Table of Contents

Title page



Jeffrey L. Kleinberg, PhD, CGP, FAGPA, is a Fellow and the current President of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He has served as Training Analyst, Supervisor and Senior Faculty Member at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City. He was the President of the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society on 9/11/01. He helped co-ordinate a large relief effort for the financial community and as part of Project Liberty and has trained more than 1000 mental health professionals in trauma counseling and group treatment. Recently, he conducted a 4-day workshop on group in Chengdu, China. He is Professor Emeritus at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, where he taught psychology, served as director of counseling, and later as dean of students. He is the former editor of the journal Group. He is a Licensed Psychologist and maintains a private psychotherapy and organizational consultation practice in Manhattan.


Alexis D. Abernethy, MA, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology in the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. She received her BS in Psychology from Howard University and her graduate degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She was the editor of a special edition of the journal, Group (2004), Special Edition on Spirituality in Group Therapy.

Donald Altman, MA, LPC is a practicing psychotherapist, former Buddhist monk, a Board Member of The Center for Mindful Eating, and Adjunct Professor at Portland State University and at Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He conducts mindfulness workshops around the country and is author of The Mindfulness Code, One-Minute Mindfulness, Meal by Meal, Living Kindness, and Art of the Inner Meal.

Marvin L. Aronson, PhD, ABPP, served as the Director of the Specialty Training Program in Analytic Group Therapy at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City from 1970-2000. He co-edited Group Therapy: An Overview, from1974–79, as well as Group and Family Therapy: An Overview. Dr. Aronson passed away in 2011.

Seth Aronson, PsyD, FAGPA, is Fellow, Training and Supervising Analyst at the William Alanson White Institute in New York. He is co-chair of the American Group Psychotherapy Association’s Special Interest Group on Child and Adolescent Group Work. Together with Saul Scheidlinger, he is co-author of Group Treatment of Adolescents in Context: Outpatient, Inpatient and School (IUP, 2002).

Mary Alicia Barnes, OTR/L, is Fieldwork Co-ordinator in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Tufts University. With over 25 years of experience, she has co-lead therapeutic, process, and mentoring groups in educational and clinical settings and has co-authored publications related to group theory and professional development.

Richard Beck, LCSW, BCD, CGP, FAGPA, is a Psychotherapist in private practice in New York City who specializes in the treatment of Psychological Trauma. He is Past-President of the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society, an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service and has conducted well over 1000 hours of trauma treatment post 9/11/01.

Shoshana Ben-Noam, PsyD, CGP, FAGPA, is a trauma specialist; Adjunct Professor, Pace University Doctoral Program in School/Clinical/Child Psychology; Faculty, Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society Training Program; and a Board Member of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. She has Guest Edited two issues on Trauma and Group Therapy, Group journal; trained more than 600 mental health professionals in trauma work and group therapy; and is in private practice in New York City.

Miriam Berger, MA, is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, Group Analyst, and a Founding Member and Past Chairperson of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis. She also serves on the Faculty of the psychotherapy program at Bar Ilan University, Israel. She is a member of the editorial board of Maarag, The Israeli Annual of Psychoanalysis.

Avi Berman, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, and a Group Analyst. He is a member of the Tel-Aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis. He is the initiator and co-founder of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis and its former chairperson. He teaches at Tel-Aviv University.

Richard M. Billow, PhD, is a Diplomat in Group Psychotherapy, a Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, an active contributor to psychoanalytic and group journals, and the author of Relational Group Psychotherapy: From Basic Assumptions to Passion (2003), and the just-published Resistance, Rebellion, and Refusal in Groups: The 3 Rs (2010). He is Clinical Professor and Director of the Group Program at the Derner Postgraduate Institute, Adelphi University, and maintains a private practice in Great Neck, New York.

Albert J. Brok, PhD, CGP, is Director of Group and Couples Therapy Training, at the Training Institute of Mental Health, New York City. He is on the Faculty of both the The Derner Institute at Adelphi University and the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and is Guest Lecturer at the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association. He is on the Board of the Division of Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association, and maintains a private practice in New York.

Bonnie Buchele, PhD, ABBP, DFAGPA, is a Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst and Group Psychotherapist practicing in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a past president and Distinguished Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association and Board Member of the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes.

Judith Coché, PhD, is the founder and director of The Coché Center, LLC. She is Clinical Supervisor with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and a Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. Currently she is Clinical Professor at of the Medical School at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded the Diplomate status in Clinical Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. Dr Coché has been in practice since 1975. She has authored Couples Group Psychotherapy, Second Edition (2010), and has co-authored two books: Couples Group Psychotherapy (1990) and Powerful Wisdom (1993). The Husbands and Wives Club: A Year in a Couples Psychotherapy Group (2010) was written by prize winning journalist Laurie Abraham, about Dr Coché’s clinical work.

Phyllis F. Cohen, PhD, is on the Boards of the Group Therapy Foundation, the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the National Council for Creative Aging. A Faculty Member and past Chairman of the Board of the Center for Group Studies, she has recently left the position of Chair of the Committee on Accreditation for the American Board for Accreditation in Psychoanalysis.

Greg Crosby, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA, is a Mental Health Group Co-ordinator at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington, Adjunct Faculty at Maryhurst University, Portland State University and Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He is a Group Therapy Consultant and Trainer to Health Maintenance Organizations, Community Mental Health Centers and Residential Centers.

Robi Friedman, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist and Supervisor, and Group Analyst, is President of the Israeli Institute for Group Analysis, a Board Member of the Group Analytic Society (London), lecturer at the Haifa University, Israel, and Past President of the Israel Association for Group Psychotherapy.

Susan P. Gantt, PhD, ABPP, CGP, FAGPA, FAPA, is a Psychologist and Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine where she co-ordinates group psychotherapy training. She is the Director of the Systems-Centered Training and Research Institute and co-author of the books Autobiography of a Theory, SCT in clinical practice and SCT in Action with Yvonne Agazarian.

Martha Gilmore, PhD, CGP, FAGPA, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified Group Psychotherapist, and Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. She has a private practice in Davis and Sacramento, California and is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, Davis Medical School.

Priscilla F. Kauff, PhD, DFAGPA a Distinguished Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalyst in private practice with a specialty in analytic group psychotherapy. She is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and a Faculty Member of the Adelphi University Postdoctoral Program in Group Therapy. She is also a Faculty Member and Supervisor in the China American Psychoanalytic Association, training Chinese mental health professionals in psychoanalytic treatment. She is the author of several articles and book chapters, the majority of which focus on aspects of psychoanalytic group treatment.

Robert H. Klein, PhD, ABPP, FAPA, DLFAGPA, CGP, a Faculty Member at the Yale School of Medicine for more than 25 years and is Past President and Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy and in private practice. He is the author, co-author or co-editor of numerous publications, including: Group Psychotherapy for Psychological Trauma, Handbook of Contemporary Group Psychotherapy, Public Mental Health Service Delivery Protocols: Group Interventions for Disaster Preparedness and Response, Leadership in a Changing World and On Becoming a Psychotherapist: The Personal and Professional Journey.

Razia Kosi, LCSW, has experience in working in school settings with adolescents, behavioral issues and healthy youth development. She has also worked extensively with women and issues related to cultural identity. Her training is in family systems and cross-cultural communication. She also works with groups and created the model for the CHAI Women’s Wellness Group.

Molyn Leszcz, MD, FRCPC, CGP, FAGPA, Professor and Vice-Chair of Clinical Services, University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry, Psychiatrist-in-Chief Mount Sinai Hospital, Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Health Complex, Toronto, Canada. His academic and clinical work has focused on broadening the application of psychotherapy within psychiatry. Dr Leszcz’s recent research has explored group psychotherapy with the medically ill and those predisposed genetically to cancer. Dr Leszcz co-chaired the American Group Psychotherapy Association’s Science to Service Task Force, the working group that published AGPA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Group Psychotherapy in 2007. He has co-authored with Dr Irvin Yalom the 5th edition of The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.

Jan Malat, MD, FRCPC, ASAM, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, is the Clinic Head of the Integrative Group Therapy Clinic, in the Addictions Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada.

Lise Motherwell, PhD, PsyD, CGP, FAGPA, is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts, an Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Clinical Assistant in Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a Supervisor at the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy. She specializes in divorce therapy groups and developed Pack Your Parachute, a small-group seminar to help women negotiate the psychological, financial and legal aspects of divorce. She is co-editor with Joseph Shay, PhD, of Complex Dilemmas in Group Therapy: Pathways to Resolution which was published in 2005, and has written numerous articles on group therapy.

Morris Nitsun, PhD is a Consultant Psychologist in the National Health Service in London UK, a Senior Trainer at the Institute of Group Analysis and a Private Practitioner at the Fitzrovia Group Analytic Practice. His work spans individual and group psychotherapy and he runs weekly and twice-weekly groups. He is actively involved in the development of group psychotherapy training, both as a Training Analyst at IGA and a Senior Trainer and Supervisor in the NHS. With considerable experience as a clinician and manager, he also undertakes organizational consultation to individuals and groups, drawing on his concept of “The Organizational Mirror.” He is a widely published author and his books, The Anti-group – destructive forces in the group and their creative potential (1996) and The Group as an Object of Desire – exploring sexuality in group psychotherapy (2006), have been described as “classics in the field.”

Orit Nuttman-Shwartz, PhD, MSW, CGP, and Group Analyst, is a Senior Lecturer, Founder and Head of the Department of Social Work at Sapir College in Israel. Her research focuses on personal and social trauma, group work and therapy, and life transitions and occupational crises. Working near the Israeli border, she also studies the effects of on-going exposure to threats on individuals, communities, and organizations and the impact of a shared-trauma environment on students, supervisors, and social workers. She has recently been appointed as Chairperson of the Israel National Social Work Council.

Suzanne B. Phillips, is a Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomat in Group Psychotherapy and Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. She has been an Adjunct Full Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Doctoral Program of Long Island University, New York. She is the Co-editor of Public Mental Health Service Delivery Protocols: Group Interventions for Disaster Preparedness and Response and Healing Together: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress.

Andrew P. Pojman, EdD, CGP is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice specializing in adolescent and group treatment along with forensic assessment. He is an Adjunct Professor of psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley California. He is the author of Adolescent Group Psychotherapy: Method, Madness, and the Basics.

Darryl L. Pure, PhD, ABPP, CGP, FAGPA, is a Clinical Psychologist, a Diplomat of the American Board of Professional Psychology, a Certified Group Psychotherapist, and a Fellow and Treasurer of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.

Cecil A. Rice, PhD, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, President and Co-founder of the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy, Associate Editor of the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, serves on the Faculty at Harvard Medical School, has written widely in the field of group therapy and has a private practice in Needham, Massachusetts in group, individual and couples therapy.

Elisabeth Rohr, PhD, is a Social Psychologist, a Professor of Intercultural Education at the Philipps-University of Marburg, Germany, and is a Group Analyst. She is engaged as a Consultant in national and international organizations and works in her own practice as a Supervisor. She holds membership in the Group Analytic Society, London, the International Association of Group Psychotherapy, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Supervision, the Institut für Gruppenanalyse in Heidelberg, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaften.

Victor L. Schermer, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA, is a Psychologist and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in private practice and clinical settings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, author/editor of seven books and numerous articles and book chapters on group psychotherapy, and is a frequent lecturer and workshop leader internationally.

Sharan L. Schwartzberg, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is a Professor of Occupational Therapy and Adjunct Professor in Psychiatry at Tufts University. She has published, conducted research and presented in a wide array of professional arenas on the subject of group theory and practice. Recognized for her leadership in education and occupational therapy, her work is known internationally.

Siddharth Ashvin Shah, MD, MPH, specializes in behavioral medicine, is Clinical Instructor in Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is Medical Director of Greenleaf Integrative Strategies, a firm dedicated to psychosocial problem-solving and wellness in settings of trauma. He has provided group interventions and trauma consultation to community leaders, CBOs, NGOs, mental health professionals and emergency managers who serve vulnerable ethnic groups and the general population.

Sarit Shay, MSW, is a Group and Individual Psychotherapist, and Lecturer at the Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Israel. She focuses on methods of intervention, group work and therapy, as well as clinical supervision.

D. Thomas Stone, Jr., PhD, CGP, FAGPA, is a Consulting Psychologist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas and has consulted with the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department for thirteen years in their Institutions Division. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Walter N. Stone, MD, is Professor Emeritus of the University of Cincinnati. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Group Psychotherapy Association and is a past president of the San Antonio Group Psychotherapy Society. He is author of more than 40 articles and four books on group psychotherapy. He is Past President of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and has served as treasurer and as a member of the Board of Directors, the International Association of Group Psychotherapy.

Anne Carson Thomas, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director of Institutions for the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Ivan Urlix107_Galliard-Bold_10n_000100, MD, PhD, is a Neuropsychiatrist, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Group Analyst, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine at the Medical School, University of Split, Croatia. He serves as Secretary of the International Association of Group Psychotherapy. His professional interest is in the field of group psychotherapy with patients suffering from psychosis and from severe psychic traumas. He is the author of many papers, chapters, and a book, and lectures internationally.

Steven Van Wagoner, PhD, CGP, FAGPA, has been practicing group psychotherapy for 30 years in inpatient and outpatient settings, and more recently in private practice in Washington, D.C. He is on the Faculty of the National Group Psychotherapy Institute and Group Psychotherapy Training Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry, and has served as an Adjunct on the clinical Faculty at Georgetown University, the George Washington University, and the University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and has presented on group psychotherapy locally and nationally.

Marsha Vannicelli, PhD, FAGPA, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School, and teaches group psychotherapy courses at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. She is the author of two Guilford Press books: Removing the Roadblocks: Group Psychotherapy with Substance Abusers and Family Members and Group Psychotherapy with Adult Children of Alcoholics: Treatment Techniques and Countertransference Considerations. Previously Director (and founder) of the Appleton Substance Abuse Clinic at McLean Hospital, she is now in private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Haim Weinberg, PhD, CPG, FAGPA, is a Clinical psychologist (Israel, USA), Group Analyst, Certified Group Psychotherapist. Member: American Association of Group Psychotherapy, International Association of Group Psychotherapy, and Group Analytic Society. He is President of the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society and Past President of the Israeli Association of Group Therapy.

Daniel J. N. Weishut, MA, MBA, is a Clinical Psychologist and Organizational Consultant, with special interest in issues of diversity and human rights. He has a private practice in Jerusalem, Israel. He is a Board Member of the Israeli Association for Group Psychotherapy.

Elliot Zeisel, MSW, PhD, FAGPA, CGP, a graduate of the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis, Dr Zeisel is a Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association and serves as the Vice-Chair of the AGPA Foundation Board. He is a founder of the Center for Group Studies. Dr Zeisel is also a Training Analyst at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies and is the Director of the Group Department. He is an honorary member of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis.

Emily Zeng, PsyD, is a Licensed Psychologist in New York City serving children and families with special needs. A native Chinese, she volunteered extensively during the 2008 Chinese earthquake. She currently is the Co-Chair of the Diversity Special Interest Group of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.


Introduction to Group Psychotherapy

Jeffrey L. Kleinberg

Group psychotherapy is widely practised with different populations, in different settings, using different approaches based on different theories of the mind, with different degrees of success. The accent here is on differences. How is a clinician new to this modality to make sense of this diversity and formulate a personal approach to leading a group? One’s group leadership supervision, course work, and conferences, are indispensible for professional development. But what has been lacking is a current, ready-reference that briefs the leader on forming, beginning, and sustaining the treatment in ways that address the therapeutic needs and developmental status of the patients. By ready-reference I mean one that is accessible to the reader who does not want to get bogged down in jargon and a “one-size-fits-all” approach. I believe that our authors – representing the best in the field – have composed a reader-friendly text that “speaks” directly to the needs of current group therapists who want to refresh their leadership approach, to those of individual therapists who wish to expand their practices to include group treatment, and to the concerns of graduate students in mental health and allied fields wishing to learn this modality. Accordingly, an experienced or would-be group leader can turn to just about any chapter and pick up words of wisdom that will come in handy as a group is being put together or is trying to stay on track.

The chapters herein can guide the new practitioner of a group through the phases of selecting members, treatment planning, beginning the group, and developing carefully crafted strategies, reaching treatment goals.

This Handbook presents a variety of theoretical models, conducted in a variety of settings, within diverse cultures – with patients presenting many types of problems and personalities – and using technical approaches relevant to all these factors. My hope is that exposure to many models of thinking and working will help each new group leader find a voice and develop personalized, but informed operating assumptions.

The publication of this Handbook comes at the right time. The context within which groups are conducted has changed from what it was 20 years ago, when the last edition appeared. Today, a greater percentage of groups are taking place in agency, hospitals, schools and other community settings than before when so many groups were held in private offices and were primarily an adjunct to individual treatment. Significantly, groups today are not only geared to those suffering from mental illness, but are also geared towards others finding themselves in stressful circumstances. Group has spread to other nations, and is no longer a Western cultural phenomenon. Groups are used to respond to trauma, ranging from terror attacks to natural disasters. Group strategies are now based on a variety of theories, some of which have come to fruition in the last 20 years, and have arisen in response to emergent cohorts who did not respond to more traditional approaches. New challenges call for newer responses.

There is also a shift in the political and economic climate. There is less money for training. Managed care and the need for evidenced-based treatment modalities put additional strain on the clinician. Now, more than ever, the group therapist needs to be able to state what she does, and why she does it, and at the same time be competitive in the market place for the shrinking available dollars. Group does offer help here in that what we do is cost-effective and can be described in terms that objective observers can understand. Improving interpersonal communication skills, stress reduction, overcoming the effects of trauma, providing peer support, strengthening couple ties, and addressing mood instability can be clearly depicted. Group treatment still complements individual counseling and can enhance its impact, yet even alone, can treat the psychologically impaired or stressed.

What is the Role of Group in a Treatment Plan?

  • Group is a platform through which the therapist and the individual can assess deficits in emotional functioning.
  • Group experiences can promote insight into what establishes and continues dysfunctional behavior in interpersonal situations, such as family life, intimate relations, work and friendships.
  • Group is an arena for patients to experiment with new behavior that could lead to improved relationships.
  • Group is a place to get feedback from peers as to how one’s behavior is experienced by others.
  • Group is a setting in which distorted perceptions of others can be identified and revised.
  • Group enables the patient and therapist to agree on what the barriers are to more satisfying relationships.
  • Group interaction provides behavioral samples for measuring the extent to which treatment is progressing, and for making mid-course corrections in the clinical strategy.

Of course these are the potential benefits of group. Unfortunately, too many group patients drop-out before realizing them. My experience as a teacher, supervisor, group leader (and as a group patient!) tells me that we need to be more thoughtful in selecting patients, constructing the group, preparing each potential participant, overcoming barriers, and consolidating gains. While the Handbook is organized by topic, I have created an outline that correlates therapist required knowledge, attitudes and skills with specific sections. Thus, the text can be read in a linear fashion, or by identified need.

The group leader needs to have the relevant clinical skills, knowledge of theory, knowledge of group dynamics, a self-reflective capacity to track and incorporate ongoing emotional responses, and a commitment to continuous professional development.

I am reminded of what Ornstein (1987) said about the four phases of learning to work as an individual therapist. Adapting his formulation to group training, one learns how to feel as a group therapist; how to behave and talk as a group therapist; how to think as a group therapist; and, how to listen as a group therapist.

Leading a group feels different from working as an individual therapist. The novice experiences himself as more exposed, more strongly influenced by the collective needs of his patients, more confused by what is going on and as a cumulative result of these variables, less certain as to how to proceed. These stressors often place roadblocks in the way of training.

Behaving and talking as a group therapist one is directed to the goals of establishing and maintaining an effective working alliance with each patient and the group-as-a-whole. These alliances make the work of therapy possible. Without sufficient safety and tension regulation members can become closed to reflection, and change, and the group could breakdown.

Thinking as a group therapist is based on a set of assumptions as to what would lead to positive change. Specifically, the leader needs to be concerned with what contributes to the development of each patient within the group and what could strengthen the therapeutic climate of the group-as-a-whole. Thinking about groups requires a theoretical base from which clinical strategies can be launched. Theories must explain both individual and group dynamics, and the effects of their interaction. Insights about human behavior, what makes people mentally ill and what makes them better can be drawn from a number of theories. The leader, herself, has the task of integrating these viewpoints until she develops her own therapeutic stance.

If you are like most group therapists, you started out as someone who worked with individuals. In contrast to many professionals, I think leading a group requires skills that are different from one-to-one work. The challenge of a group therapist is to simultaneously track and respond to the individual’s responses, the dyadic relationships as well as the group-as-a-whole dynamics. Since all three domains affect one another, the therapist does indeed act like a conductor – bringing to the fore one or two elements, and focusing the group on a particular part of the process. Which one to spotlight depends very much on where the affect is, where the conflict is or where the action is as a major a common theme is played out. To make the right choice of focus at the right time requires a quick decision within the therapeutic moment – where the biggest gains in understanding and therapeutic change may be found.

The multidimensional arena of group can best be understood through the application of theory drawn from the literature of the various components of the group process – individual, dyadic, group, organizational and cultural dynamics. Adding to the challenge is the likelihood that the therapist will have different, albeit sometimes complementary, reactions to her experience with the different constituencies. The task of the leader, then, is to be able to select what is the figure and what is the ground, and to understand and respond, according to the therapeutic needs at a particular time. Factoring in the role of one’s own emotional reactions in the perception of what is taking place is essential for empathizing with the members and to be objective in the choice of interventions.

From my experience as a clinician, first, and then as a supervisor and trainer, I think it is helpful to break down the job of the group therapist in ways that help her assess what she needs to strengthen her performance. The leader should be able to apply clinical skills, to assess prospective group members, to select who is appropriate for a given group. They must have the ability to develop a treatment plan for each member, compose the group so that the patients can form a therapeutic climate, begin the group, and implement strategies for achieving the goals established for each participant. This array of skills is informed by knowledge of three kinds of theories: personality, developmental (curative), and group dynamics. Integrating and applying these theories to a specific group of patients, with specific needs, in a particular setting is necessary in the design of a treatment strategy. Self-awareness enables the group leader to use her feelings to gain insight into what the members experience and to identify when one’s own issues get in the way of the clinical work. Knowing how one learns, and can learn, to be an effective leader forms a roadmap to leadership development.

This role and task analysis in Table , serves as the basis for a functional index as an alternative access point to the sections herein. Specifically, this reference list can bring the reader into contact with authors who speak specifically to the skills and knowledge expected of a group leader. In other words, using this functional index enables the learner to create a personalized menu of sections to meet her training needs. (In presenting this table I do not imply that other sections may not be relevant to a particular task or role. Rather, I am pointing to primary resources, but encourage the reader to explore other sections as well in their personal search.)

Knowledge and skills required of group therapists and sectional references in handbook.

I. Clinical Skills (CS)
a. Evaluating prospective group members: Sections 2 and 3.
b. Developing a treatment plan: Sections 2 and 3.
c. Designing treatment strategies: Sections 1, 2 and 3.
d. Deciding optimal group composition: Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4.
e. Preparing patients for group: Building working alliances: Sections 1, 2 and 3.
f. Preparing group for new members: Strengthening cohesion and empathic attunement: Sections 1, 2, and 3.
g. Monitoring tension levels of individual patients and of group-as-a-whole: Sections 1, 2, and 3.
h. Managing tension to maintain optimal levels so work can proceed:
1. Responding to empathic failures: Sections 1 and 2.
2. Building listening and expressive capacities: Sections 1, 2, and 3.
i. Identifying and responding to resistance (individual and group-as-a-whole): Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4.
j. Identifying, clarifying and working through transference distortions: Sections 1 and 2.
k. Helping patients with the working-through process that translates what has been gained in group to outside settings: Sections 2 and 3.
l. Planning and managing termination: Sections 2 and 3.

II. Knowledge of Multiple Theories (KT)
a. Personality development and derailments: Sections 1, 2, and 3.
b. Group, family, organizational, and cultural dynamics: Sections 3 and 4.
c. Psychological disorders: Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5.
d. Restoration of mental health: all Sections.

III. Self-Reflective Capacity (SR)
a. Knowledge of one’s own emotional responses to ongoing group events: Sections 2 and 5.
b. Tracking one’s empathic capacity and its accuracy from moment to moment: Sections 1, 2, and 5.
c. Monitoring one’s own anxiety levels and potentially counterproductive activities: Sections 1 and 2.
d. Awareness of what one does not know about the treatment group: Section 5.
e. Ability to be both in the group and be able to look from above at process at the same time: Sections 1 and 5.

IV. Consultation Skills (CS)
a. Ability to consult with referring individual therapist prior to start of conjoint treatment: Sections 2 and 3.
b. Ability to give feedback to referring individual therapist and correlate treatment in individual and group modalities: Sections 2 and 3.

V. Capacity to Develop as a Group Leader (SDL)
a. Ability to present accurately the process of treatment group: Section 5.
b. Ability to articulate needed focus of supervision: Section 3 and 5.
c. Openness in supervision to ideas of supervisor and peers: Sections 3 and 5.
d. Ability to try recommended approaches to group treatment: Sections 3 and 5.
e. Ability to examine possible links between dynamics of supervisory group and dynamics of treatment group: Section 5.
f. Ability to track what one has learned in supervision and update goals for learning: Sections 3 and 5.
g. Knowledge of when to seek personal treatment when blocks to learning are identified: Sections 4 and 5.

What my group of authors has sought to accomplish in this Handbook is to address these competencies and underlying rationales – each from their own experience and insights. Their rich backgrounds have enabled them to apply what they know to a variety of settings, including those based in other countries and with many different populations (children, adolescents, couples and adults) and desired outcomes (including relief from trauma and or psychiatric symptoms). In addition, several authors comment on the development of the group psychotherapist and the field of psychotherapy as the reader develops her own professional persona as a group psychotherapist.

The more traditional way of organizing a book such as this is through broad topical sections: Building a Frame: Theoretical Models, Groups for Adults, Groups for Children, Diversity and personal perspectives on one’s development as a group leader. Our Contents table does that. This linear format builds a knowledge and skill base for the leader planning to launch or maintain a group. It is also a way to structure a course on group treatment that differentiates among patient populations and expected treatment outcomes. Moreover, the sections offer a diversity of opinions on how one should operate the group, allowing the leader to pick and choose what would likely work for her. A marketplace of ideas can advance the development of the leader as she crafts her own therapeutic style.

As group leaders develop they need to be aware of how the world will look in the next decade or longer. After all, what happens in the greater global society will influence what therapists do, the nature and availability of group treatment, and training and supervisory resources made available to those leading groups.

Group therapy today is practised in agencies, schools, hospitals, and in private practices. Its leaders are drawn from the mental health professions, who differ widely in training and experience. While the American Group Psychotherapy Association Registry certifies group therapists based on an evaluation of courses taken, supervision received, and professional continuing education completed, there is no specialized license required to be a group therapist.

While much of the early development of the group modality arose in medical settings, major contributions were made in the human relations area as psychologists studied group dynamics in laboratories. These two streams of group data came together as military veterans returned to civilian life suffering from battle fatigue and the psychological effects of their wounds.

Many of the breakthroughs in technique and theory were made by psychoanalysts trying to apply psychodynamic theory to treatment in a group setting. It soon became clear to many, that group was not just a more cost-efficient way to handle large numbers of patients, but that the group setting, itself, added to the therapeutic factors seen in individual treatment. In recent years, with the rise of client-centered, cognitive and behavioral modalities, group treatment is conducted with different understandings of mental illness and curative influences.

Today, group techniques are applied to a variety of populations presenting with different needs: patients suffering from mental illness continue to be a primary target of this form of treatment, but today, we see group applied to survivors of natural disasters and man-made trauma as well. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the Gulf Coast hurricanes, group was a major way to reach out to people who experienced acute levels of stress. Modifications of existing group strategies had to be made to serve the needs of this emerging population.

The outlook for group is in many ways going to be influenced by political forces: how much will government and private insurance companies pay for group treatment versus individual work and or medicine. The field needs to assemble research evidence that will make the case for group as a proven contributor to recovery. Limited funds to support that research and the complexity of designing studies that will be considered valid and reliable remain as huge challenges.

It is also likely that the availability of electronic means of communication will bring about distance group experiences, ranging from training and supervision, to treatment. The popularity of social media makes a wider appearance of internet-based groups a probability.

Another trend line points to the preparation of more and more allied professionals on group techniques, and their deployment to fill the gaps within the licensed and highly-trained mental health labor force. This expectation will likely come true in countries outside of the United States, in which there are so few psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, and in other cultures where the majority of existing healers are drawn from the religious sects and not from the professional community. How to select and develop allied professional and paraprofessional group leaders remains an unanswered question. Cultural diversity, then, will also require greater attention as group therapy reaches new populations with different belief systems.

Finally, the field of group psychotherapy will probably place more emphasis on integrating theories and techniques and tearing down the silo-like organization, in which disciples of one approach disdain or discount the contributions of their counterparts from other schools of thought. Bridges between institutes, disciplines, and disciples will need to be built for this integration to happen. The role of conferences, journals, long-distance Skype-type communications, and textbooks will also need to adapt to this global context.

Just like the group process, the dynamics of change within the field are influenced by outside forces. The group leader must be alert to them to stay current and relevant.

A personal note: in creating this Handbook, I turned to many of my colleagues I met through the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA). Their appreciation of the group modality and their dedication to the development of group therapists are reflected in each chapter. They have enriched this experience for me: working on a common goal, in sync with one another, but yet free to be themselves, open to feedback and valuing dialogues have illustrated what good could come from an effective working group!


Ornstein, P. H. (1987). Selected problems in learning how to analyze. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 48, 448–461.

Section One
Building the Frame: Theoretical Models


What is the role of theory in conducting groups? How we see patients and decide what they need therapeutically is based on a set of operational assumptions: about what derailed the patient’s emotional development and what is the nature of that deficit, what therapeutic factors, both intrapsychic and interpersonal, in the group process, can help the member work through these blocks.

This section can help the group leader explore what the different frames of reference offer by way of understanding what occurs in the group, and what is needed to promote patient growth. It may be that certain theories apply to some patients and groups, and not to others. Having a full repertoire of potential treatment rationales allows the leader to formulate her own therapeutic stance specific to the circumstances at hand.

There of course is an added dimension to this review of theories, namely the role of the group dynamic in the work. So that in addition to personality and developmental theories presented in this section, the reader will also see how such foundations as the group-as-whole viewpoint or the subgrouping defenses provide a richer understanding of what is taking place and what needs to happen next.

The chapters that follow do not attempt to define the various theories; rather the authors illustrate how a theory informs their clinical observations and decision-making. I am hoping that this style of presentation will give the reader insights about the theory-in-action, and not just an “academic” theory with little practical application.

Kauff’s approach to “Psychoanalytic Group Psychotherapy” focuses on how a psychodynamically-oriented leader helps members learn more about themselves, including aspects of their personality that have been repressed, but may influence their day-to-day lives. Using the classical notions of transference and resistance and creating a safe climate, we gain insight into a process well-established as a long-term therapeutic process.

Leszcz and Malat in their chapter, “The Interpersonal Model of Group psychotherapy,” do not emphasize unconscious processes. Rather the group tracks observable interactions among members in the here-and-now that often reveal cognitive distortions and disturbances in ways of relating. New and more satisfying ways of securing attachment are then sought.

Schermer and Rice, in an attempt to bring a number of contemporary analytic perspectives together to inform treatment, aim “Towards an Intersubjective and Relational Group Psychotherapy.” Among the operating assumptions of this theoretical umbrella is that the leader and the group need to attend to empathic failures, and their impact, and ways in which the group members co-create a world that points to individual and collective deficits that require repair.

In contrast to the psychodynamic and interpersonal approaches is Crosby’s discussion of “Integrative Cognitive-Behavioral Group Psychotherapy.” Emphasizing interpersonal and social skills building, the therapist creates a climate in the group in which learning can occur. Specific techniques are included that can assist the leader in conducting such groups.

Susan Gantt presents a different frame-of-reference through which she helps the group identify and utilize “Functional Subgrouping and the Systems-Centered Approach to Group Therapy.” She sees the formation of groups within the group as motivated by differences and conflict among the members. Exploration of these subgroups frees the individual to identify the feelings that might have been hidden by being in a subgroup that collectively avoids conflict.

Examining four forms of action within a group, purposeful, self-initiated, spontaneous, and group-centered, Schwartzberg and Barnes present their “Functional Group Model.” They hold that structured techniques give participants the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their styles of social participation.

Billow in his chapter, “It’s All About Me (Introduction to Relational Group Psychotherapy),” stresses the importance of the leader knowing how he or she impacts the group and how the group impacts him or her. Ways to collectively explore this relational issue are clearly depicted.