DC. The Committee has several initiatives we will be focusing on in the coming year:
First, we hope to develop a webinar series focused on diversity and social justice in group. If there are specific topics related to diversity and social justice in group you would like to see covered in a webinar, please let us know! You can send ideas to Joe Miles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the Committee is working together with our Program Chair, Debra O’Connell, to develop a Diversity and Social Justice in Group Poster Session at the 2018 APA Convention. This will be a second poster session, in addition to our usual poster session, and will give us the opportunity to highlight posters that specifically present research, clinical practice, or advocacy efforts aimed at promoting diversity and social justice in group work. Student Poster Awards will be given to the top three posters (in addition to the student poster awards given in the general poster session). Cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 for the first, second, and third place, respectively! Posters should be submitted and will be reviewed following the standard procedures for poster submissions. Authors should indicate in their proposal that the poster is to be considered for the Diversity and Social Justice in Group Poster Session. The deadline for proposal submissions is 5:00 PM ET on Thursday, December 1, 2017. More information on how to submit proposals can be found in the APA Call for Proposals: http://www.apa.org/convention/proposals.aspx.
The Committee also hopes to develop a Diversity and Social Justice in Group section of the Division 49 Website. We envision this section as a place to highlight research related to diversity and social justice in group, and to share resources (e.g., syllabi, articles, guidelines). If you have ideas about what you might like to see in this section of the website, or if you have resources or other material you would like to share, please let us know!
Finally, the Committee is excited to welcome our new Chair, Nikki Coleman, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology in the Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences at the University of Houston. Dr. Coleman is also the incoming Member-at-Large for Diversity for the Board of Division 49. Welcome, Dr. Coleman!
Cognitive Experiential Group Therapy: A model for a variety of clinical and college counseling settings
Thomas Treadwell Ed.D., CGP, Deborah Dartnell, MA, MSOD, Ainsley Stenroos, MA, & Brittni Gettys, BA
Cognitive Experiential Group therapy is a powerful tool for growth and change. This model of group therapy is designed to include 10-12 individuals who meet face to face to share their struggles and concerns with 1-2 trained cognitive experiential group therapists. The power lies in the unique opportunity to experience, warming up, action, and sharing in a group environment allowing multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in safe and confidential environment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was established by Aaron T. Beck (1967, 1979), and involves several techniques to challenge negative thought patterns and increase engagement in positive and success-based experiences. Psychodrama group therapy was created based on work by Jacob. L. Moreno (1953), and involves experiential, interpersonal exercises to raise awareness and reduction of internal conflicts in order to change negative relational patterns. Although CBT is a robust, proven, and very effective treatment approach for many mental disorders, including the big ones like depression and anxiety it is sometimes criticized for being overly structured and intellectually oriented (Young & Klosko, 1994; 1996; Woolfolk, 2000). As a result, some group therapists today use an approach based upon CBT or identify with a less structured approach called eclectic (Kellerman, 1992) that typically employs techniques that come from cognitive behavioral therapy and its related research. Beck reports, “My employment of enactive, emotive strategies was influenced, no doubt, by psychodrama and Gestalt therapy” (A. Beck, 1991, p.196). Psychodrama is an eclectic tool to enhance the cognitive and behavioral change. Several practitioners have worked to integrate CBT into the Psychodramatic model by highlighting the ways CBT enhances psychodrama exercises (Boury, Treadwell, & Kumar, 2001, Treadwell, Kumar, & Wright 2004), adapting psychodrama to include the exploration of irrational beliefs (Kipper, 2002), and considering the way in which psychodrama could be considered a form of CBT (Baim, 2007; Fisher, 2007; Treadwell, Travaglini, Reisch, & Kumar, 2011; Wilson, 2009). The blending of the two models yields a complementary approach to multiple problem-solving strategies (Treadwell, Kumar, & Wright 2004):
Both the CBT and Psychodrama models stress the discovery process through Socratic questioning. The use of certain structured CBT techniques within the context of psychodrama provide ways to deepen self-reflection, problem-solving, and mood-regulation skills that can be rehearsed through psychodrama exercises.
Experiential role playing can provide individuals with opportunities to generate new ways of thinking and behaving. The spontaneity and creativity of individuals can be increased through the use of psychodrama techniques, thus helping to produce alternative thoughts.
Cognitive Experiential Group Therapy (CEGT) is an effective model for working with a variety of clinical and nonclinical populations. The model incorporates cognitive behavioral and psychodrama interventions, allowing group members to identify and modify negative thinking, behavior, and interpersonal patterns while increasing engagement in positive and success-based experiences (Treadwell, Dartnell, Travaglini, Staats & Devinney, 2016). The CEGT environment creates a safe and supportive climate where clients can practice new thinking and behaviors and share their concerns freely with group members (Treadwell, Kumar, & Wright, 2004).
Initially, all members are assessed using various instruments to establish the nature and severity of presenting issues and to uncover other relevant information. The first one or two sessions are devoted to establishing group norms, explaining Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and schemas, and describing the session format. The initial didactic sessions are intended to explain the group format as a problem-solving approach for working through various interpersonal, occupational, educational, psychological, and health-related conflicts. The sessions include information about the nature of the structured activities so participants have realistic expectations about how the group will run. Each group member signs informed consent and audiovisual recording consent forms. The audiovisual recordings create an ongoing record of group activities and serve as a source for feedback when needed. The action model is introduced in session one, with the director/facilitator, introducing the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) (Beck, 1988; Beck& Steer, 1993; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996), and explains the importance of completing each scale on a weekly basis. The instruments are administered before the start of each session and are stored in personal folders to serve as an ongoing gauge of participants’ progress within the group (Treadwell, Kumar, & Wright, 2008).
In the second session, additional data on early maladaptive and dysfunctional schemas/core beliefs are obtained when group members complete Young’s (Young, Klosko, & Weishaar, 2003; Young & Klosko, 1994; Young, 1999) schema questionnaire. A list and the definitions of dysfunctional schemas and core beliefs are given to participants during the initial session (Treadwell, Kumar, & Wright, 2008). Additionally, we administer the Therapeutic Factors Inventory (TFI) to identify four dimensions of group progress (Joyce, MacNair-Semands, Tasca, & Ogrodniczuk, (2011) during week 2, week 8, and week 16.
Each group session in CEGT is divided into three sections typically found in psychodramatic interventions: warm-up; action; and sharing (Moreno, 1934). Many CBT techniques (Beck, 2011) are utilized in the warm-up, including: identifying upsetting situations, automatic negative thoughts and triggered moods; writing balanced thoughts to counter negative automatic thoughts; and recognizing distortions in thinking and imprecise interpretations of difficult situations. The second portion, action, employs psychodramatic techniques such as role-playing, role-reversal, and mirroring, which facilitate the examination of various conflicting situations individuals experience within the group context. This enables group members to better understand the nature of negative thoughts triggered by situations and their effects on moods. The last stage, sharing, allows auxiliaries and group members to share their experiences with the protagonist. At this stage, the director may provide additional guidance to the protagonist regarding ways to begin resolving the actual situation in real life. Normally, the protagonist will be asked to complete a homework assignment that will be reviewed at the next session.
The Automatic Thought Record (ATR) (Greenberger& Padaskey, 1995,2015) is explained and demonstrated on a white board during warm-up. Socratic questioning is utilized to improve their awareness of irrational thoughts, (negative automatic thinking), that allows them to consciously question their own irrational thoughts. A group member volunteers his/her situation and facilitators walk the person through the seven columns. This individual is referred to as the protagonist.
The protagonist, selects a group member, to be her double. The double communicates thoughts and feelings the protagonist is having but cannot express. If the protagonist is agitated, she may have some difficulty getting into the psychodrama; in this case, the soliloquy technique would be helpful. Implementing soliloquy technique, the protagonist walks around the room, thinking aloud, expressing concerns, discomfort, and hopes, allowing her to relax, focus, and prepare for the psychodrama. This is also useful in helping other group members focus on the upcoming action phase. The double walks with her, expressing thoughts he assumes she is thinking but not expressing. Doubling, modeling, and role-training are crucial in learning how to get unstuck from repeated negative behavioral patterns. Many protagonists are anxious when learning a new role; therefore, it is important to support them as they try it “on for size” in session.
At the end of the psychodrama, group members share and discuss what occurred, commenting on their experience playing a particular role or on how the situation affected them. Sharing is critical both for the protagonist and for each of the group members as they reflect, share, and learn from each other. Sharing is a fundamental component in enhancing group cohesion. During the sharing stage, assigning homework to the protagonist is essential, as it encourages the continuation of work on the new role explored in the session. Role development needs practice for habituation to take place and to move the protagonist to feel safe in her new role.
Utilizing principles of CBT and psychodrama create a powerful and effective group process, enabling participants to address problematic situations with the support of group members. Clients find CBT helpful in becoming aware of their habitual dysfunctional thought patterns and belief systems that play an important role in mood regulation; the action component allows them to actually see and feel the dysfunction. The cognitive experiential approach enables the individual and group to explore events, concerns, or issues, both problematic and fulfilling, in the past, present, or future.
As an aside, we will be offering this as an all-day workshop at the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) Conference “Connections”, Houston Texas, March – 2018
Baim, C. (2007). Are you a cognitive psychodramatist? British Journal of Psychodrama and Sociodrama, 22(2), 23–31
Beck, A.T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Hoeber. Republished as Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: The Guilford Press.
Beck, A. T. (1991). Cognitive therapy as the integrative therapy. Journal of Psychotherapy
Integration, 1 (3), 191-198.
Beck, J.S. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Boury, M., Treadwell, T., & Kumar, V. K. (2001). Integrating psychodrama and cognitive therapy: An exploratory study. International Journal of Action Methods: Psychodrama, Skill Training, and Role Playing.54 (1), pp 13–25.
Fisher, J. (2007). Congenial alliance: Synergies in cognitive and psychodramatic therapies. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. 1 (4), 237-242.
Greenberger, D. & Padesky, C. (2015). Mind over mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Joyce, A.S., MacNair-Semands, R., Tasca, G.A., & Ogrodniczuk, J.S. (2011). Factor structure and validity of the Therapeutic Factors Inventory – Short Form. Group Dynamics, 15(3), 201-219.
Moreno, J. L. (1934). Who shall survive? A new approach to the problem of human interrelations. Washington, DC: Nervous & Mental Disease Publishing Co.
Treadwell, T., Kumar, V.K & Wright, J. (2004). Enriching psychodrama via the use of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama, & Sociometry,55, 55-65.
Treadwell, T., Travaglini, L., Reisch, E., & Kumar, V.K. (2011). The effectiveness of collaborative story building and telling in facilitating group cohesion in a college classroom setting. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 61 (4), 502-517.
Treadwell, T., Dartnell, D., Travaglini L., Staats, M., & Devinney, K. (2016). Group therapy workbook: Integrating cognitive behavioral therapy with psychodramatic theory and practice. Parker, Colorado: Outskirts Press Publishing.
Wilson, J. (2009). An introduction to psychodrama for CBT practitioners. Journal of the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists, 19, 4–7.
Young, J. E., & Klosko, J. S. (1994). Reinventing your life. New York: Plume.
Young, J.E., Klosko, J.S., & Weishaar, M. (2003). Schema therapy: A practitioner’s guide.New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Young, J. E. (1999) Cognitive therapy for personality disorders: A schema-focused approach. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resources Press.
Woolfolk, R. (2000).Cognition and emotion in counseling and psychotherapy. Practical Philosophy.3(3), 19–27.
Division 49 Members: Proposals for APA Programming
As programming chair for the convention, I am excited to be part of the planning of what is sure to be another exciting Division 49 program! We wanted to alert you to upcoming opportunities to submit group psychology and group psychotherapy proposals.
Throughout the year, there will be several opportunities to submit proposals for programming at the convention. The next approaching deadline is for submissions of APA Continuing Education (CE) Workshop Proposals. For more information on CE Workshop proposals, please see http://www.apa.org/convention/convention-proposals.pdf. CE Workshop proposals are due by Nov. 14th.
The next submission deadline is for Division Individual and Program Proposals. Division 49 welcomes submissions of the following types of proposals: posters, symposia, and skill building sessions. Additionally, there will be a special emphasis on diversity for one of our poster sessions. For more information on Division proposals, please see http://www.apa.org/convention/convention-proposals.pdf. Division proposals are due by Dec. 1.
I am excited to announce that the Division 49 board has decided to have a special poster session on Diversity and Social Justice in Group at the APA Convention 2018 in San Francisco, CA. This will be in addition to our regular poster session. Click here for a flyer with more information on the poster session, and submission details. There will be cash prizes to the top three student poster submissions. The deadline for submission is December 1st, 2017 at 5pm EST. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Lastly, APA Film Festival proposals are due by Dec. 22.
Please feel free to contact Division 49’s Program Chairs for the 2018 convention, Martin Kivlighan & Debra O’Connell (email@example.com) with any questions or requests.
We look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco, CA for the 2018 APA Convention!
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.
The past several months witnessed a range of natural disasters, from hurricanes, to earthquakes, to the recent wildfires. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by these events. These disasters are traumatic for those living both near and those connected to the communities who might be living far away. They have a number of long-term consequences on a given community. Yet after each disaster, stories start emerging of neighbors, small groups, and emergency personnel who offer tireless services and come together in service to others. As a famous quote from Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) highlighted, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”. When we wear our group hats, we notice that he stated the plural, helpers, not the singular, helper. Helpers are often able to do their best work because of their working in a group. Imagine what one lone firefighter is able to do, yet when they are working as a team, the complementarity and synergy from roles and responsibilities allows a much greater response.
We hope this issue of The Group Psychologist lets you see how many of our authors wear their “group hats”. This issue provides a range of thought provoking topics, from reflecting on the dynamics present in an NFL team (sneak preview: “a nice demonstration of why group managers need to balance interpersonal relations with task focus”), to pointing out how group research techniques have caught up to what group practitioners have been seeing (sneak preview: taking into account the impact of the group on the individual), and encouraging Society members to participate in our new Mentoring Program (for questions, contact the mentorship director, Rosamond Smith firstname.lastname@example.org).
We especially want to highlight this last program, the new Mentoring program developed by the Student Committee. The responsibilities for a mentor are as follows:
Provide your mentee an email address or phone number where you can be contacted to answer questions related to professional development (e.g., coursework, future employment, practicum, training experiences, etc.), as needed.
Be accessible to have a face-to- face meeting (e.g., lunch, dinner, coffee) with the mentee one to two times per year, such as at APA or convention and/or be available to meet through another means, such as by phone, email or Skype.
Assist mentee in networking and meeting with other professionals and/or students in Div. 49 or APA at large. This networking could occur at the Div. 49 social and/or other events.
Commit to a one-year mentorship relationship.
Refrain from entering into a supervisory relationship with your mentee.
Respond to mentee challenges and follow grievance procedures, as appropriate.
Maintain Division 49-member status.
We hope you’ll consider becoming a mentee to one of our fabulous students! The application form is here: http://www.apadivisions.org/division-49/membership/mentor-program.aspx.
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.
Kneeling, Disharmony, and Group CohesionAt this point, most Americans, and many who live outside of the United States, know that the National Football League is embroiled in a controversy surrounding players who choose not to stand during the playing of the national anthem. The goal of this column is not to provide yet another analysis of the situation and subsequent appeal for each side to tolerate the other, but rather to take more micro focus on the impact of the controversy on the individual teams. What has transpired provides a useful demonstration of the dynamics of group cohesion and harmony, and raises questions about how well groups of experts can overcome disharmony.
My focal point is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had a well-publicized snafu regarding how the players chose to handle the anthem. Before a game in Chicago, they decided as a team to stay in the tunnel and not come out until after the song was over. In this way, no one would have to reveal on which side of the debate he fell. However, one player, offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, was out on the field looking around when the anthem began. A former soldier, Villanueva felt it disrespectful to walk away while the song was playing, so he stood, alone, at the entrance to the field. The rest of the team joined him after the ceremony was over. His actions misinterpreted as a protest against his teammates, and his statement at the post-game press conference, that he does not consider kneeling an affront to the armed forces, largely ignored, the team became a flashpoint for the issue, and internal dissensions appeared. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that he did not agree with the team staying in the tunnel, and wished he had not gone along with the plan. Linebacker James Harrison expressed surprise that not everyone agreed with the plan, as he had been given to understand. Offensive lineman David DeCastro and defensive lineman Cam Heyward each said that they had spoken with Villanueva to confirm that he was not trying to show up his teammates. As a result of all of this, many observers expected the Steelers to struggle in succeeding weeks. How can a team succeed if there are factions among the members? In fact, as of this writing, three weeks after the incident in Chicago, the Steelers have not crumbled, sit in first place in their division, have the second-best record in their conference, and in their most recent game beat the only undefeated team left in the league.
This episode provides a nice demonstration of why group managers need to balance interpersonal relations with task focus. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has not melded the players’ differing viewpoints on Chicago, but rather has oriented them toward the task at hand, reminding them that they are professionals who need to work together to accomplish the task that they were brought together to perform. While the players can differ in the locker room on the propriety of kneeling, when on the field all of that needs to be set aside so that the job can be done. This makes me think of Fred Fiedler’s contingency model of leadership, which (among many other things) argues that certain situations require a leader whose focus is on interpersonal relations, while other situations require a leader whose focus is on task needs. An example of the latter situation is one in which each group member has a structured, defined role and needs to know what to do to fulfill that role. If successful collective performance offers the possibility of recognition, typically in the form of raises, promotions, and awards, and if group members feel the leader is moving the group is moving toward success, interpersonal disharmony will usually have little impact on the group. This example clearly fits a sports team, and right now, the Steelers are moving toward successful task completion. Thus, the Chicago controversy does not seem to have caused problems for the team.
While I would never argue that interpersonal relations within a group are always secondary—I am, after an interpersonal relations researcher—I think that we sometimes get too focused on the relational dynamic at the expense of task needs. It is good counsel for a group leader to analyze what the situation demands and act accordingly. Of late I seem to have been on far too many committees in which a major focus has been on making sure everyone gets to hang an ornament on the Christmas tree and no one feels unhappy with anyone else. What the Steelers, or the 1970’s Oakland Athletics baseball team (three consecutive World Series titles despite regular fights between players in the dugout), or Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” cabinet show us is that people who might not care for each other can and will pool their efforts and produce at a high level if the situation demands that they do so.
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.