Finding my way into the group therapy world

A new student member of the division shares her professional experience entering the field of group therapy and its positive influence on her career

By Kacey D. Greening

As a new student member, it’s hard for me to believe there was a time when I didn’t know Division 49 existed. Not too long ago, I was a first-year graduate student trying to find my way in a strange new world. I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in or how I was going to become this “competent  professional” that everyone was talking about. Over the course of my graduate program, I remember a mixture of feelings. I was thrilled by group work and terrified of it at the same time. On one hand, group provides so many opportunities for interpersonal learning and growth, but there are so many variables to manage and attend to in group work. I remember thinking to myself, can I really do this? Despite my initial self-doubt and anxieties, I told myself that I would persist in exploring group work. I told myself that I would give it a fair chance rather than backing away from the challenge.

So I took a group therapy course with one of my professors, Dr. Martyn Whittingham. While taking this course, my interest in group therapy grew immensely. This was the first time I’d heard anything about pre-group preparation and group assessment. It was the first time I’d heard anything about the interpersonal theories underlying process groups. Dr. Whittingham’s teaching style and his mentorship doubled my curiosity and my enthusiasm for group work and improved my confidence  as a clinician-in-training. In the past three years of graduate training, my allegiance toward group work has increased exponentially.

As I look back, I can see that my passion for group has always been a part of me, but I didn’t have much support or supervision to flourish until I came to Wright State University. Currently, I’m writing a book chapter with Dr. Whittingham on group work in college counseling centers. When he first asked me to write with him, I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited! Writing a book chapter might become pretty typical for seasoned clinicians, but for many students like me, it’s a monumental moment and a great honor. I’m also kept very busy working  on my dissertation, and of course, my dissertation topic is related to group work! I’m using a  mixed methods approach to study change in college students who participated in Focused Brief Group Therapy. In fact, Dr. Whittingham, myself, and another student from Wright State University are eagerly preparing to present our research at the American Psychological Association Convention in August, 2012.

In closing, I’m very excited to be a student member of Division 49. I’m grateful for all of the opportunities provided by excellent mentorship, such as Dr. Whittingham, and everyone else out there who is taking the time to mentor their students. Graduate school can be both exciting and scary for new students as they try to find their path, and one of  the most meaningful aspects of my graduate experience has been having mentors to support me and  walk with me on my journey. From a student’s perspective, the value of mentorship cannot be underestimated. Just knowing that there are “professionals” and “experts” who are willing to welcome you, teach you, and link you to resources is such a wonderful feeling! For me, it has made  all the difference in the quality of my training. I find myself willing to take more risks, challenge my comfort zone, and I just feel more valued and affirmed at the end of the day. So I’d like to send a big thank you to all of those wonderful mentors out there!