Spring Conference 2011 Remembered

Our Spring 2011 conference, “Shame and Excitement: Crucial Markers for Group Psychotherapy,” was a lively, intense, often highly personal, and very successful two-day event, held at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.

Guest presenter Stewart Aledort, MD, CGP, led the three plenary sessions, drawing on theories of attachment, development, and neurobiology and on his own construct of “the passionate bad fit,” or the “Omnipotent Child.” He spoke about the profound influence of our earliest experiences on the development of individual character and on subsequent templates of interpersonal intimacy, and he explored the passion, excitement, and shame of the unconscious re-enactments in a person’s life and in the group. Dr. Aledort also led three demonstration groups, illustrating the value of group therapy and the powerful role of the leader in the task of helping members of the group identify and understand their self-defeating patterns.

Dr. Aledort’s conference bibliography is available here.

The 95 participants also met in ten small groups for three sessions of process experiences over the two days, with each group having a mix of seasoned clinicians, newer group therapists, psychiatric residents, and graduate students. MAGPS hosted a reception for the 8 first-time attendees and the 19 residents and students after the Saturday session, and we also matched them with Mentors to welcome them and support their participation in the conference.

Our visiting small group leader was Justin Hecht, PhD, CGP, from the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society, and leaders from MAGPS were Amy Bush and Ron Kimball, Ann Reifman and Elliot Blum, Maryetta Andrews-Sachs, Barbara Cristy, Myrna Frank, Eleanor Hoskins, Joan Medway, Henry Morris, and Steven Van Wagoner. The conference faculty and Stewart Aledort met as a consultation group periodically throughout the conference.

MAGPS was delighted to host our conference at the historic Saint Elizabeths Hospital, which has long been a leader in group psychotherapy training for psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Many senior group clinicians in MAGPS and the Washington area trained and worked at the hospital. All our meetings were held in the New Building, dedicated in 2010.

Our conference gathering exuded energy and excitement, in sessions and during breaks, as people met, talked, laughed, explored, and discussed the dynamics of our passionate good and bad fits — it was a rich and stimulating weekend.