A Closer Look

Founded in 1991 as a home for both practitioners doing group psychotherapy and psychologists studying group behavior, Div. 49 (Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy) has--over the years--experienced a swing more toward the research arm, says its president, Steve Sobelman, PhD, a psychology professor at Loyola College in Maryland.

That shift is due in part to the success of the division's high-circulation journal Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, adds Sobelman. But he and other division leaders are looking to return Div. 49 to its roots by drawing practice-oriented group psychologists back to the division--while continuing to satisfy its research constituency--through efforts such as including more practitioner-focused resources in its journal and through workshops at APA's Annual Conventions.

Another priority is to enlist more student members, says Sobelman. While graduate courses on group psychotherapy are popular, he notes, "We don't always translate those students into membership." He aims to draw those students by creating more opportunities for them to showcase their work and network with seasoned professionals.

"Students are the foundation on which we are going to build our membership and our leadership," says Sobelman.

Several initiatives he and other division leaders have in the works to boost student and early-career membership and attract more practice members include:

  • A Web site overhaul. A new and improved Web site will debut this month to include a members-only online directory for networking and collaboration, as well as online tools and professional-education articles for practitioners and researchers. The revamped site will have a special student section with information on what to look for in an internship, dissertation writing and psychology careers.

  • Publications outreach. The division has carved out a student forum section in its member newsletter; a recent issue spotlighted promising research and innovative group work by five up-and-coming student members. Sobelman is also launching an effort to "shake hands with students" across the country through e-mail and phone invitations to join to the division.

  • Journal content expansion. Division leadership will collaborate with the Group Dynamics editor on including more "practitioner user-friendly" articles, says Sobelman. Another possibility? Practitioner- written research critiques.

  • A national summit meeting. The division may initiate a summit conference at which division leaders would meet to share ideas and collaborate on projects of mutual interest with leadership from other group-focused organizations, such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association, the Association for Specialists in Group Work, the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

"We could all use our group expertise to collaborate on issues rather than compete," says George Gazda, EdD, president-elect of the division and a research professor emeritus at the University of Georgia. Sobelman, Gazda and other division leaders hope to develop an agenda for the summit this spring.