Early Career Group Psychologist Column

Teaching group therapy courses

Learn some tips and resources on teaching group from a conference call for early career psychologists.

By Joe Miles

Conference Call 6/10/13 10:00 a.m. EST, Hosted by ECP Division 49, Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy

Obtained consent for the call to be recorded and made available to others. To obtain access to listen to the conference call recording, please email us at div49group@gmail.com.

Based on the survey sent out ahead of time, we reviewed the topics that were of interest to members. Thanks to each of you who participated!

Administrative texts and resources used for teaching group

General Course texts

Bernard, H. S., & MacKenzie, K. R. (Eds.). (1994). Basics of group psychotherapy. The Guilford Press. 
Rutan, J. S., Stone, W. N., & Shay, J. J. (2007). Psychodynamic group psychotherapy. The Guilford Press. 
Yalom, I. D. with Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. Basic Books.

Supplemental readings from articles and other book chapters.

Alonso, A. and Siller, H. I. (Eds.) (1993). Group therapy in clinical practice. American Psychiatric Pub.
Beck, J.S. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.
Brown, N. W. (2011). Psychoeducational groups. Taylor & Francis.
Corey, G. (2012). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Thomson Brooks/Cole.
DeLucia-Waack, J. L., Donigian, J., & Hernandez, T. (2004). The practice of multicultural group work: Visions and perspectives from the field. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Brooks/Cole.
Donigian, J., & Hulse-Killacky, D. (1999). Critical incidents in group therapy. Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Karp, M., Holmes, P., & Tauvon, K. B. (1998). The handbook of psychodrama. Routledge.
Klein, R. H. (2009). Leadership in a changing world: dynamic perspectives on groups and their leaders. Lexington Books.
Kleinberg, J. L. (Ed.). (2011). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of group psychotherapy. Wiley-Blackwell.
Motherwell, L., & Shay, J. (Eds.). (2004). Complex dilemmas in group therapy: pathways to resolution. Routledge.
Roth, B. E., Stone, W. N., & Kibel, H. D. (Eds.). (1990). The difficult patient in group: Group psychotherapy with borderline and narcissistic disorders. International Universities Press.

Video references

Yalom, I. (2006) Understanding group psychotherapy: 3-Video Set.
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Haynes, R. (2005). DVD For Core/Corey/Haynes’Groups in Action: Evolution and Challenges.
TV Show Monk (Mr. Monk Goes to Group Therapy, Season 8, Episode 8)
TV Show Go On (numerous clips)
(The latter two can include tips of what not to do).

Administrative - Assignments and Tests

  • Have students develop a group to lead, including information on all the decisions necessary before beginning a group
  • Present chapters from Nina Brown Psychoeducational Groups: Process and Practice to the class
  • Midterm exam - 4 essay questions based on Yalom group theory (8-10 pages)
  • ½ of class didactic and ½ of class process group. Require students to write a reflection paper that combines the didactic piece with what occurred in group that week. Final project is a paper that requires the student to apply a model of group development to the process group
  • Allow students to choose one of the following 1. Book review 2. Research review (3 articles) 3. Multicultural (review 3 articles or chapters) 4. Group proposal


A popular method for combining experiential components included spending ½ of class on didactics and then breaking into a process group for final ½ of class. The course instructor led the group in some groups while others allowed students to rotate the role of co leaders. Video tapes of the sessions were used to provide feedback to students regarding interventions and theory. In addition to video tapes, having set periods of debriefing after each group was suggested.

How to handle ethical issues of dual roles, boundaries and confidentiality.

  • Discussing the reality of dual roles, confidentiality, boundaries etc. within the experiential group. Allowing group members to determine their own boundaries.
  • Students sign informed consistent that addresses confidentiality, videotaping, etc.
  • Have students serve as co leaders for a mock group where the roles, identifying information, and issue are assigned.
  • Provide students with a specific theme or delimina for that experiential group
  • Use vignettes to provide group roles and themes
  • Structured Activities (Yarn)
  • Lead group in various problem solving activities (undergrad group class)
  • Move from lower risk to higher risk activities.
  • Encourage students to obtain experiential experiences outside of class (AGPA, other regional resources,)
  • Have students go to open self-help group in the community
  • Have students be a process observer

Resources that provides examples of experiential experiences
Brown, N. W. (2009). Becoming a group leader. Merrill.
Conyne, R. K. (Ed.). (2011). The Oxford handbook of group counseling. Oxford University Press. (See N. Brown Chapter)

The Journal of Small Group Research is expecting to publish a special issue on teaching group psychotherapy within the next few months.

Also participants mentioned that having a set place where information such as teaching syllabi could be shared would be useful. Options were briefly discussed and included sharing of syllabi among conference call attendees only or disseminating the information more broadly on either the AGPA Counseling Center SIG or Division 49 web sites. Stay tuned for these resources to be posted online.

It was agreed that a summary of the call would be sent to all participants and that due to the interest and breadth of discussion another conference call on this or a similar topic is warranted.

Call participants were encouraged to “like” Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy on Facebook.