Reflections on the Spring Conference from Scholarship Attendees

From Emily Lindon, PsyD, George Washington University:

I found the spring MAGPS conference very rewarding, particularly as I mulled over the experience during the following days. The evolution of the demonstration group was especially exciting and revealing. Dr. Aledort’s presentation was engrossing and easy to follow. While the small group experience was frustrating at times, it was certainly illuminating and a wonderful experience. It helped me better understand the diversity among group therapists. I was also pleased to see how welcoming and informative the more experienced clinicians were to us, as students. Overall, I had a great experience and am thankful to all those involved in organizing the weekend and reaching out to new members.

From Anupam Jha, MD, Saint Elizabeths Hospital:

The conference was a thorough positive experience and has left me wanting for more. This was my first ever experience in any kind of a conference and intellectual stimulation that floated around was so invigorating. Right from the first contact with the administrators and the mentors I was hopeful for what to expect and believe me towards the end, I was surely in deluged with new knowledge. What I learnt from those plenary sessions and closed group sessions are already being utilized by me in my groups. I also got my own “near enlightenment” about some career options I have been contemplating and my group leader played his vital role in this. I will strongly recommend this conference to a novice like me who needs to have a feel of how all this works and simultaneously enrich ourselves with the knowledge base these expert attendees have gathered through their lifetime.

From Cleopatra Lightfoot-Booker, MA, Argosy University:

This was my first group conference and I honestly did not know what to expect. Other professionals have told me that they are worth attending and can be very interesting. ( But I always wondered “very interesting” what does that mean? Now I know!). When I was informed of the opportunity to attend the MAPGS Spring conference at my internship training site, Saint Elizabeths Hospital, I thought “perfect!” Receiving the scholarship to attend the conference was a great opportunity because as most of us know, being a student with limited finances can make attending conferences challenging. The conference was nothing like I had ever experienced. The theory explained not only stands out, but the professionals at the conference were welcoming. I enjoyed the small groups and being able to process with other professionals. These discussions appeared more intimate and meaningful. The small groups were also useful in learning how to apply the theory discussed in a group setting. After the conference, I was left with many thoughts and ideas to reflect upon. The conference not only gives you tools to use with your clients, but it also allows you to partially examine yourself. This conference was an experience that I will definitely remember for a life-time!

From Jennifer Goldberg Schneyer, MA, Saint Elizabeths Hospital:

My time at the MAGPS conference was very interesting.  The speaker was certainly not what I had anticipated, and to be frank, I was a bit thrown off by his unusual style.  I felt that the organization as a whole was lovely, particularly the other attendees.  However, the content of the conference was not something that I will be able to incorporate into my work as a clinician, given the clientele that I work with.  I think that first time members would have benefited from a separate group discussion in order to have a place to discuss our experiences and reactions to the events of the weekend.

From Jessica Greenberg, PsyD, George Washington University:

My first experience at the MAGPS conference was an invaluable experience, and is one that has encouraged me to try to integrate some of the learning into my graduate training and day-to-day experiences.  I was unsure what to expect at the beginning, based on previous my experience in a previous experiential group conference.  However, I found the presenter to be exceptionally engrossing and fascinating to listen to.  It has helped begin to shape the very beginnings of my evolving clinical identity.  My only difficulties manifested in the small group experiences as it was hard to bring what was learned from the larger conference group into the small groups.  However, as a graduate student, it was particularly rewarding to be surrounded by such accomplished therapists and feeling opportunities to observe some therapeutic work in action, as evidenced also in the larger group.  The demonstration groups in the larger group were most helpful to comprehend the presenter’s ideas and theories.  The members of the small and larger group were incredibly friendly and welcoming to me as a first-year attendee as well as encouraged me as a graduate student in clinical training.  Overall, the conference was a wonderful and stimulating experience, and I hope to attend another one in the future.  Thanks again to all those who helped make the first-time attendee experience so welcoming and supportive.

From Laura L. Neely, MS, Saint Elizabeths Hospital:

The Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Conference was a whole new experience for me. I walked into the conference expecting a lecture style series. I did not know beforehand that it would be more of a process style interaction. At first I was nervous after discovering that it was more about “processing the process” but excited that I might learn more about the process of group work. After having gone through the conference I learned more about process work and will be able to utilize many things in my current work. I enjoyed the experience and will attend future conferences.

From Katrin Ana T.  Haller, MSW, Catholic University of America:

When I started out as a student therapist my supervisor’s first utterance was to just simply ‘be’ with people. I took this advice to heart when I attended MAGPS for the first time this spring of 2011. It turned out to be advice well taken in that I learned much about myself just by being with fellow explorers in the group. ‘Being’ allowed me to better understand dynamics, mine included, and the group process, which proved to be interesting in our small group–to say the least.

Adapting Dr. Aledort’s concepts for group psychotherapy to our small group experience we moved from the preoedipal stage of a fragmented group of a self and “hostile” other to rapprochement by facilitating an emerging individuation-separation process with personal recognition in the group experience as a whole in just three sessions. (Of course, we left out the grey, the boring stuff of individual integration, for the most part—better keep some distance and excitement). Integrating processes of the demonstration group into our sessions surprisingly appeared to bring about change and more cohesion with too little time and resources for mourning the end of the group. Contrary to the presenting concept of the omnipotent mother, aka therapist, ‘calling each child onto the lab’ within an exclusively initial dyadic dialogue, our group leader, with a nurturing and less demanding presence, facilitated the above mentioned group process by sustaining group members to engage themselves in the group having their needs met. Thus, the parallel process was, in my view, influenced by the group leader’s identification with Dr. Aledort’s concepts facilitating the group’s integration of these concepts as a group as a whole– a process analogous to an identification with an ideal self as a self-object choice.

Thank you for offering a scholarship to this illuminating experience of self-discovery and professional development. I really enjoyed the informal atmosphere contributing to a relaxed and lively exchange with room for growth and creativity.