The Return to Richmond

by Henry Morris

After a lapse of several years the Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Society will return to Richmond, Virginia, for its Fall 2010 Conference on Friday, October 22 through Sunday, October 24, 2010. The venue is the Ramada Plaza Richmond West Hotel at 6624 West Broad Street in Richmond’s near west end. The topic will be “The Ethical Dimensions of the Co-Therapy Relationship,” and presenters are Bill Roller and Vivian Nelson. They are Marriage and Family Therapist from Berkeley, California, who are both spouses and co-therapists.

During a period when boundaries seem to have become fluid in all aspects of our lives including politics, entertainment, finances and sports, a reexamination of professional boundaries is especially timely. We have all been inundated with escapades of boundary disregard by celebrity financiers such as Bernie Madoff, by sports stars such as Tiger Woods and politicians such as John Edwards and John Sanford. It seems that every day another account of betrayal and boundary violations appears in the media. At times the media accounts are so intrusive and redundant that these violations almost come to seem the average and norm for our lives. Most of us would like to think that as professionals we are immune to such scandalous behaviors. However, experienced and knowledgeable though we might be, there are hidden and subtle vulnerabilities which exist no matter how long we have been practicing or how much we may know. Often times professional violations occur with the colleagues and the patients we know most intimately.

A dimension of group psychotherapy leadership which is special and has unique aspects is the co-therapy relationship. At some time in most of our professional lives we have been in a co-therapy relationship. Many of these have continued for years in an almost marriage like bond while, others have ended abruptly and never been attempted again. Sometimes these co-therapy relationships have been entered into because of an emotional pull for a fellow professional without any knowledge or theory base to our decisions. A frequent example is the so called co-therapist relationship involving a student and their supervision in what is supposed to be an equal structure. Seldom are the pitfalls and vulnerabilities explored by co-therapy participants prior to the onset of their leadership together. This conference will examine the dimensions involved with co-therapy including the advantages and disadvantages and the phases of the co-therapy team development. In addition, demonstrations of how co-therapists can balance their clinical skills, their theoretical perspectives and their communication styles will be offered.

Bill Roller and Vivian Nelson, are in private practice in Berkeley, California, and have been co-therapists for 35 years. They are co authors of the forth-coming book, A Second Chance at Love, which addresses the issues of making a new relationship. Their first book, The Art of Co-Therapy was published in 1991 through the Guilford Press. The Promise of Group Therapy, their, video series, is available at www.thepromiseofgrouppsychotherapy.com . The companion book for The Promise of Group Therapy was published in 1997 by Jossey-Bass/Simons-Schuster. Bill is a Certified Group Psychotherapist through the American Group Psychotherapy Association and is Ethics Chair for the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes. He has spent the last six years developing ethical guidelines for that organization. Bill and Vivian presented at the AGPA conference in February in San Diego, California.

As usual for MAGPS conferences, there will be small process groups throughout the time. In keeping with the theme of the Conference, most of the small groups will be led by cotherapy pairs. At the time of this printing, all pairs were not firmly established, but the following were set: Venus Masselam and George Saiger, Lew Weber and Rose McIntyre, Molly Donovan and Barry Wepman, Rob Williams and Sally Brandel, and Nina Brown with Nial Quinlan. Additionally, as has become traditional at our conferences, a group therapist from another affiliate society will be leading a group. Elaine Cooper from the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society will be joining us for this conference.

The setting for this year’s conference is located at a conveniently accessible hotel just off of Interstate 64 West. It is easily reached by taking I95 south toward Richmond and then taking I64 west toward Charlottesville. The hotel is located at the Broad Stree east exit off of I64. It is strongly suggested that departure from the Washington, D.C. area be late morning or early afternoon as I95 can be quite congested. The hotel has all the amenities including a comfortable bar area plus an on site restaurant. A block of room has been reserved for the conference but they are first come /first serve. They will be at $89/night with a cut-off reservation of September 22. The web site is www.ramadaplazarichmondwest.com.

In addition to the comfortable hotel setting, information will be available for tours and exploration of the local area, which includes many historic sites and unique Georgetown-like neighborhoods and shopping areas. Richmond has grown over the last many years to be more than the former capital of the Confederacy. It is described as artsy, charming and edgy. There are clubs with excellent music, classic mansions for touring, a fine arts museum and many wonderful restaurants. Please take time to join us for an exciting conference and an opportunity to enjoy southern hospitality.