Group Psychotherapy Conference FAQ

  • Click on the blue tabs below to learn more about our conferences.
  • Conference dates, locations, and topics are below the FAQ box.
  • MAGPS Conferences offer a unique learning experience through large group meetings and dialogue, didactic information-sharing and demonstration, and small process group experiences.
  • Our goal is to provide a learning environment in which conference members can integrate a deeper understanding of the topical content and consider introducing new material into their work.
  • This conference is intended for psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, psychiatric nurses, and social workers.
  • MAGPS encourages attendance by students, interns, residents, and new professionals by offering reduced rates for first-time attendees.
  • Clarion Hotel & Conference Center
  • 233 Lowe Drive Shepherdstown, WV 25443
  • For a special rate of $99/night plus tax (12%), call 1-304-876-7000 to reserve your room by Wednesday 9/20 and mention MAGPS.
  • To ensure you receive a room at the hotel, please ask for Jennifer Tinsman by name when you are calling to reserve your room. Also, mention the MAGPS block rate.
  • Online registration is available by clicking here, or on the "Register Now!" button.
  • For more information please contact Victoria Lee & Liz Marsh, Membership Co-Chairs, at
  • Registration Deadline is Friday, October 13, 2017. No walk-in registrations will be accepted.
    • MAGPS Member $255
    • Non-member $355
    • 1st Time Attendee $215
    • New Professional $135
    • Student/Retiree $85
    • CEU Processing Fee $25
  • For assistance or to register by phone, contact a conference registrar: Victoria Lee at 443-741-2315 or Liz Marsh at 202-681-6189, or email
  • Cancellation Policy: Full refund less $25 if made by 10/13/2017; no refunds after that date.
white-square Friday, October 20, 2017
  • 5:30pm - 6:30pm Registration
  • 6:30pm - 6:45pm Welcome & Introductions
  • 6:45pm - 8:30pm Opening Plenary
  • 8:30pm - 10:00pm Reception
Saturday, October 21, 2017
  • 7:30am - 8:30am Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30am - 10:15am Plenary
  • 10:15am - 10:30am Break
  • 10:30am - 12:00pm Small Group #1
  • 12:00pm - 3:30pm Lunch & Break (on your own)
  • 3:30pm - 5:00pm Plenary, Large Group 2
  • 5:00pm - 5:15pm Break
  • 5:15pm - 6:45pm Small Group #2
  • 7:30pm - 11:00pm Banquet
Sunday, October 22, 2017
  • 7:30am - 8:30am Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30am - 10:00am Small Group #3
  • 10:00am - 10:30am Small Group Debriefing & Evaluation
  • 10:30am - 10:45am Break
  • 10:45am - 12:45pm Closing Plenary, Large Group 3, Wrap-Up

Small Group Leaders

  • Farooq Mohyuddin, MD, CGP & Mindy Mecham Jensen, LPC
  • Venus S. Masselam PhD, MS, CGP, LMFT & Alex Afram, PhD
  • Steve Van Wagoner, PhD, CGP, FAGPA
  • Bridgett S. Neamo, PsyD & Joe Wise, MD, CGP
  • *Karen Stefano, EdM, MA, LPC, NCC
  • Ayana Watkins-Northern, PhD, CGP
  • Joseph Schmidt, PsyD
  • Elaine Klionsky, JD, PhD
MAGPS traditionally invites a guest small group leader from another affiliate society in an effort to promote stronger connections with our colleagues across the country.

Brief Biographical Information

Farooq Mohyuddin, MD, CGP & Mindy Mecham Jensen, LPC

  • Farooq Mohyuddin, MD, CGP is the Chair of Psychiatry Training and Education, Director Psychiatry Residency Training, Saint Elizabeths Hospital, DC Department of Behavioral Health. He is in private practice in Alexandria, VA. His primary interests include teaching and group psychotherapy. He is currently Member Board of Directors AGPA and Chair National Group Psychotherapy Institute Washington School of Psychiatry. He has been Past President MAGPS and Secretary Washington Psychiatric Society.
  • Mindy Mecham Jensen, LPC: After obtaining a dual Bachelor's degree in English and Psychology, I traded in the mountain west for the east coast, earning a Master’s Degree in Counseling from George Washington University. I have worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice for over twenty years. As a LPC, I am a firm believer in constant personal and professional development. I enjoy assisting people to achieve success, balance and quality of life for themselves, which then impacts others around them. There's no better satisfaction than contributing to and experiencing this ripple effect.

Venus S. Masselam PhD, MS, CGP, LMFT & Alex Afram, PhD

  • Venus S. Masselam PhD, MS, CGP, LMFT: I am a psychologist, family therapist, supervisor, and consultant with a private practice in Bethesda MD. Currently I am co chair of the center for study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture (CSREC) as well as a faculty member for the clinical certificate in Aging Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry (WSP). Formerly I taught Group work as an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and University of MD. I have provided supervision for graduate students in local universities such as George Washington, American, and James Madison University. as well as for seasoned therapists for more than 30 years. Most recently I co led a group for professionals wanting to work with clients at the Aging Adult Stage. Human development has always been my interest.
  • Alex Afram, PhD is a clinical psychologist practicing in Washington DC. He is a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists and has completed advanced training in group psychotherapy through the Washington School of Psychiatry’s National Group Psychotherapy Institute and in leading process demonstration groups through MAGPS’ Spring 2016 Pre-Conference Institute. He has led many process groups, as well as structured treatment groups, over the course of his career. Dr. Afram is an advocate for helping the public better understand therapeutic services and maintains a website, Therapy Clarity (, dedicated towards this goal. He also writes for; his articles explore how therapy fosters personal growth.

Steve Van Wagoner, PhD, CGP, FAGPA

  • Steve Van Wagoner, PhD, CGP, FAGPA is a licensed psychologist and certified group psychotherapist in private practice in Washington D.C. He is currently on faculty at the National Group Psychotherapy Institute of the Washington School of Psychiatry, is an adjunct clinical faculty member at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland, a Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and the current Editor of “The Group Circle,” the newsletter of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. Dr. Van Wagoner, an author of several book chapters and articles on group psychotherapy, has presented extensively on the impact of envy, shame, and competitive strivings on group process, and has been leading groups for over 35 years.

Bridgett S. Neamo, PsyD & Joe Wise, MD, CGP

  • Bridgett S. Neamo, PsyD is an Officer in the United Sates Army Reserves and currently the Director of Testing and Psychologist at Howard University Counseling Service. Dr. Neamo provides individual and group psychotherapy, in addition to coordinating and participating in outreach activities to a diverse student and faculty population. Dr. Neamo has a wealth of experience working with children, adolescents and adults in numerous environments such as, Community Mental Health, state and private hospitals, level five residential treatment facility and the criminal justice system. Dr. Neamo’s areas of special interest include trauma, human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Dr. Neamo also has specific interest in depression and suicide, Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic illnesses, stress management and relaxation, nutrition and health.
  • Joe Wise, MD, CGP is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Group Therapist. Joe sees most of his patients at Walter Reed military hospital. He has extensive experience working with the military, veterans, and their families. He also deployed to Iraq himself in 2010 as a psychiatrist. Prior to coming back to DC and Walter Reed, Joe was Chief of Behavioral Health at Blanchfield Army hospital at Ft Campbell, KY, the home of the 101st Airborne Division. In addition to group therapy, Joe has published on his work of using psychoanalytic psychotherapy for combat PTSD. He brings an appreciation to group-as-a-whole dynamics, having consulted and participated in Tavistock-style Group Relations Conferences. Being an openly gay psychiatrist, Joe has also seen many LGBT patients."

Karen Stefano, EdM, MA, LPC, NCC

  • Karen Stefano, EdM, MA, LPC, NCC is a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor and Bioenergetic Analyst. She has trained extensively in psychodynamic psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and analytic somatic psychology. Stefano has also studied various applications of spirit and psychology, Median Group Process, Social Dreaming Matrix, and Depth Psychology. Working with indivduals, groups and couples, her approach is somatic, existential and influenced by Jungian ideas. Stefano is a graduate of the Washington School of Psychiatry National Group Psychotherapy Institute, The Washington School of Psychiatry Couples and Family Psychotherapy Training and the Analytic Somatic Psychotherapy Program in Berkeley, California. She received her M.A. at West Virginia University and is a member of the American Counseling Association, the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and the American Group Psychotherapy Association. Stefano has been in private practice in Charles Town, West Virginia for twenty years. She also co- edited the book “Small, Large, and Median Groups: The Work of Patrick de Mare."

Ayana Watkins-Northern, PhD, CGP

  • Ayana Watkins-Northern, PhD, CGP is the Director of the Howard University Counseling Center. She was Director of Clinical Services and Chief Psychologist for the University Counseling Service for eight years prior to her present role. Previous to that, she was Director of Training, including the psychology internship training and the practicum and externship training programs. Dr. Watkins-Northern has served as adjunct faculty in the counseling and clinical psychology programs at Howard University. She is also a WOC faculty member for the Howard University College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. She has been a member of the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry’s Group Psychotherapy Training Program and the National Group Psychotherapy Institute for 25 years. She is also one of the founding committee members of the newly established Center for the Study of Race, Culture and Ethnicity at the Washington School. She is cross-trained academically and clinically in both counseling and clinical psychology.

Joseph Schmidt, MDiv, PsyD

  • Joseph Schmidt, MDiv, PsyD is a clinical psychologist in private practice at Dodini Behavioral Health in Arlington, Virginia, where he provides psychotherapy to individuals, couples and groups. He has nearly twenty years experience with the Tavistock tradition of studying groups and social systems. He is passionate about understanding how and why group members "find" or "lose" their voice in group settings, as well as identifying the ways that identity intersects with self-authorization."

Elaine Klionsky, JD, PhD, CGP

  • Elaine Klionsky, JD, PhD, CGP is a psychologist in private practice in Bethesda, MD and Washington, D.C. She has been a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists’ (AAP) Ethics Committee, past co-chair of MAGPS Group Training Day, interim director of the MAGPS - WSP movie program, as well as a certified mediator and adjunct professor teaching Law and Psychology at The George Washington University’s Law School. In addition to providing psychotherapy to individuals and couples, Dr. Klionsky specializes in leading psychotherapy groups and supervising other therapists developing their own practices.
  • MAGPS supports the professional development of students, interns, post-docs, residents, and clinicians early in their careers by offering scholarships to cover registration and banquet costs.
  • Students, First-time attendees and new professionals may also register for conferences at reduced rates.
  • Scholarships are awarded to applicants on a lottery basis.
  • Click here to apply online for scholarships.
  • 12.25 CE/CME Hours for Professional Counselors, Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists and Medical Professionals.
  • Participants must attend, sign in/out each morning and afternoon, and complete an evaluation to receive certificates.
  • The Washington School of Psychiatry is approved by the American Psychological Association to provide continuing education for psychologists. The Washington School maintains responsibility for this program and its contents. The School is approved by the Social Work Board of the State of Maryland as a provider of continuing education for social workers in DC, MD, VA, and WV. The School is approved by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences as provider #5691 of continuing education to social workers and counselors in California. The School is a National Board for Certified Counselors-Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP #6388, and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The School solely is responsible for all aspects of the program. The School is accredited by MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The School designates this conference for a maximum of 10.75 AMA PRA Category I Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Disclosure of Commercial Support and the Unlabeled Use of a Commercial Product: No member of the planning committee and no member of the faculty for this event have a financial interest or other relationship with any commercial product(s) discussed in the program. The Washington School of Psychiatry is an independent non-profit organization. It is not affiliated with the government of the District of Columbia or the government of the United States. Please Note: Licensing Boards change regulations often and while we attempt to stay abreast of their most recent changes, we recommend you contact your board directly to obtain a ruling, if you have questions or concerns about this course meeting your specific board’s approval.
white-squareFurther Reading If you are able, please join us on Sunday, October 1st, 2017, at the Washington School of Psychiatry for a Reading and Discussion Group which will discuss the articles above.
white-squareFor more information please contact Sally Brandel & Rose McIntyre, Conference Co-Chairs, at
  • DISABILITY ACCESS: For ADA accommodations for lodgings or conference access, please advise at least 10 days prior to the event either with your online registration or by email to We cannot ensure accommodations without adequate notice.
  • MAGPS is an affiliate of the American Group Psychotherapy Association serving psychotherapists from DC, MD, VA, WV, and PR. Its mission is to provide and support group psychotherapy training and education.
  • Disclosure of Commercial Support and the Unlabeled use of a commercial product. No member of the planning committee and no member of the faculty for this event have a financial interest or other relationship with any commercial product(s) discussed in this educational presentation.


Group Psychotherapy Conferences

Fall Conference 2017 – Navigating Consequences of Traumatic Experiences in the Unconscious Life of Groups – Especially Large(r) Ones

Navigating Consequences of Traumatic Experiences in the Unconscious Life of Groups – Especially Large(r) Ones

white-squareGuest Presenter: Earl Hopper, PhD, CGP, DFAGPA

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, October 20-22, 2017
Clarion Hotel, Shepherdstown, WV
This event is co-sponsored by
The Washington School of Psychiatry

Conference Description: The Fall Conference offers a unique learning experience through large group meetings and dialogue, didactic information-sharing and demonstration, and small process group experiences. Our goal is to provide a learning environment in which conference members can integrate a deeper understanding of the topical content and consider introducing new material into their work. This conference is intended for psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, psychiatric nurses, and social workers.



Conscious and unconscious patterns operate in all groups.  Although traumatic experience is ubiquitous, it is also a variable in its unconscious effects. Dr. Earl Hopper will speak to the fear of annihilation that is associated with traumatic experience. He will explore what he has termed the fourth basic assumption, “Incohesion”, with its two bi-polar forms of “Aggregation and Massification”. An appreciation of the dynamics of “Incohesion” will help us as group therapists better observe and navigate the patterns in our groups and society that challenge the effectiveness and efficiency of our work as group psychotherapists. Please join us.

Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown, WV
Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown, WV

Learning objectives:

The participants will be able to:

  1. Distinguish the roles of isolates (lone wolves and space cadets), cheerleaders and morale boosters (singletons/individual member/member individual), omnipotent rescuers and others.
  2. Identify the role they tended to take in the Large Group.
  3. Discuss the concept of the social unconscious.
  4. Compare and differentiate the purpose, goal, and structure of large group, small group and median group.
  5. Define and list the basic assumptions that operate on an unconscious level.

About our Presenter

Dr. Earl Hopper is a group analyst of international renown. He brings forty years of experience, drawing upon work from disciplines ranging from sociology to biology. He has been influenced by the ideas of Bion, Foulkes, de Maré and Agazarian as well as “Revisionists” associated with the Washington School of Psychiatry. A Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychotherapy Association, and a supervisor and training analyst for the Institute of Group Analysis, his special interests include the study of social issues and of personal and social trauma. He has published books and articles in sociology, psychoanalysis, and group analysis and is the Editor of the New International Library of Group Analysis (NILGA).


For more information please contact Sally Brandel & Rose McIntyre, Conference Co-Chairs, at


Spring Conference 2017 – Saint Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, DC


Desires to Lead: Perils and Passions

April 1-2, 2017 at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, DC

Presenter: Karen S. Travis, LCSW, BCD, CGP, FAGPA

Leadership abounds with rewards and challenges. It may create competition and also may present opportunities for growth that we would not have had otherwise. We may open ourselves to criticism, possible burn out, and need to manage angry and hurt feelings.

Exploring our family of origin, our personal history of leadership, our mentors and models are ways to tap into our desires and decisions to lead. We will also consider our fears that may block us from leadership, and our passions that compel us into leadership? In this conference we will explore, share and learn together as a group. Please join us.

Karen S. Travis, LCSW, BCD, CGP, FAGPA

Karen is a licensed clinical social worker in Baton Rouge, LA, has been in clinical practice for 36 years and leading groups for 34 years. She is in private practice, leads groups for an IOP/PHP agency, supervises new professionals an dteaches from the groups she runs with psychiatric residents.

Fall Conference 2016 – Attachment, Loss, and Desire in Group Psychotherapy: A Lacanian Perspective

Attachment, Loss, and Desire in Group Psychotherapy: A Lacanian Perspective


Scott Conkright, PsyD & The Red Well Theater Group

November 4 – 6, 2016, Cambridge, MD

Desire and lack permeate group psychotherapy and are available for expression and elaboration among group members as long as the group leader is willing to tolerate the tensions evoked by these primitive feelings, often directed towards him or her. In this conference, Scott Conkright, PsyD, will demonstrate the power of the group to both elicit and cope with these powerful dynamics through the integration of theory, research, and clinical practice. A Red Well Theater Group play reading presentation will dramatically illuminate the human struggle between longing for attachments and the inevitability of endings and goodbyes.

The conference will highlight how Lacanian theory explains people’s different responses to desire and lack.

  • The conference will help participants become familiar with Lacan’s theories of desire and lack.
  • The conference will help participants apply Lacanian theory to group psychotherapy treatment.
  • The conference will help participants identify the essential features of Lacan’s theory of the split subject.
  • The conference will address desire and loss within the group via the play, Dinner with Friends.
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina

Learning objectives:

  1. Participants will be able to describe how member attachments influence the process of grief and mourning within a therapy group.
  2. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of their own desires and lack influence their ability to be engaged in the group when exploring these issues as a leader.
  3. The Workshop will help participants understand how their desires influence the amount of risk they take in expressing desire and shame.
  4. Participants will be able to identify and discuss themes related desire and lack as illuminated within the play presentation of Dinner with Friends
  5. The Workshop will help participants become familiar with Lacan’s theories of desire and lack.
  6. Participants will have a fuller understanding of Lacan’s concept of jouissance and how it influences group behavior.

About our Presenters

Scott Conkright, Psy.D. Interview for the Fall 2014 Edition of the AGPS Voice from David Kaplowitz on Vimeo.

Dr. Conkright received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He earned a Master’s Degree from Drake University in Counseling Education, and then his Doctorate degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Before moving to Atlanta in 1996, Dr. Conkright maintained a private practice in Chicago. He has been providing psychotherapy to individuals, couples and groups for over 15 years.

Dr. Conkright specializes in depression, anxiety, couple’s therapy, sexual addiction, and sexual orientation issues. He has a particular interest in the application of Lacanian theory to group psychotherapy. In addition to providing therapy, Dr. Conkright has served as President of the Atlanta Group Psychotherapy Society as well as the Affiliate Board of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Analytical Society. He presents workshops nationally on group psychotherapy and on Lacanian psychoanalysis.

The Red Well Theater Group contributes to the professional development of group therapists through presentations that feature a dramatic play reading combined with a clinically informed commentary and audience discussion.

For more information please contact Nancy Hafkin & Rose McIntyre, Conference Co-Chairs, at


Interview with Our Spring Conference Presenter,  Haim Weinberg PhD

I was excited for the opportunity to interview Haim Weinberg in preparation for our Spring Conference.  Here is a preview of our upcoming weekend.

karenKaren:  Before talking about the conference weekend, I thought I might ask a few questions about your background and interests since they are so unique.  You are from Israel, trained and practiced there until 2006, and have also done a significant amount of teaching and lecturing internationally. I am curious how your international exposure to groups of all kinds has influenced and possibly challenged your thinking about Group Psychotherapy? 

haimphotoHaim:  Yes, I think it has both influenced how I experience group and how I do group therapy.  Originally, when I was in Israel, for many years the Bion approach was most appreciated. Then, after 15-20 years, something changed and the Group Analytic approach became more popular. This method, which was a Foulkesian one, is not well known in the US. I am a group analyst, similar to a psychoanalyst, but I practice in groups. My training as a group analyst required several years of study and going through groups myself. So first, this training influenced my thinking.  But, coming to the US, I integrated some of the American approaches, and what I try to do is combine the Group Analytic with the Relational school. So, I think nowadays, I would say that my approach is a mixture of relational and group analysis, and they are not so far from one another.

But also more than that, I think that participating in groups around the world, being involved in the IAGP (International Association of Group Psychotherapy), where I was a Board member for ten years and attended conferences all around the world, and also in the last year having students in Singapore and Indonesia, has given me a broader perspective because we usually do groups the way we see the environment and the way we are trained. And, it’s difficult for us to perceive that there are other ways of doing group, even if we know that it’s done differently in other places. We usually value what we know and what we were trained as the best. But, there are other ways. I think that I am knowledgeable in many approaches, more than the average group therapist. Not only approaches that are in Israel and Europe, but also approaches that are in South America, that are no less important. But, I try to be modest and not say my way is the best.

Lastly, is the need to adjust group to a specific culture. I am very much aware that the way we do groups in the West is not suitable for Asian cultures, for example. So, we also need to take culture and the group into consideration. These have been some of my experiences and influences that I can readily identify.

Karen:  So along these lines, I see that you developed an International Doctoral Program with a Group Psychotherapy focus through the Professional School of Psychology.  From my perspective, this endeavor is really exciting and a contrast to what I would consider the typical graduate-level psychotherapy training here in the US, which places greater emphasis on individual treatment. Can you talk a little about what inspired you to develop this program?

Haim:  Yes, it’s something that I can talk about for hours! I very much agree with you, that most graduate training programs focus on the individual. There might be one course in Group Psychotherapy, but more than that, programs don’t create a separate professional activity devoted to group. From my point of view, if you want to be a group therapist, you have to learn more beyond individual therapy. That’s one thing that separates American approaches from European ones. The CGP (Certified Group Psychotherapist Certification), for example, requires only 12 hours of theory and I don’t think that’s enough. So, I would say, if you want to become a group therapist, you need to study no less than you would study to become an individual therapist. Especially since there are some phenomenon that are unique to group, for example, scapegoating. You don’t see this in individual therapy and when you have it in a group, if you don’t understand it, you will make mistakes.

So, more specifically to address the question about the PsyD program, it developed from the fact that there aren’t many post graduate programs that you can study only group therapy and that last one or two years. I thought that combining this notion with a doctorate program that is focused more on practical experiences, such as a PsyD, was a good idea, and I suggested it to the Professional School of Psychology. They were very enthusiastic about it. The idea is to take all of the courses that students usually study in a more traditional doctoral program, like Personality, Psychopathology, Psychodiagnostics and see how it applies to group. Also, students learn about what kind of tools and questionnaires are beneficial to screen people for groups, that measure group dynamics and group cohesion, or evaluate outcomes of group treatment, all of which are not typically studied. And, of course, the dissertations and research typically focus on group material. So that’s the idea of the program.

I started the program in Israel because it was close to the time that I moved to the US and I was still well known there as a group therapist and a psychologist. I was surprised to see the success. I sent a message to about 2000 people and I got about 60 responses from individuals who were interested. And I went to Israel over the summer and met with candidates who wanted to enroll, and out of them, I started the first Israel-cohort with eight people. It was nine years ago, and already we have eight cohorts and the people have been so satisfied!  And, after some years, I also developed the program in Singapore and people from Southeast Asia participate in it. We already have two cohorts, which makes me believe it is also going to be successful there too.  So now, in July, I am opening it to the US.

A very unique feature of the program is that it is a hybrid program based on distance learning, with face-to-face workshops from time-to-time. So, once a year people come together for a week or two for the face-to-face experience, which is usually more of the experiential part with process groups. Another important and unique feature of the program is that it is based on distance learning that is synchronic, not asychronic. Instead of distance learning that is reliant on emails or forums, where communication between the students and instructors is not at the same time (asynchronic), we do it through the Zoom application, which by the way I introduced to AGPA (laugh).  The application creates a video conference so students can be in Singapore, Indonesia, I can be in California, the instructor can be in New York, and other students can be in Israel.  Although the time difference can create some difficulty, we can have a class where we see one another and talk to one another as if we are all in the same room. Of course there are limitations, but it creates the feeling that we are not so distant.

Karen: So, now shifting to a our conference, which is titled “Impossible Groups: Absorbing a New Paradigm for Group Psychotherapy?”  Before introducing us to the new paradigm, can you share what kind of impossible group situations you will speak to over the conference weekend? Are there plans to do a demo group about the Impossible?

impossible_groups400x300Haim:  Of course I would like to do a demo group, and more than one!  Having demonstration groups is the best way to learn. I can talk and talk, but… Yes, I would love to do a demo group! And, I am always shocked about how powerful a demo group can be. One of my examples of Impossible Groups is the demo group because if you think about it, it’s impossible! People watch you and the boundaries are so loose. You have one hour, sometimes even less. And, you are in an milieu where your colleagues watch you, so it’s important not to be ashamed, but you have to self-disclose and be open. It’s impossible actually! And, the magic is, how does it happen? It is magical how people do really connect on a deep level in these situations. Sometimes I feel so touched in a demo group! So, this is the idea of an impossible group.

And, there are groups, that according to all of the textbooks, should not work well or advance to deeper stages of understanding, and still, they do it. So the question is: How they do it? So first, what I want to do is present the basics. For example, it’s written everywhere that in order for a group to make progress you need it to be safe. Creating a safe environment means having very clear boundaries that are not too loose. However, I can give many examples of groups that do not go with this recommendation and still they work well. By the way, internet groups are another example of them. The boundaries are so loose, especially around time and space, and still, in internet forums I see examples of wonderfully touching interactions. People connect as if there is the illusion of the small group although it actually is not one. I discovered that you are a member of the Group Psychotherapy Forum, am I right?  So you, too, have seen it from time to time, of course not all of the time.  So, this is another example of an Impossible Group, if you think about it because of all of the limitations and still, it functions.
I have many other examples. Some of the other ones are culturally dependent. I will also talk about a group I observed in Brazil where the boundaries seemed so loose that it could not work. They called it a Community Group, and it was a group of people from the favella, the poor neighborhood. Children were coming in and out, there were no boundaries, and still a woman was talking about being sexually assaulted, which is so sensitive. And, I thought, “How can she do this?” So, this is what I want to talk about, with many examples. And, I will use the demo group to show that it does happen. In the end I hope I can bring in some assumptions or speculations of what allows such a group to function well.

Karen:  What has it been like to tolerate the ‘impossible?’ My immediate impression is that you must have a tremendous ability to tolerate anxiety! And, what have these unique experiences taught you about yourself?

Haim:  I agree with you, you need to tolerate anxiety and ambiguity. One of the ways that I explain it is through creating an imaginary group in your mind, which has nothing to do with the therapy group. I will explain it more, but I must leave some for the conference. These Impossible Groups always surprise me.  I am always amazed at the power of the group, because what I have experienced is so surprising and unexpected, I usually feel very touched, lucky, and grateful that people are willing to take risks and that I am a part of it.

Karen:  Finally, what do you hope conference attendees will take away from this weekend?

Haim:  I hope that the participants understand that they can do good enough groups even under circumstances that don’t seem like they are providing safety.  A lot of times people ask questions like, “I will be absent for two weeks, will my group survive?” I want people to understand that there is something in a group that is so powerful, that if you provide a presence, members will believe in their ability to overcome a lot of difficulty.  Another thing, I hope that participants take away some of my style and integrate it with some of theirs’. I hope that I will be able to be not too anxious to show how I am trying to be more present and create the right conditions in the demo groups. And, I hope to add some theory that people can take from the presentation as well. So, a combination of theory, of the demonstration group and experience, and of being more assured about our ability to do groups even under difficult conditions.

Karen:  It sounds like we are going to have a great weekend.  I am really looking forward to it!

2016 Spring Conference Preview

impossible_groups400x300MAGPS is pleased to announce the Spring 2016 Conference, “Impossible Groups: Absorbing a New Paradigm for Group Therapy?” to be held April 9-10, 2016 at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.

I have had the privilege of having conversations with our plenary speaker, Haim Weinberg, PhD. His curiosity, care and commitment to effective and meaningful group psychotherapy is a cornerstone of the spring conference’s topic: Impossible Groups.

haimphotoAccording to Dr. Weinberg, “All group therapy textbooks emphasize the importance of the setting for a successful outcome of the group. This setting includes clear boundaries of time and space, stable participation, and good leadership. For example, in order to create a safe environment in which participants can work on deep issues, the leader is recommended to keep the boundaries. In addition, for its normal development and progress, the group is expected to go through a stormy stage with disagreements and conflicts.”

Dr. Weinberg tells me his presentation will highlight groups that do not follow such “rules”, linking their success to the “secure presence of the leader and the imagined internalized group” that the members create. These groups include demonstration groups; American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) Institutes; groups where members do not attend regular meetings; non-western groups “where the culture does not allow for a stormy stage”; and Internet groups “where the boundaries are incredibly loose.” Surprisingly the members are still able to work on deep levels, create intimate relationships, and benefit from the group.

How is this possible? Should we change our theories?

These are important questions to ponder and valuable concepts to absorb as group psychotherapists in our work. As clinicians and group leaders we need to be willing to attend to the needs of our patient population, remain aware of our changing world, and still hold the principles of effective, meaningful, relational and boundaried group psychotherapy. Dr. Weinberg’s knowledge and vast experience will undoubtedly help guide attendees in this journey.

MAGPS is excited to present this conference where attendees will have the opportunity to experience plenary talks and observational group experiences led by Dr. Weinberg. In addition, small groups facilitated by a seasoned and skilled set of leaders will meet during the conference. This will allow time for the groups to develop while exploring the themes of the conference, as well as group dynamics.

Haim Weinberg, PhD. is a licensed psychologist, group analyst and Certified Group Psychotherapist in private practice in Sacramento, California. He is the past President of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy and of the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society. Currently, Dr. Weinberg is the owner of the Group Psychotherapy Professional Online Discussion Forum and the Academic Vice President of the Professional School of Psychology — where he created and coordinates an online doctoral program on group psychotherapy. Dr. Weinberg is author of the book The Paradox of Internet Groups: Alone in the Presence of Virtual Others. He has also co-edited a series of books about the social unconscious, including Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups, and Societies. Dr. Weinberg is author of the book The Paradox of Internet Groups: Alone in the Presence of Virtual Others.

MAGPS is excited to present and offer this conference to their members – to be exposed and explore the topic at hand in a variety of modalities. Please join us on this journey of curiosity, growth, and knowledge.

To register and additional conference information, please visit our website at: