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2016 Group Summit West Coast

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

From Isolation to Connection: Building Community through Groups

Oregon State University

College counseling centers are a prime setting for group psychotherapy due to the germane nature of social connection within the undergraduate or graduate student experience. As a result of academic demands and an increase in social media, face to face vulnerability is limited, though no less needed or desired by students. The focus of the summit, from isolation to connection speaks to the power of groups that occurs as a result of numerous group themes that include interpersonal process, gender transitions, racial/cultural identity, and trauma empowerment and recovery, to name just a few. Although the demand for groups (support, therapy, psychoeducation) is very high, therapists are not always highly trained within college counseling centers to provide group psychotherapy as an effective modality of treatment.

The Annual Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association is the model training experience for group psychotherapists. Fellow group psychotherapists, Josh Gross, PhD, ABPP, CGP, FAGPA from Florida State University, Tallahassee and Anne Slocum McEneaney, PhD, CGP, FAGPA from New York University identified a need for therapists who work within the college counseling center environment to have a professional home within this larger organization. Thus, a special interest group (SIG), College Counseling Centers and Other Educational Settings, was established around 2004. To learn more about the SIG, visit Because these leaders, in the field of college counseling inspired growth of early career psychologists, budding group enthusiasts collaborated on an idea to create a professional development that would also contain an experiential training institute coupled with conference style break-out sessions. Hence the Group Summit was born.

The Group Summit was first established for college counseling centers to provide a unique training experience for therapists who facilitate groups in this setting. University of Pittsburgh, under the leadership of Tevya Zukor, PhD, CGP and Kevin Shephard, PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill ventured to create this unique experience in 2012. Dr. Zukor has hosted a total of four group summits, with the latest one offered at the College of Mary Washington. However; since travel from one coast to another can be costly and difficult; two group psychotherapists, Emi Sumida, PhD and Michele Ribeiro, EdD, CGP collaborated to create the first Group Summit West, to expand training for therapists on the west coast.

On October 16th & 17th 2015, Counseling and Psychological Services at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, hosted the first Group Summit West to expand group psychotherapy training in college counseling centers for the west coast. The goal of the summit was to provide an affordable yet impactful training experience to expand the knowledge and skills of group psychotherapy within the college counseling center environment. The Group Summit West hosted psychology trainees and therapists from Iowa, Arizona, southern and northern California, Washington State and Oregon, which demonstrates the need for this type of regional training.   Borrowing from our predecessors, the Group Summit provided three training offerings. The first experience involved a one day training institute where therapists indulged in the experience of being a group participant. Cindy Aron Miller, LCSW, CGP, FAGPA; Sophia Aguirre, PhD, CGP & Tevya Zukor, PhD, CGP; and Carlos Taloyo, PhD provided an in-depth exploration of psychodynamics including stages of group development, attachment, belonging, envy, scapegoating and whatever else arose in the safety of the group. A second day of breakout sessions followed the first day and included group training on various topics such as grief, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and recovery as well as various identity topics including transgender and multi-racial students.  A second option of the summit involved a two day principles of group psychotherapy course that met the basic educational requirements for a certification in group psychotherapy. Although twelve CEUs were an important outcome of the program, networking opportunities particularly for trainees and therapists, working in college counseling centers, seemed to be the highlight for all who attended. Interested in the next Group Therapy Summit? Consider joining Division 49’s listserv to learn more about this training and many more upcoming offerings including at next year’s Annual Convention.