Group Psychotherapy Conference FAQ
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- Conference dates, locations, and topics are below the FAQ box.
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- 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.
- Conference Hotel - Courtyard Washington: Capitol Hill / Navy Yard
- 140 L Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
- Reservations: 202-497-0027
- For special rate, $119 to $135/night plus tax, reserve your room by March 23, 2018 by clicking here.
- Online registration is available by clicking the "Register Now!" button.
- For more information please contact Victoria Lee & Liz Marsh, Membership Co-Chairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Registration Deadline is Friday, April 13, 2018. 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 email@example.com.
- Cancellation Policy: Full refund less $25 if made by April 13, 2018; no refunds after that date.
Conference & Institute Site - Saint Elizabeths Hospital
1100 Alabama Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20032
METRO: Congress Heights
- 7:45 AM - 8:45 AM Registration and Breakfast
- 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM Welcome
- 9:00 AM - 10:45 AM Plenary Session # 1
- 10:45 AM - 11:00 AM Break
- 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM Small Group # 1
- 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Lunch
- 1:30 PM – 1:45 PM Break
- 1:45 PM – 2:15 PM Community Meeting
- 2:15 PM – 2:30 PM Break
- 2:30 PM – 4:15 PM Plenary Session # 2
- 4:15 PM – 4:30 PM Break
- 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM Small Group # 2
- 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM New Attendees and Mentors Reception
- 7:45AM – 8:45AM Breakfast
- 8:45 AM – 10:15 AM Plenary Session # 3
- 10:15 AM – 10:30 AM Break
- 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Small Group #3
- 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM Small Group Debriefing, Evaluation and CEU
- 12:30 PM -12:45 PM Break
- 12:45 PM – 1:15 PM Wrap Up and Ending
Small Group Leaders
- Lorraine Wodiska, PhD, CGP, FAGPA, FABPP & Aaron Dodini, M.S., M.A., Ph.D., CGP
- Victoria Lee, Ph.D., CGP & Marcus Hummings, Psy.D
- *Cheryl Kalter, PhD., LPC, CGP
- Rose McIntyre LCSW, CGP, AKRI Consultant Candidate & Lewis Weber, PhD, LCSW, CGP
- Gloria Myers Beller, MA, LICSW
- Lenore M. Pomerance LICSW, CGP
- John C. Rhead, PhD, CGP
- Bernard Adam Stoltz, Psy.D.
- Judy A Tyson M.S., Ph.D., CGP
Brief Biographical Information
- Lorraine Wodiska, PhD, CGP, FAGPA, FABPP Lorraine is in independent practice in Arlington, VA and has been working with individuals, couples and groups for nearly forty years. At this time, she co-leads two weekly psychotherapy groups and is beginning a third group shortly. She taught Basic and Advanced Group at Johns Hopkins for nearly ten years. Lorraine presents at national AGPA meetings almost annually on various topics, including: “Teaching Group”, “Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma”, and “Breaking Group Contracts”. This year, with wonderful MAGPS colleagues, Victoria, Karen and Farooq, she will present on “Process Groups versus Therapy Groups: What’s the Difference? “She is currently interested in Canine Assisted Psychotherapy and her Shih-Tzu Stella (or now Teddy) is present and assists in all individual, couples, and group sessions. They have offered workshops and demonstrations (“You Had Me at Hello: Ethical Canine Assisted Psychotherapy”) locally, regionally and nationally on this topic. With a colleague, she has founded, the Society for Canine Assisted Psychotherapy Excellence (SCAPE). Lorraine is on the Board and a Fellow of the American Board of Professional Psychology in Group Psychology (ABGP), is newly elected to the Board of American Group Psychotherapy (AGPA) and is honored to be the current President for the Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Society (MAGPS). She is delighted to be co-leading with Aaron Dodini for this conference.
- Aaron Dodini, MS, MA, PhD, CGP is thrilled to participate in the spring conference to explore the concepts of transcendence through awareness and respect of cultural and spiritual diversity. He is equally thrilled and honored to be working with Lorraine Wodiska in this small group. Dr. Dodini comes to this experience with a diverse background of training, as a marriage and family therapist and as a psychologist. The balance and tension between systems/interpersonal dynamics and internal/intrapersonal dynamics has always fascinated him and it influences his work daily. He tends to think of the work in terms of long term relationships with self and others as a fundamental key to growth and development. Dr. Dodini has been in private practice in Arlington and a co-therapist with the wonderful and talented Mindy Mecham Jensen for 17 years and he is the founder of Dodini Behavioral Health, where he is honored to work with an amazing team of clinicians providing long term individual, couples, and group psychotherapy.
- John C. Rhead, PhD, CGP John Rhead was born in a Mormon milieu in Utah and grew up in Colorado. He believes he was a psychologist by the time he was 12, although it took another decade or two to acquire credentials to prove it to others. His particular interests in psychology have been spirituality and psychotherapy, and the intersection of these two domains is where he has pitched his tent for many years. He attempts to integrate the experience of deep, and even profound, spiritual experiences with ways to understand them enough to be able to apply them to healing and growth. He also tries to help others with such integration. He finds the facilitating of deep connections between people, which often leads to love, to be central to all of this. He believes that such connections are made possible by the facilitation of interpersonal processes that increase the felt safety of (1) knowing more clearly one’s own subjective reality and (2) sharing that subjective reality with others, and that group therapy can provide an opportunity for such facilitation.
- Lewis Weber, PhD, LCSW, CGP Dr. Weber has been in the mental health field for almost 50 years as a clinical social worker. He has served in various positions as a faculty member at the University of Virginia. During this time, he has averaged at least three psychotherapy groups a week. He’s also been supervisor, trainer and lecturer, nationally and internationally. Currently he heads his own practice which consists of 24 mental health professionals and two dogs. Dr. Lewis Weber and Associates run over 20 groups a week. He leads four psychotherapy groups a week.
- Rose McIntyre LCSW, CGP, AKRI Consultant Candidate Rose McIntyre LCSW, CGP, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Group Psychotherapist, practicing for over 20 years in the Northern Virginia area. She is experienced in working with individuals, couples, families and groups. She currently has a private practice in Vienna, Virginia. She is and has been on the board for Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Association (MAGPS) for over 9 years, and is currently President Elect. She has completed the NGPI Group Training Program, as well as the Fellow and Leadership Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry. Over the years with MAGPS she has participated in numerous conference committees holding various roles. Most recently, in 2016 and 2017 she Co- Chaired 3 MAGPS Weekend Conferences. She is currently a member of the Center of Study of Groups and Social Systems (CSGSS), AK Rice Institute (AKRI), American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Workers (GWSCSW), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She has lead workshops on self- esteem, healthy relationships, assertiveness, and separation and divorce. Rose has a passion for diversity and social justice work, and is currently pursuing interests and the establishment of programs pertaining to Large Group and Median Group work. In 2015, following the work of Patrick DeMare', she established an on-going Median Group at the Washington School of Psychiatry which continues to meet monthly. She has attended four AKRI Residential Group Relations Conferences, is pursuing certification in the AKRI Training Program, and is currently a Stage Two Consultant Candidate. Rose fully believes in group relations work and the power of the unknown, the importance of curiosity, reflection, awareness and resilience connected to leadership, authority, and accountability. She carries hope for the expansion of this work especially in turbulent times, and values the importance of increasing one’s awareness to both conscious and unconscious processes at play. Rose considers herself to be a spiritual person, an artist, a poet, a person who loves the water, kayaking, the beach and being outdoors in nature.
- Victoria Lee, PhD, CGP Victoria Lee, PhD, CGP is a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington DC and Maryland. Victoria is a senior staff psychologist at the Howard University Counseling Services where she provides individual and group therapy to the student population and provides supervision to externs and interns receiving training in the APA-accredited training program. She also co-leads a process group for doctoral students enrolled in group therapy courses at Howard University. Victoria has a passion for training professionals to be more culturally competent and has co-led a process group on cultural diversity at the American Academy of Psychotherapists and provided cultural diversity training for the clinical staff at the Lourie Center for Children’s Social and Emotional Wellness in Maryland. In regards to her group therapy training, Victoria completed the group psychotherapy training at the National Group Psychotherapy Institute (NGPI) at the Washington School of Psychiatry followed by the Fellowship in Leadership at NGPI. She currently co-leads a process group for NGPI as a guest faculty. Victoria also has professional affiliations at the Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Association where she currently serves as board member of the organization.
- Marcus Hummings, PsyD Marcus Hummings, PsyD is a Licensed Psychologist who holds the position of Coordinator of Extern and Practicum Training at the Howard University Counseling Service. He also maintains a private practice in Washington, DC. Dr. Hummings received his BA in Psychology from Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA) and obtained a MA and PsyD in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. In addition, Dr. Hummings has completed a fellowship in Group Psychotherapy, the Group Psychotherapy Training Program, and the Supervision Training Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry (WSP). Clinically, Dr. Hummings has experience in individual and group psychotherapy in a variety of settings and conducting forensic and psychological evaluations. He has also gained valuable experience with diverse populations varying in ages and settings ranging from hospital triage centers to community mental health centers and outpatient psychiatric clinics to court service agencies.
- Lenore M. Pomerance LICSW, CGP Lenore M. Pomerance, MSW, CGP, has been a psychotherapist in private practice in Washington, D.C. for the past twenty-five years, working with individuals, couples and groups. She specializes in mid-life transitions, menopause, sexuality, aging, and end of life issues. She wrote the bulk of the Sexuality Chapter in Our Bodies Ourselves: Menopause (2006). For Voices, the quarterly journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapists she wrote:” Baby Boomers: Denial of Death and Menopause,” (Winter, 2003), “I’ll Have What He’s Having: The Search for a Female Viagra.” (Spring 2014), and “Reclaiming at 70” (Winter, 2018). She is on the Steering Committee of the Aging Certificate Program of the Washington School of Psychiatry. She is a past president of the Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Society (MAGPS), and is currently Chair of the MAGPS Cinema Series. She views her Peace Corps Volunteer experience in Thailand as a core part of her identity. On her "bucket list" is to become as fluent in Chinese as possible, visit China as often as possible, and live long enough to take her grandchildren there. She has already made three trips to China since she turned seventy.
- Gloria Myers Beller, MA, LICSW Gloria Myers Beller practices psychotherapy of individuals, couples and groups in Washington, DC. EAP evaluations, workplace seminars and Critical Incident Debriefings are also specialties. She participates in a weekly peer supervision group. Ms. Myers Beller has developed a keen interest in multicultural mental health and how culture can influence the practice of psychotherapy. She is a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists and the Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work. She specializes in work place issues, critical incident debriefings and multicultural dynamics. Ms. Myers Beller believes every encounter is a cultural interchange that requires deciphering.
- Bernard Adam Stoltz, PsyD Bernie Stoltz is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. Along with general practice he has specialized in trauma work with military personnel, as well as victims of sexual assault. As well as having a personal background in Buddhism, Dr. Stoltz has integrated mindfulness in his therapeutic work for the past ten years. He is currently working on methods to incorporate emotional psychoeducation to enhance mindfulness practice and its effect on therapeutic change. Dr. Stoltz received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Georgetown University, Masters of Science in Psychology from University College London, and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from The American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. He currently works in private practice.
- Cheryl Kalter, PhD, LPC, CGP Cheryl Kalter, PhD, LPC, CGP is in private practice in San Antonio, TX. focusing on individual adult, group and couple therapy. She is a part of the multi-disciplinary Liver Transplant Team at Methodist Specialty and Transplant hospital and clinic in San Antonio. She provides psychological evaluations and support for the liver transplant patients and their care givers. Cheryl works with her husband Robert Kalter, M.D. as co-leaders in a long-term support/process group for liver transplant patients and their caregivers. AGPA and SAGPS have been main stays in her professional training and leadership development. She leads and trains group leaders in giving back to these organizations. Cheryl works in fiber arts and has done research on commonalities found between the artist process and the therapy process in group and individual therapy.
- Judy A Tyson MS, PhD, CGP Judy first began her clinical work in the 70’s developing and implementing a treatment program for young “at risk” children and their parents: children in group play therapy guided by child therapists; parents joining them weekly in their play therapy group; then parents meeting separately for their own group therapy session. Judy was impressed with group therapy’s success as a change agent and, since then, has focused much of her clinical work on treating families, step-families, and couples (all groups of a certain size.) Judy and her husband, Ari Kopolow, MD, have a clinical practice in Suburban Maryland. Over the past 20 years they have co-lead men’s groups, couple’s groups and teamed to work with couples as well. Judy attributes her enthusiasm for group work having originated from playing in chamber ensembles since she was a child and continues to this day. Playing ensemble over the years was a stepping stone to develop her “voice” in groups. Her chamber music experiences taught her resilience and confidence. She learned that making beautiful music would include “making mistakes.” Ensemble work offered her an opportunity to experience the power of group as a change agent for herself. All it took was fellow musicians with an encouraging attitude and acceptance. Judy’s role as group therapist was informed by what she discovered playing chamber music ensemble. The beauty of the ensemble’s music depended on group cohesion without sacrifice of the musicians’ individuality. In group, Judy encourages members to express their distinct voices, whether dissonant or harmonious, while helping develop a group culture that supports expressions of individuality and attitudes of curiosity. Her leadership embodies a style of listening with intention. She encourages members to notice what is said and unsaid. How do comments, reactions, and feelings reflect the emotional life of the group as a whole? For Judy, the voice of each group member is unique; each silence has purpose; all are vital contributions and integral to a whole group process. As in the case of musical ensemble, every voice, every silence, has meaning and an impact on the whole; to be acknowledged, valued, and tended to. The leader is the inspiration for that process to succeed.
- 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.
- Click here for Google Map Directions to Saint Elizabeths Hospital
- Saint Elizabeths Hospital is Metro Accessible, on the Green Line, Congress Heights Metro Station.
- Saint Elizabeths Hospital provides free parking for visitors.
- 12.25 CE/CMEs 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, if you have questions or concerns about this course meeting your specific board’s approval, we recommend you contact your board directly to obtain a ruling.
- Abernethy, A. D. (2012). A spiritually informed approach to group psychotherapy. In J. L.Kleinberg (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of group psychotherapy (pp. 681-705). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons. - Click here to read.
- Cornish, M. A., Wade, N. G., & Knight, M. A. (2013). Understanding group therapists’ use of spiritual and religious interventions in group therapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 63(4), 573-591. - Click here to read.
- Harrison, R. L., & Westwood, M. J. (2009). Preventing vicarious traumatization of mental health therapists: Identifying protective practices. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 46(2), 203-219. - Click here to read.
- Click here to download our conference brochure in PDF format.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
Navigating Consequences of Traumatic Experiences in the Unconscious Life of Groups – Especially Large(r) Ones
Guest 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.
The participants will be able to:
- Distinguish the roles of isolates (lone wolves and space cadets), cheerleaders and morale boosters (singletons/individual member/member individual), omnipotent rescuers and others.
- Identify the role they tended to take in the Large Group.
- Discuss the concept of the social unconscious.
- Compare and differentiate the purpose, goal, and structure of large group, small group and median group.
- 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 email@example.com.
SAVE THE DATE
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.
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.
- Participants will be able to describe how member attachments influence the process of grief and mourning within a therapy group.
- 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.
- The Workshop will help participants understand how their desires influence the amount of risk they take in expressing desire and shame.
- Participants will be able to identify and discuss themes related desire and lack as illuminated within the play presentation of Dinner with Friends
- The Workshop will help participants become familiar with Lacan’s theories of desire and lack.
- Participants will have a fuller understanding of Lacan’s concept of jouissance and how it influences group behavior.
About our Presenters
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was excited for the opportunity to interview Haim Weinberg in preparation for our Spring Conference. Here is a preview of our upcoming weekend.
Karen: 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?
Haim: 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?
Haim: 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!
MAGPS 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.
According 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: www.magps.org/conferences/conferences.html.