Student Corner

The American Group Psychotherapy Association annual conference: A student networking opportunity supplementing involvement in Division 49

Student contributers discuss the benefits of being involved with the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) and attending the annual conference. The AGPA is a separate interdisciplinary organization (i.e., psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, etc.) whose mission is to enhance practice, research and training in group work.

By Gregory Capriotti and Kyle Barry

Gregory Capriotti and Kyle BarryWe were asked to focus this column on the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), which is another organization in the world of group work providing various opportunities for students in addition to those offered through involvement with Division 49. In the spirit of group cohesion, our support (Division 49) for other organizations with a mutual interest in group work is important to the overall goal for all group workers, which is increased understanding of group processes for the benefit of clinical practice, research, and training. The AGPA is a separate interdisciplinary organization (i.e., psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, etc.) whose mission is to enhance practice, research and training in group work, and has been since 1942. The week of February 28–March 5, 2011, was the annual AGPA conference held in New York City, and we believe that this event calls for a discussion of the student opportunities available that can supplement those offered through Division 49. For those student affiliates of Division 49 looking to expand their network within the field of group psychology, we decided that we would comment on our own experience at the AGPA conference as graduate student affiliates of Division 49.

We both attended the AGPA conference in 2009 (Chicago, IL) as eager students and again in 2010 (San Diego, CA) as student presenters. We found out first hand that AGPA is a very student friendly organization. In fact, one of us was able to earn a scholarship through AGPA in 2009 to attend the conference for free! As two people who know the ins and outs of the graduate student lifestyle, we know the word free will get your attention! Eligibility for the scholarship requires an updated curriculum vita, letter or interest, two letters of recommendation (one preferably from an AGPA member), a conference registration form, and a completed AGPA membership application. The fact that we were originally informed about this scholarship at the Division  49 hospitality suite at the 2008 APA conference (Boston, MA) nicely illustrates the beauty of group organizations supporting one another. This is just another example of the many doors opened for us through our involvement in Division 49.

If you decide to attend the AGPA conference, be prepared to see many familiar faces as many members of Division 49 are also members of AGPA (including both of us). This conference offers hands on training opportunities in the form of all day and half-day workshops that utilize actual group processes, with conference attendees as group members, in order for leading experts in the field to demonstrate cutting-edge group therapy techniques. This was definitely one of the most memorable and unique trainings that we can remember. In addition to the hands on training, our acceptance as presenters in 2010 demonstrates the level of respect the organization has for students and of the guidance that we can offer as graduate students. We both view our presentation at this conference, due to the respect we have for our audience, as a defining moment in our transition from graduate student to (soon to be) early career professionals. If  anything, the conference affords all students the opportunity to spend a week with researchers and clinicians that account for the majority of the group literature that we read every day. This is truly a star studded affair and a networking extravaganza.

Between involvement in Division 49 and the AGPA, graduate students can claim to have received mentoring and workshop training from some of the most well respected group workers in the business. Unfortunately, we were both unable to attend the AGPA conference this year due to internship interviews and current internship obligations, but we hope that any students who attended had as memorable of an experience as we did. We would love to hear from any student members of Division 49 who were able to attend this year’s conference! For more information about the conference, student opportunities, and the AGPA as an organization, check out the AGPA website.

In the next two The Group Psychologist newsletters our focus will shift back to the annual APA conference which will be held in Washington, DC, specifically discussing student opportunities that may be available. After all, if it wasn’t for our involvement in Division 49 and our time spent in the hospitality suite, we may not have had the experiences just described about AGPA! In closing, we just would like to back up a bit and acknowledge everyone for their hard work as graduate students and interns, and for investing energy into the practice of group work. We know that this is a challenging time, but it will be well worth it when it is all said and done. We look forward to the day when we can all see each other on the other side—as early career professionals, of course!