Shortly after receiving approval in 2018 from APA for the group specialty, the Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy Specialty Council (GPGPSC) began to map out what needed to be accomplished for the 2025 resubmission for CRSPP recognition. Three primary tasks were laid out:
- Have a sufficient number of APA approved clinical, counseling and school programs offer specialty training.
- Acquire support from other professional associations connected to therapy and group treatment.
- Establish the evidence-based support for group treatment in publications and dissemination of such.
Increasing the exposure of the specialty and the number of programs adopting the specialty
In 2019 and 2020 a subgroup of the GPGPSC began to work on simplifying the criteria that academic, internship and postdoctoral programs needed to meet as presenting the specialty. Initially, checklists for each type of program were created form the specialty application. Next, these checklists were modified for predoctoral clinical, counseling and school academic programs, internships, and postdoctoral training. Finally, using Qualtrics, a short automated online tool was created that enable a clinical director or faculty member in one of these programs to evaluate their didactic and experiential offerings in less than 10-minutes on the criteria. The tool provided immediate feedback on whether the program currently met the criteria and, if not, what might be done to meet the didactic and experiential resources.
The next step undertaken by the same subgroup of GPGPSC was to identify promising academic, internship and postdoctoral programs for group specialty recognition. More specifically, each training program online material was evaluated to see how closely they appeared to meet the criteria. Key information such as where the group training material was located on the webpage and contact information for the director of the program was organized in a large spreadsheet. This undertaking took months, completed by graduate students in Noelle Lefforge and Gary Burlingame’s labs. The current step underway for the GPGPSC is to identify individuals from the GPGPSC, APA-49, and AGPA who are willing to undertake reaching out to promising training programs to:
- recruit them to evaluate their program,
- provide follow up support for those programs that meet criteria by placing their name on a GPGPSC website page located on APA-49’s website, and
- providing support to those programs that close to meeting the criteria through linking them with available training and experiential resources identified by the GPGPSC (e.g., APA-49 and AGPA training resources).
In 2020 and 2021 members of the GSC also created a series of videos that explained the specialty and provided case-studies of how academic, internship, and postdoctoral programs fulfilled the criteria. These videos (available on APA-49’s YouTube channel) featured clinical and counseling psychology academic programs as well as outpatient and inpatient internship sites. In addition, panels explaining the group specialty were held at the annual conferences of APA and AGPA providing an opportunity for interested program representatives to question and discuss the specialty with members of the GPGPSC as well as programs that have met the criteria.
Support of other professional associations
Div. 49 and AGPA are the two primary organizations that created the group specialty petition and contribute members to the GPGPSC, in addition to the American Board of Group Psychotherapy (specialty board of ABPP). However, in the past six-months St. Elizabeth’s Hospital has joined and a member from the Association of Specialists in Group Work (ASGW), a division of the American Counseling Association, began meeting with the GPGPSC. Discussions are underway of possible avenues of cooperation and support. In addition, the GPGPSC is also identifying similar professional associations that have a heavy reliance on group treatment.
Evidence-based group treatment
The GPGPSC petition contained a large summary of studies, meta-analyses, books and other resources that supported the scientific foundation of group treatment’s efficacy and effectiveness. For instance, over a dozen meta-analyses now exist documenting the efficacy of group treatment for the most common psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety, mood, substance, eating and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) disorders). A primary goal of the GPGPSC is to take this information regarding the efficacy of group treatment and the recent specialty recognition and share it with a larger audience. The American Journal of Psychotherapy—an AMA publication—published a special issue on group psychotherapy edited by Fran Weiss in 2021. Sample topics included the group specialty recognition, meta-analytic support of group, online group treatment and culture and diversity considerations. A second GPGPSC initiative, undertaken with the joint support of APA-49 and AGPA was the development of an evidence-based group treatment—EBGT website—to highlight the research supporting group treatment. Using the APA Society of Clinical Psychology research supported psychological treatments, the GPGPSC goal is to summarize the unique mechanism of change In group treatment (multi-person therapeutic relationship), measures that might assist group leaders in improving effectiveness (e.g., alliance, cohesion, etc.) and a summary of the evidence by 12 common psychiatric disorders (eating, borderline, bipolar, major depressive, obsessive compulsive, generalize anxiety, social anxiety, panic, posttraumatic stress, schizophrenia, substance use, and pain disorders). In many instances, teams working on each disorder will be led by authors of the aforementioned disorders specific meta-analyses. The 2021 goal is to complete the research summaries for mood, anxiety and schizophrenia disorders with the remaining disorders tackled in 2022 and release of the website by 2023.