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.
  • Painting by Karen van Allen,
    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.
  • Hotel Accommodations
  • Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort, 100 Heron Blvd, Cambridge, MD 21613
  • For special rate, $149 to $199/night plus tax: single to quadruple occupancy. Reserve by October 26th, 2018 by visiting or calling the Hyatt at 1-888-421-1442. Also, mention the MAGPS block rate. 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.
  • Online registration is available by clicking here or on the "Register Now!" button.
  • Registration Deadline is Friday, October 26, 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 our conference registrar: Alison Howard at 202-368-3501, or email
  • Cancellation Policy: Full refund less $25 if made by 10/26/2018; no refunds after that date.
Painting by Karen van Allen,
Click HERE for brochure.
white-square Friday, November 2, 2018
  • 5:30pm - 6:30pm Registration
  • 6:30pm - 6:45pm Welcome
  • 6:45pm - 8:30pm Opening Plenary
  • 8:30pm - 10:00pm Reception
Saturday, November 3, 2018
  • 8:30am - 10:15am Plenary
  • 10:15am - 10:30am Break
  • 10:30am - 12:00pm Small Group #1
  • 12:15pm - 2:00pm Lunch
  • 2:00pm - 3:15pm Break
  • 3:30pm - 5:00pm Plenary
  • 5:15pm - 6:45pm Small Group #2
  • 7:30pm - 11:00pm Banquet
Sunday, November 4, 2018
  • 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

Small Group Leaders

  • Trish Cleary, MS, LCPC-MFT-ADC, CGP, LFAGPA & Ginger M. Sullivan, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA
  • Karen Eberwein, Psy.D., CGP & Ron Kimball, PhD, CGP
  • Nicholas Kirsch, Ph.D. & Rob Williams, LCSW, CGP
  • Elaine Klionsky, J.D., Ph.D., CGP & Raquel Willerman, Ph.D., LCSW
  • Yavar Moghimi, MD & Christopher Straley, LICSW, CGP, CST
  • *Shoshana Ben-Noam, Psy.D., CGP
  • Myrna Frank, Ph.D., CGP
  • Joan Medway, Ph.D., MSW, CGP, FAGPA
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

Trish Cleary, MS, LCPC-MFT-ADC, CGP, LFAGPA & Ginger M. Sullivan, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA

  • Trish Cleary, MS, LCPC-MFT-ADC, CGP, LFAGPA is an AGPA Fellow in Group Psychotherapy and an ICP+P Fellow in Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She holds Maryland licenses in clinical counseling, marriage and family therapy, and addiction treatment. She is an Approved Clinical Supervisor in Maryland and has Supervision training from The Washington School of Psychiatry. Trish has a solo private practice near downtown Bethesda. She provides individual, couple/family, group psychotherapy, and supervision. Trish has served in numerous leadership roles in MAGPS and AGPA and she is the author of the popular blog, Spoken Truths: A Shared Journey. Trish and Ginger Sullivan, both AGPA Fellows and members of AGPA’s National Instructor Designate Institute Faculty, have collaborated as co-facilitators of Experiential Process Groups for Psychotherapists, Supervision and Case-Consultation Groups, and Couples Therapy Groups.
  • Ginger M. Sullivan, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA is in private practice in Washington, DC. She specializes in psychodynamic individual therapy, modern analytic group therapy and Relational Life couples therapy. As a graduate of the Center for Group Studies in New York City, Ginger supervises and teaches group therapy skills in both her practice and at AGPA Connect. She is the author of The Road Out: Musings of a Southern Wanderlust. Her blog posts can be found at and

Karen Eberwein, Psy.D., CGP & Ron Kimball, PhD, CGP

  • Karen Eberwein, Psy.D., CGP is a licensed psychologist who offers group and individual psychotherapy in Washington DC. Karen is an adjunct faculty member who provides group supervision for the Doctor of Psychology Program at The George Washington University. She also has been participating as a guest faculty member for the Washington School of Psychiatry's National Group Psychotherapy Institute. Karen has been a member of MAGPS for 13 years and has been on the Board since 2010. Lastly, in addition to working as a psychotherapist, Karen utilizes her psychology degree and advanced training in group and organizational dynamics to consult to human resource and security components of organizations on how to manage threats to employees or other internal corporate assets.
  • Ron Kimball, PhD, CGP is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC, and a long-time member of both MAGPS and AGPA. Trained initially in psychodynamic theory, he has experience and training in existential, humanistic, CBT, and ACT as well. Group work has always been special to Dr. Kimball and he has many hours of experience with mixed, addiction, couples and specialized-topic groups over the 40 or so years he has been a therapist. Karen and Ron have led a Small Group together at MAGPS previously and it was a particularly enjoyable and positive experience. They look forward very much to co-leading again.

Nicholas Kirsch, Ph.D. & Rob Williams, LCSW, CGP

  • Nicholas Kirsch, PhD has practiced over 30 years in Dupont Circle and Bethesda and currently leads 8 therapy groups. He has 5 therapy groups exclusively for psychotherapists where the depth of intimacy, vulnerability, attachment and repair is profound. He is a candidate for ABPP Diplomate Status as a Group Therapist, an alumnus of WSP’s NGPI, and longtime member of MAGPS and AAP where he has led or participated in countless process and training groups. He continues personal growth and group training in a 20+ year peer process group in AAP and a training group (with co-presenter Rob Williams) led by Jungian analyst Justin Hecht. Dr Kirsch draws from many clinical schools (relational/attachment, modern analytic, experiential, positive psychology, body/movement, etc). He greatly values MAGPS’ commitment to diversity and the rare opportunity it provides for addressing diversity (racial, cultural, gender, age, income, sexual orientation, disabilities) within intimate process groups.
  • Rob Williams, LCSW, CGP Is a Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the founder of Aida Therapy, The Dupont Circle Therapy Group. Rob has been participating in, leading, co-leading, or supervising process and therapy groups and group leaders for over 20 years. He is a graduate of the National Group Psychotherapy Institute at the Washington School of Psychiatry and has been a Certified Group Psychotherapist for 10 years. Rob has one published article: Robert Schulte, Hallie Lovett, Cecil Rice & Rob Williams (2014). The Power of Group in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 2014, 64(4), 466-91. Rob specializes in helping people with life transitions, chemical dependency, out-of-control sexual behavior, relationship issues, anxiety & mood dysregulation, and LGBT issues. He studies and practices Zazen (a form of sitting meditation).

Elaine Klionsky, J.D., Ph.D., CGP & Raquel Willerman, Ph.D., LCSW

  • Elaine Klionsky, J.D., Ph.D., 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 therapists developing their own practice.
  • Raquel Willerman, Ph.D., LCSW has a private practice in McLean, Virginia where she sees individuals, couples and groups. Prior to completing an MSW at Smith College, Raquel received her Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin where she later taught and supervised PhD candidates. At the present time, Raquel leads two ongoing relational groups and will be adding a third group for singles over 50 years of age. She has a special interest in the treatment of obesity and trauma, and has recently added training in clinical hypnosis to her toolbox. Raquel has served on the Board of ICP+P and is currently serving on the Board of MAGPS.

Yavar Moghimi, MD & Christopher Straley, LICSW, CGP, CST

  • Yavar Moghimi, MD is a psychiatrist that works as a clinician at S.O.M.E. specializing in dual-diagnosis work with a predominantly homeless population. In addition to his clinical work, he is the behavioral health medical director for Amerihealth Caritas DC, the largest Medicaid MCO in DC, doing population health. His love of groups began in residency when he co-facilitated a men's group with John Dluhy for a year and started his own group in the resident’s clinic after that. He completed the Washington School of Psychiatry Group Psychotherapy Institute in 2013 along with several of his other colleagues from Whitman-Walker Health. He has presented at AGPA and other group conferences since 2011 with the Red Well Theater Group, which contributes to the professional development of psychotherapists through educational presentations featuring dramatic play readings and small group process experiences. In addition to loving psychotherapy groups, Yavar hosts a monthly Settlers of Katan group where he enjoys being a shrewd trader of sheep and ore.
  • Christopher Straley, LICSW, CGP, CST is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a private practice in NW, Washington, DC, providing individual, couples, and group therapy for a wide range of clients and topics. He specializes with men and the LGBTQIA community, who are dealing with substance use/misuse, sex and sexuality, and relationship issues. He considers group therapy a passion and strength, and is in 2-3 groups himself, for professional and personal development. Christopher has been facilitating or co-facilitating groups for over 18 years in a variety of settings including: hospitals, clinics, and private practice, averaging 2-3 groups per week. Modalities range from process, in the here-and-now, to PsychEd. He has also provided group consultation in individual and group settings. Additional group training includes the Washington School of Psychiatry’s: Psychodynamic Program, the National Group Psychotherapy Institute, and the Supervision Training Program. Christopher is an AGPA Certified Group Psychotherapist and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. He is currently working on forming two new co-facilitated groups.

Shoshana Ben-Noam, Psy.D., CGP

  • Shoshana Ben-Noam, PsyD, CGP, LFAGPA is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and certified group psychotherapist. She is an adjunct professor at the Pace University Psychology Doctoral Program, faculty and supervisor at the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society (EGPS) Training Program in New York City and former faculty at the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy (NSGP) Training Program in Boston. She has also conducted numerous workshops, institutes and trainings nationally and internationally. Dr. Ben-Noam was awarded Fellow of AGPA and honoree of EGPS, received the AGPA 2007 Affiliate Society Assembly Award, and served on the AGPA and EGPS Boards. She has Guest Edited two issues on Trauma and Group Therapy in the Group Journal and trained over 600 mental health professionals in trauma and group therapy post 9/11. She maintains a private practice in New York City for individual, couple and group therapy.

Myrna Frank, Ph.D., CGP

  • Myrna Frank, Ph.D., CGP, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Certified Group Psychotherapist at her Center for Life Transitions. She has offices in Bethesda and Silver Spring, MD and sees individuals and couples, provides supervision, and facilitates a longterm therapy group. In addition to her focus on the profound impact of people who relocate their lives for all kinds of reasons, her interests include the treatment of dissociation and trauma, and weight and body image concerns. Myrna’s past job experience includes working at college counseling centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and a women's trauma program. She has been a supervisor at the Rutgers’ GSAPP Group program and at UMd’s Counseling Psychology program. Myrna works within a relational psychodynamic model, has trained with Stewart Aledort, and has been a small group leader at a number of MAGPS conferences. She has frequently presented at AGPA and during the past few years her workshops and special institute have been on Longing for Home, no surprise given her personal story of growing up in South Africa, then moving to Israel and finally emigrating to the USA.

Joan Medway, PhD, MSW, CGP, FAGPA

  • Joan Medway, PhD, MSW, CGP, FAGPA has been leading groups for many years at the American Group Psychotherapy Association annual Institutes, at the Mid Atlantic Group Psychotherapy conferences and the International Group Psychotherapy conference. Dr. Medway has been trained as a family therapist and practices with a psychodynamic and self-psychological theoretical point of view. She has been on the faculties of AGPA, Mid Atlantic and Argosy University. Dr. Medway is especially interested in the multiple levels of intergenerational trauma that we experience in our lives caused by man-made trauma in the personal, familial, and political spheres that we dwell in. She believes that empathic attunement across generations is key to lessening traumatic impact,
  • 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.
  • The deadline for scholarship applications will be October 19, 2018.
  • You can apply for a scholarship by clicking here.
  • For more information please email our scholarship chair, Nancy Hafkin, PhD, CGP, at
  • 12.25 CE/CME Hours for Professional Counselors, Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists and Medical Professionals.
  • 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
  • Please click here for the reference and reading list provided by Dr. Buchele for our Fall 2018 Conference.
  • Please click here for PDF copies of the readings recommended by Dr. Buchele.
  • Please click here for PDF copies of the handouts Dr. Buchele will be utilizing at the conference.
white-squareFor more information please contact Sally Brandel & Lisa Haileab, 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 (AGPA) 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: