President’s Column

Craig Parks, PhD
Craig Parks, Ph.D.

Difficult Times and What To Do About It, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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


President’s Column

Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.
Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.

We had a wonderfully successful 2015 APA convention in Toronto, thanks in large parts to our convention program team: Drs. Joe Miles, Jill Paquin and Norah Chapman. Also special thanks to Dr. Leann Diederich who put together a wonderful presidential reception taking over from our longtime hosts Dr. Kathy and John Ritter. My personal highlights from the convention were Dr. Zipora Shechtman’s Arthur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year address, Dr. Molyn Leszcz’s invited address and our first ever Fellows addresses given by Drs. Rex Stockton, Andy Horne and Don Forsythe.

For those of you who missed my presidential address (with apologies to those who already heard it) I want to summarize some of the points I made in my address: Are We the Division of Group Psychology AND Group Psychotherapy or the Division of Group Psychology OR Group Psychotherapy? One way to begin to answer this question is to look at some of the statistics about the division.

Who are we? Seventy-two percent of the members of Division 49 are health service providers, therefore the division membership skews toward Group Psychotherapy. With the current round of Fellowship elections, Division 49 has 70 Fellows with, 82% of these fellows being primarily identified with Group Psychotherapy. So again the Fellows skew toward the Group Psychotherapy. The division has elected 26 presidents through 2017, of these 88% are identified with Group Psychotherapy. Again a tilt toward the Group Psychotherapy aspect of the division.

Who do we recognize? The division has 23 Arthur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year awardees, of these 74% represent the Group Psychology aspect of the division. Therefore, our lifetime achievement award mirrors the membership proportion of the division and can be consider as perhaps balanced between the Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy aspects of the division.   Finally, there have been 22 Moreland Dissertation award winners and 100% of these represent Group Psychology.

So: Are we the Division of Group Psychology AND Group Psychotherapy or are we the Division of Group Psychology OR Group Psychotherapy? I think that we have work to do to make sure that we are the Division of Group Psychology AND Group Psychotherapy. This is important work because our strength, as a Society is the integration of basic and applied understandings of group. In my opinion this integration has to start with the leadership of the Society. Therefore, I think we need to explore new ways of constituting our Society leadership. For example, Division 29 (Psychotherapy) has several domains (Social Justice & Public Policy, Science & Scholarship, Professional Practice, Professional Practice, Membership, Education & Training, Early Career and Diversity) and board members are elected to represent these different domains. Using domains, Division 29 assures that various interests will be represented at the table. We may want to consider a similar arrangements to make sure that specific interests are represented in Division 49’s Board.


President’s Column

Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.
Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.

As I write this column I am looking forward to the APA convention in Toronto; where we will meet again to conduct the business of our society, have the opportunity to learn about the cutting edge research and practice in group psychology and group psychotherapy, and have the opportunity to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances.  As always it will be a productive, fun and thought provoking meeting. As you will see elsewhere in this newsletter Drs. Joe Miles, Jill Paquin and Norah Slone have put together a wonderful program. Below I want to highlight three of the many significant programs that the Division is sponsoring.

One of the many wonderful opportunities that the division president has is the chance to ask a prominent group psychologist or group psychotherapist to present an invited address at the convention. I am very excited that Dr. Molyn Leszcz, MD, FRCPC has agreed to give an Invited Address titled: Achieving and Sustaining Group Therapist Effectiveness (1:00pm, in Room 201B of the Convention Center). In addition Dr. Leszcz will participate in a Conversation Hour, which will start at approximately 2:15 PM in the Division Suite. As many of you know Dr. Yalom and Lesczc’s book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy is the “bible” for group theorists, researchers and practitioners. I have gotten to know Dr. Leszcz over the years through his impressive theoretical writings and empirical research. Last year, however, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and observe Dr. Leszcz co-leading a therapy group. Not only is Dr. Leszcz a wonderful writer and researcher but he is also an astute group therapists and marvelous teacher. I know that those in attendance will be informed, challenged and inspired by Dr. Lesczc’s address.

I am also pleased that Dr. Zipora Shechtman is this year’s recipient of the Arthur Teicher Group Psychologist the Year Award. Her address titled: Lessons Learned from Research on Outcomes and Processes of Children/Adolescence Group Psychotherapy” will be delivered on Thursday August 6th from 2:00 PM – 2:50 PM in the Convention Centre Room 705. I first became aware of Dr. Shechtman’s work when I was editor of Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice and she submitted a brilliant manuscript examining therapeutic factors in groups for aggressive boys. Since that first article, Dr. Schechtman has gone on to be one of the most prolific contributors to Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice. Dr. Shechtman is clearly the leading researcher on child and adolescent group therapy. I am looking forward to learning from her wealth of empirical and clinical experience in this area.

If you read my column in the last newsletter, you already know that we are having our first ever Fellow’s Addresses. We will have total of four newly elected Fellows and previously elected Fellows giving their addresses. These talks will be videotaped and archived by the division. Over time we will accumulate a series of talks from Fellows who are at the forefront of research and practice in Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. I am very excited about this new Divisional tradition and I hope that a lot of you will attend this inaugural event.


Presidents Column

Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.
Dennis Kivlighan, Ph.D.

I have been thinking a lot about rituals recently. I was fortunate to receive a Fulbright Award to teach and do research at the Università degli Studi di Palermo (University of Palermo) in Sicily. I have been here since January and will stay through early May. It is a wonderful experience for me both professionally and personally. My hosts, group psychotherapy researchers, have been very welcoming and inclusive. However, I always feel a little out of sync, I do not speak Italian and all of the people and surroundings are unfamiliar. This unfamiliarity is a double-edged sword; it makes everything new and exciting and simultaneously disorienting.

The one time and place, while I am here, that I do not feel quite so disoriented is when I attend Sunday morning service at Palermo’s Anglican Church. I am what American Anglicans call a cradled Episcopalian; meaning that I was raised in the Episcopalian tradition. Therefore I am deeply steeped in the rituals of the Anglican service. My favorite ritual is when the priest leaves the altar and comes into the midst of the congregation to share the Gospel; it is when I feel the most connected and a part of something bigger. Being far away from home and surrounded by unfamiliarity has made me appreciate the importance of the familiar rituals in my life. The familiar rituals give me a sense of connection and belonging in an unfamiliar place.

In his chapter on Cohesion and Development, Don Forsyth reprints Donald F. Roy’s description of “Banana Time”, social rituals that a turned a menial and repetitive job into cohesive group experience for fabrication workers. Roy says that all cohesive groups have rituals that “provide structure and meaning for the group and its members.”

Professional organizations also have rituals that increase commitment and cohesion among their members. I was first introduced to the power of rituals in professional organizations as a young assistant professor at the University of Missouri. I had never attended an APA convention as a graduate student or in my first jobs as a psychologist working in university counseling centers. My Department Chair and mentor at Missouri, Mike Patton, however, was very involved in APA’s Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) and was a consistent APA attender. Mike encouraged me (insisted, demanded) to start attending APA and the Division 17 functions. At my first APA convention, Mike dragged me to Division 17’s Leona Tyler address and the Division 17 Fellow’s Talks. The Fellow’s Talks that I listened to were inspiring, touching, funny, informative, challenging and personal. The Division 17 Fellow’s Talks quickly became an important ritual for me; I have tried to go these talks at every APA Convention that I have attended. Whenever I go to one of the Fellow’s Talks I feel more connected to, and proud to be a member of Division 17.

Division 49 also has its important rituals, but as a “younger” division, not as many rituals as the more established divisions. A number of people have told me how important our annual social is in terms of their connection with and commitment to our Division. The Authur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year Award Talk is another important ritual for our Division. This award talks gives us a chance to come together as a community to celebrate excellence in group research and practice and to affirm our common identity. I really encourage everyone who will be at this year’s APA Convention in Toronto to attend this year’s Authur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year Award Talk to affirm and celebrate you connection to the Division and to Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy.

As a newer division, we have not had an established ritual to recognize and celebrate our Division Fellows. THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE! At this year’s APA convention we will have our first Annual Division 49 Fellow’s Talks. For our Annual Fellow’s Talks our newly elected Fellows and some of our previously elected Fellows will give talks about their connections with and contributions to Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy. Please put these Fellow’s Talks on your convention calendar and plan help us develop another important ritual for the Division. Stayed tuned-in to these columns because I will have more to say about our newly initiated Fellow’s talks in my next column.


Presidents Column

Lee Gillis, Ph.D.
Lee Gillis, Ph.D.

It is so great to be part of a good group.  That describes our Society – a functioning group.  This year’s convention demonstrated how well we function from the work of Drs Jill Paquin and Joe Miles in crafting an excellent program that attracted multiple APA attendees to hear papers, experience skill sessions and observe well crafted posters.  We ended the convention with one of our signature institution, our annual social event hosted by Kathy and John Ritter.  We are so thankful for their service to the Society and hosting all these years.

Your Board has been a functioning group too.  We have not been afraid to debate issues important to members – to gather data – to make recommendations and to explore ways to invest our resources in ways that will benefit the Society in the long run.

Below I have highlighted the initiatives of my presidential year with an update on progress.  None of these initiatives could have been accomplished without the involvement of your Board members as well as committee chairs and their respective members.

Theme Connecting to the group experience
Initiatives for 2014 November 14 Update
Face of society
  • Embrace and utilize social networking connections to promote our publications, website and increase our visibility within APA and beyond
  • With Board approval and exceptional leadership of Secretary Dr. Jen Alonso, Social networking on Face book, Google+, and Linked In has increased astronomically
  • Connect the people who publish in the Journal with those who present at the Convention and write for the Newsletter – be relevant to both psychology and psychotherapy.
  • Promote ECPs everywhere throughout the Division.
  • Help undergraduates connect to group psychology & group psychotherapy graduate programs
  • In progress as we consider proposals from two groups on who will publish Group Dynamics for the next ten years.  Ongoing discussions on the need for and the feasibility of a second journal focused on group practice
  • Have appointed ECPs to APA committees where possible: Dr. Paquin to Committee on Women in Psychology and Dr. Diederich as liaison to the Board of Professional Affairs
  • Finding ways to communicate to undergraduate psychology majors and those who teach them on opportunities for studying and practicing group psychology and group psychotherapy.
Member benefits
  • Google+ Hangouts, Face book Group, Topic based phone discussions, Newsletter, Journal, APA Communities – places to share idea and connect with like-minded professionals.
  • Successes attributed to Secretary Dr. Alonso, TGP editor Dr. Treadwell, Membership Director Dr. Diederich, and Program Chairs Dr. Paquin & Dr. Miles
  • Recognition of Board members for outstanding service
  • Ensure that Policy manual is an accurate representation of what we do and when we do it; and that the manual is connected to the Bylaws.
  • In progress needing support from all board members
  • Making more connections among Divisions within APA; Being involved on APA committees that matter to our members.
  • Success attributed to Program chairs Drs Palquin and Miles as well as Drs Diederich and Paquin


In my Presidential address I discussed how APA Undergraduate Guidelines  offer learning objectives that focus on teamwork.  I issued a call for all of us to help those who teach undergraduates understand the need for helping groups establish norms and boundaries of acceptable behavior.  We are the experts here and have much to offer our colleagues who might not understand the power of a small group experience.  We know that power can be very positive in a well functioning group and destructive when a group falls into negative behaviors.  Too often I hear from my student’s horror stories of group experiences run amuck.  Many of these bad experiences could have been avoided had the professors set up some basic guidelines for operating in a group.  Help your colleagues understand how effective groups can be.

In the discussion following the address, many shared how other majors and programs outside of psychology were seeking group classes for their students.  We heard examples of pharmacy students, information technology students, engineering students, and medical students all in need of learning what many of us teach – good group skills.  Look for opportunities in your circles of influence to offer group skills where needed.

Graduate training in group psychology and psychotherapy seems to be waning and this is a sad state of affairs.  Many of us know that group is not mentioned in APA’s Guidelines And Principles For Accreditation Of Programs In Professional Psychology.  We know what is not required is often not taught.  I urge members to work towards including group as an area of training for all professional psychologists.  We hear too often that doctoral students graduate with very little group training but are expected to conduct group sessions in their post-doctoral employment.  From the survey of Directors of Training, we know that group training is not emphasized to the same extent as individual.

We must rally our voices and support group training.  To that end, I want to applaud Dr. Nina Brown for her work on having Group recognized as a specialty.  We encourage and support Dr. Brown and the cross association team she has engaged to carry on with this important work.

Finally to the wonderful Board and supporting cast that I have had the pleasure of working with – I am truly grateful.  Drs Maria Riva, Dennis Kivlighan, Rebecca MacNair-Semands, Jennifer Alonso, Leanne Diederich, Rex Stockton, Joe Powers, and John Dagley – Thank you!  To Tom Treadwell, David Marcus, Cheri Marmaroush, Eric Chen, Jeanne Steffen, Jill Paquin, and Joe Miles – the Society could not have done this without you.

Thank you for a year I will not forget.  I pass the gavel in confidence to Dennis Kivlighan who has some grand plans.


President’s Column

Lee Gillis, PhD
Lee Gillis, Ph.D.

Lee Gillis, Ph.D.

As this is the preconvention column I’d like to begin by highlighting a few important events. We hope all of you will join us for the Arthur Teicher Group Psychologist of the Year address to be given by Dr. Les Greene. That event will take place on Saturday, August 9 at noon in the Convention Center. Dr. Green joins an illustrious group of previous winners and we’re looking forward to hearing his remarks.

We also have an invited address by Dr. Ruth Ellen Josselson that will take place on Thursday, August 7 at 2:00 in the Convention Center.

  • Numerous students and other division members will be presenting posters on Thursday at 1:00 in the Convention Center. We hope you can join us in this session as well as the other skills sessions and symposia that will presented at the annual convention. Dr. Jill Paquin and Dr. Joe Miles have done an exceptional job of putting together this year’s program.
  • Least I forget, the business meeting of the Society will be Friday afternoon at 3:00 in the Convention Center and our Annual Social will take place on Saturday 6:00-9:00 in the Division’s Suite. We have been confirmed for a suite in the Grand Hyatt Hotel. As in past years, the room number of the suite will be available at the convention.

Let me say how much I appreciate the work of your elected board members, our journal and newsletter editors, and the program chairs for the convention. This is been quite an active group for the past six months. They are serving you well!

Here is a short update on several of the initiatives that are taking place this year.

  • Firstly, working in collaboration with Sean Woodland, student representative; Rosamond Smith, student member; and Dr. Leann Diederich, membership chair. A survey was sent to Directors of Training in both clinical and counseling psychology programs to ascertain the importance placed on group. So far we have received 54 responses. Sixty three percent of those responding reported to provide a group specific class. Eighty one percent of those group classes were experiential; 60% involved rotating leadership, 52% utilized peer leadership. When asked about the value placed on various therapy modalities using a 10 point scale, individual therapy received a 9.65 compared with the group with a 5.84, family with a 5.7, and couples with a 4.95. These are all preliminary numbers. We plan to have a more complete report in the next TGP along with a listing those graduate programs that gave us permission to do so.
  • Secondly, at the Midwinter meeting the Board voted to support our secretary, Dr. Jennifer Alonso, to increase our visibility on social networking sites. She was authorized to oversee someone who would make regular postings to our Facebook group in order to increase the visibility of the society, especially among early career professionals and students. Anyone who “likes” the Facebook group for Society has seen a substantial uptick in daily postings! These postings are supplemented by “Wisdom on Wednesdays”, a project of our ECP group. Current plans are to expand posting to Google+, LinkedIn, and to use our Twitter account during the convention to keep members who wish to follow us abreast of events in the moment.
  • Thirdly, many of you responded to the survey requests asking your opinion of beginning a second journal. An ad hoc committee led by Dr. Joe Powers is conducting this work. This group is examining the results of the survey and will make a recommendation to the Board at the August meeting.
  • Again, I want to encourage interested members to explore the APA communities, the membership-only website, where we are storing current and archival information about the Division, including our current Bylaws, Policy manual, minutes, and budgets. There are other features on the site that may or may not be used in the future; for now it serves as excellent cloud storage for materials that heretofore have been stored on various board members computers or in storage boxes.

I do hope everyone’s summer is going well and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Convention in Washington or online. Do not hesitate to contact me at or 478-445-0865.