Brief Articles

Finding my voice in the group

The division's student representative reflects on finding his niche through group psychotherapy research.

By Sean Woodland
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." —Mahatma Gandhi

My Personal Voice

Some months ago I was pondering my professional purpose, as many PhD candidates I assume tend to do. Into my mind appeared thoughts like “What’s my motivation?” or “Is it really worth it?” or “What if I just lived in the mountains for a few weeks to get away from it all?” Historically these thoughts emerge when I am in the middle of studying for a midterm, working on a term paper, or stressing over all the research tasks that I have to complete (at which point I also wonder if I’m a masochist). Usually I just push through because I have to; I know that any other course of action (like moving to the mountains) would in the end prove fruitless, as I would end up burning bridges with faculty and community clinicians, would lose my chance at a PhD in Clinical Psychology, and in the end would likely become bored after a few weeks. While these thoughts still permeate from time to time (I am, in fact, an avid outdoorsman), it was just a few months ago that I realized what really drives me. The answer is service to others. Let me explain how I got here.

Like most students at Brigham Young University, I was raised in an environment that places high value on service to others. I put that value to practice as a Spanish-speaking missionary in New York City, which is where the service bug really infected me. I never wanted to stop helping others learn and grow, and in my search for a path chose to become a clinical psychologist. Since then I have learned where I fit the best in what is a vast field, and for me the answer is helping providers improve their standards of care. My areas of focus are in multidisciplinary communication, organizational development and leadership, and the recovery movement. I am a concurrent member of Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service), which I hope will help fulfill my desire to influence care of the seriously and persistently mentally ill (SPMI), as well as the intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD). And because group is a modality growing in popularity for these two populations, I chose to ground my training in group psychotherapy research. I also have received formal training in the dynamics of group therapy, being versed in Yalom and Forsyth and raised in the strong group tradition that exists at BYU. Thus it is with much gratitude that I accept the task to learn from other group aficionados in Div. 49, and to help light the fire that already exists within each of our student members.

My Voice as Student Representative

My first hope as a student representative is to represent well. My hope is to strive to learn from all division members, to find common experience, and use that as fuel to help the division’s purposes be realized. As a doctoral student I understand the constant pressure we often put upon ourselves to achieve everything that we see relevant toward attaining that first real paycheck, but my hope is that we can also see outside ourselves and experience the “why” of human services, and group in particular. For me, being involved in Division 49 leadership is my way of experiencing that “why,” and furthering the cause of group education has now become the “how.” It is alarming to me to hear that many public and private health care systems use group in greater quantities as an inexpensive modality, but aren’t properly educated in how to make it effective. This issue is obviously traced back to the training programs themselves, and my hope as student representative is to find those programs that do it well, and seek to promote the importance of group in training programs that have yet to catch the vision. To accomplish this I will soon be creating a student committee, and from there we will be contacting and polling the student membership, and will branch out to a representative sampling of training programs. Stay tuned!

It is my hope that as student membership we may seek to find our voice in the Div. 49 group through serving others, diligently contributing and framing the future climate of this great society.