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  • Monday, May 30, 2016 6:00 AM | Melissa Kelly

    The theme of my workshop is working with difficult group members, the pre-oedipal population. The early childhood experiences of these group members have damaged their ability to sustain healthy relationships as adults.  I have found that the traditional mode of group leader interventions, interpretations, do not necessarily work with this population.  Emotions are not of the intellect. Pre-oedipal group members respond more positively to emotional communication.  

    I was born to be a group therapist. When I was 5-years-old, growing up in Bayside, Queens, I had my own gang.  The "Pepper Gang", was a rag-tag group of boys and girls that had its own clubhouse and a 'turf".  By the time I was in my early 20's, I added intellect to my leadership skills and worked as a TA for my statistics professor at Queens College, New York. When I began training as a group therapist, I entered a complicated relationship with my own group therapist; that relationship was the driving force behind the motivation to write my book: "Emotional Incest in Group Psychotherapy--A Conspiracy of Silence"

    Over the years, I have studied alternative ways of resolving these [difficult] members resistances to emotional intimacy in group. My workshop demonstrates these techniques. Clinicians treating pre-oedipal group members could profit from attending my workshop. Suggested readings include the books and articles by  Louis Ormont, Leslie Rosenthal and Hyman Spotnitz.

  • Thursday, May 26, 2016 6:00 AM | Melissa Kelly

    Roger Saint-Laurent and Peter Taylor

    Today we are continuing our series on NSGP 2016 Conference presenters, and we are lucky to have a guest post written by Peter Taylor and Roger Saint-Laurent who will be facilitating our full-day demo group experience. Here they are in their own words talking about what Somatic Experiencing® is, and what you can hope to learn from attending the demo group this year:

    We’ve been invited to present this year’s NSGP Lecture and Demonstration Group on “SE-Informed Group Psychotherapy:  Moving beyond Trauma to Embodied Relationship.”  We will present a set of principles adapted from Somatic Experiencing (SE) that we find invaluable for deepening the work of group psychotherapy.  Members of the demonstration group will first meet privately with us for a workshop on Saturday, so they can join as a group and begin their exploration of this way of working, and will then continue their group work on Sunday as the demonstration group.

    For those of you not familiar with SE, we thought it might be useful to share a little about it and forecast what you might experience if you join us for a taste of its application to group work.  And if what you read below piques your interest enough to consider joining the demonstration group, please contact us at nsgpdemogroup2016@gmail.com so we can talk about it!

    About SE

    “Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event," writes Peter Levine, PhD.  Through forty-five years of observation, research, and clinical application, Dr. Levine has developed Somatic Experiencing®, a body-based approach taught throughout the world, which offers a new and hopeful perspective on trauma, recognizing that, like all mammals, human beings have an instinctual capacity to heal.  

    Under perceived threat, most mammals react almost identically.  They automatically mobilize a tremendous amount of energy to enhance their chances of survival, releasing chemicals and hormones that increase strength, perception, stamina, and pain tolerance.  Once the threat has passed, or the animal has successfully escaped, the system returns to the pre-threat state.  Wild animals allow this organic process to occur without interruption. They reset the homeostasis in their bodies through gentle shaking or trembling, sweating, panting, or bucking.  Younger animals discharge by replaying the trauma, often many times, by play fighting, tumbling, and chasing.

    Although humans possess regulatory mechanisms virtually identical to those in animals, these instinctive responses are often overridden or inhibited by our complex neo-cortices, our developmental histories, and our socialization.  This inhibition keeps the survival arousal trapped in the body, together with normative impulses for specific defensive or protective motor acts.  Since the organism is designed to respond to threat by fighting or fleeing, when these impulses are interrupted, the sympathetic nervous system stays primed and ready to react.  The body responds as if the trauma is still occurring and keeps the person in a state of constant readiness and unnecessary reactivity, leading to a constellation of familiar symptoms, including anxiety, panic, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, emotional lability, depression, pain, patterns of bracing and collapse, cognitive dysfunction, behavioral problems, addictions, and an ongoing sense of intrusion and overwhelm.

    SE offers a variety of gentle, somatically-based techniques designed to re-regulate these deep-seated disturbances in arousal.  Focusing not on content or story but instead starting with awareness of bodily sensation, individuals begin to access restorative action patterns, allowing the highly aroused survival energies to be safely and gradually neutralized in the neuromuscular and central nervous systems.  Thus, rather than changing behavior, SE works with the physiology, accessing the “motor” that drives these debilitating symptoms.  

    For more information about Somatic Experiencing, with some treatment vignettes, check out this piece in Psychology Today written by Roger and our colleague Sharlene Bird:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201503/somatic-experiencing.

    SE and Group

    Over the last nine years, we’ve conducted many SE-related workshops and Institutes both privately and at AGPA and several of its affiliate societies, including NSGP.  Workshop participants have been uniformly impressed by the power of SE, and we’ve identified three major themes of SE-informed group psychotherapy.

    We find that normalizing the inevitability of physiologically-driven survival responses can be enormously healing, even life-altering, for people who previously thought there was something wrong with them for having bodies that inevitably, under threat, do what bodies do—and now discover that help is available when their bodies have gotten “stuck” in patterns that are no longer necessary.

    In addition, we notice that one person’s traumatic history can be more easily held and renegotiated in the interpersonal field of a reasonably safe, respectful, and concerned system of fellow group members; that work by individuals on their own traumatic patterns enables vicarious healing of similar patterns in other members; and that the capacity to manage arousal simultaneously increases both in the focused-on member and in others.  

    Finally, we are constantly struck by the value of watching, from an SE perspective, as activation and overwhelm ebbs and flows in the here-and-now group interaction, at all levels:  the dyadic, the subgroup, and the group-as-a-whole.  Members come to recognize the immense value of tracking their own internal states and those of others, and of taking these cycles of activation and settling into account prior to attempting a piece of interpersonal work.  Coming out to meet another from a place of increased internal resiliency allows much more deeply-felt “moments of meeting,” of great value both to those directly engaged in the interaction and to those touched by the meeting of others, as can happen in a group.  And as group members practice what can be understood as good autonomic nervous system hygiene (compared to simply “being nice” or “avoiding conflict”), they develop more secure attachment patterns.  

    In the SE-informed group, members begin to understand what supports the development of resiliency for each person and to take great satisfaction in each other’s growth—and in discovering that healthy interpersonal engagement can be among the most self-regulating and joyful of all human experiences.  We look forward to offering you the opportunity to discover the healing power of SE at the upcoming NSGP Annual Conference in June!

    Peter J. Taylor and Roger Saint-Laurent are clinical psychologists, Certified Group Psychotherapists, and Somatic Experiencing® Practitioners in private practice in New York and Westchester.  They have assisted at thirty-eight SE trainings throughout the US and Canada and they offer ongoing training groups in SE-informed group psychotherapy as well as frequent workshops and Institutes at AGPA and its affiliate societies.  They have both served on the Board of Directors of the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute, and Peter is past-president of EGPS and a Fellow of AGPA.  More information about their work is available at www.drpetertaylor.com and www.drsaintlaurent.com.  Thanks to SETI and to Ariel Giarretto, SETI Senior Faculty, from whom some of the “About SE” part of this article is adapted.

    Thanks to Roger and Peter for writing this article.  We look forward to seeing you at the conference! 

    To register for this offering, and to see what else we have in store at this year's conference, click here!

  • Tuesday, May 24, 2016 8:42 AM | Melissa Kelly

    Mark in his natural habitat

    Mark Fanger in his natural habitat

    Mark Fanger is known well for his work in the field of sex therapy, so he is well-versed in dealing with the "taboo", but today he is talking about the other taboo, death.  But it's actually not just death we need to be prepared for when thinking about our professional will.  Is our practice set up to handle the unexpected?  What about a sudden need for absence? Who is there to cover for us when we cannot be available? His workshop this year is titled "Your Professional Will: What you need to have in place when unexpected harm hits you -- and your patients, colleagues, family and friends".  Today he's going to tell us about the inspiration for the workshop, what participants will learn...and also maybe a little bit about golf.  Here is Mark:

    I am excited to give this workshop for NSGP to help those in need wade into this scary but necessary terrain. 

    This workshop will begin with an experiential/simulation exercise.  Like group therapy itself, it can not be explained in words but must be experienced to be appreciated.  This exercise  will be the springboard for all participants to create their own professional will.

    Everyone will leave the workshop with a skeleton (if not more) of their professional will.  Everyone will learn the ethical, legal, emotional, and practical underpinnings of this crucial, misunderstood, scary, and essential concept. Often too overwhelming to address - never mind implement, this workshop will give you a good head start.  Bring your pad and pen, iPad, or computer along with your anxieties, hopes and Q&A”s.

    This workshop is designed primarily for the solo practitioner, but anyone can learn and benefit from this learning opportunity.

    My professional will has been implemented a few times.  This inspired me to do this workshop for MPA and AASECT-NE.  My team - many are NSGP members - were there for me and my family and my patients when they were needed.  They covered my practice, met with my patients and therapy groups, and supported me so that I could focus on getting well.  

    I am no longer able to play many sports but I am unashamedly addicted to golf.  I no longer lose to Scott Rutan on the squash court because we no longer play, but we have great fun on the golf course.  I never beat Jerry Gans on clay or hard surface in tennis - not once, but he humbled himself just by playing on the same court.

    To learn more about my work (not my golf), go to www.drmarkfanger.com.

    Thanks Mark for sharing your inspiration for your workshop with us! 

    Mark Fanger, Ed.D., CGP, CST has a private practice in Newton, MA. He joyfully served 10 years on the Conference Committee 5 years each as chair of the Program and Experience Group Committees.  He served several terms on the NSGP Board and has presented workshops on and off over many decades. Dr. Fanger is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.  He specializes in male sexual difficulties, infidelity, and  sexual compulsivity (sometimes called addiction) in men and women.

    To register for this workshop and all the other great offerings this year click here!

  • Wednesday, May 18, 2016 9:09 AM | Melissa Kelly

    Today we are beginning our series featuring the presenters and facilitators for the Annual 2016 NSGP Conference June 10-12th at Simmons College in Boston.  Our presenter today is Oona Metz, LICSW who is running the workshop  “This Group is a Lasagna”: The Group Leader’s Use of Metaphor and Images in Group Psychotherapy" on Saturday June 11th.  Here's Oona sharing an experience we've all had as group leaders, and how it sparked her inspiration for her workshop topic this year:

    The last time I led an Experience Group at NSGP, the group got off to a slow start. There were a variety of factors that contributed to the slow start including a couple of participants who arrived late. As the leader, I felt like it was difficult getting the group to flow.  I remember feeling a bit hopeless when we returned from lunch and the cohesion I had hoped for was still missing. 

    Finally, near the end of the day, the group became a group, the members trusted each other, laughed and cried, fought and made up and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. During the hour long didactic at the end of the day, I described the group in this way: 

    “This group was a lasagna.  You know when you throw a dinner party and you have a frozen lasagna and your dinner guests are coming at 7 so you put the lasagna in the oven at 6 and then your guests arrive and you check the lasagna and it is frozen pretty much solid? So you serve your guests some wine and cheese and by 8 pm you think it must be done, and you put your finger in the lasagna and it’s no longer frozen, but it's still cold. You start to panic, wonder if you should just order take-out, but your guests seem happy. You give them more wine and more cheese and finally at 9 pm, you check the lasagna and it is perfect. Nice and hot in the middle, with the cheese all brown and bubbling on the top. You serve it up and it is the most delicious lasagna you’ve ever had, even though you are eating two hours later than you planned. While you were worrying the whole night, your guests were enjoying the ride, making the best of what was there, happy to be fed along the way, and delighted to dig in to a nice hot lasagna when it arrived.”  

    That image seemed so apt at the time, and in describing it to the group I was able to let them in on my experience of the group and to give them a compliment as well.  That was the moment I started to think about doing a workshop on the group leader’s use of metaphor in group

    Thanks Oona for sharing your source of inspiration for your workshop!  

    Oona Metz is a licensed clinical social worker with offices in Brookline and Arlington, MA.  She has been in practice for over 20 years and works with adults, couples, groups as well as provides supervision, consultation and training to clinicians on group therapy and a variety of other topics.  

    To register for this workshop, and all the other great offerings this year, click here!

  • Sunday, April 03, 2016 1:17 PM | Melissa Kelly

    During a recent meeting of the Publicity and Marketing Committee and I asked our group if they could help me figure out why I was feeling so resistant to getting this blog started.  And they were game to help me (because they are awesome).  So, I started talking about how I felt like I wasn’t sure what was OK to say in a blog post, and what was not.  I wasn’t sure who was in charge of this blog or who I should be speaking for.  I didn’t know if what I had to say would be accepted or rejected.  And as I was naming these issues, wonderful-and-astute Ann Koplow said to me “This is just like group.  We’re scared to speak up because we don’t know what the frame is.”  

    And OMG, she’s totally right.  This is exactly like that.

    We want this to be a space for people to express themselves, explore, and have fun, but none of that can happen without safety first. We decided that before we can begin in earnest, we need to set a frame.  

    So here it is, The Group Agreement for The NSGP Blog

    1. Contributors should write about things related to group, clinical practice, and their experiences as members of NSGP in a way that feels interesting and right to them.  
    2. Posts do not have to follow a specific structure.
    3. Posts do not have to be related to serious or scholarly content (but they definitely can be!).
    4. Keep it collegial.
    5. Keep it (reasonably) clean.
    6. Give credit where credit is due.
    7. Uphold confidentiality not only of your clients/patients but also of your colleagues.  

    Now that we have a frame, we’d like to invite you to share.  There are endless possibilities of what to post --  ranging from research, to the experience of being a group leader, to people’s experiences on the board or on committees, to something silly and fun.  For example, here are some post ideas we came up with as a committee at our last meeting:

    “Top 5 Movies About Group Therapy”

    “A Day in the Life at the Registration Desk” by Joe DeAngelis

    “Top 5 Marc Bolduc Conference Outfits”

    “Conversations in a Hot Tub with Scott Reinhardt” (spoiler alert: this is related to his upcoming 2016 workshop title to be announced soon!)

    If you’re ready to submit a post, please email Melissa Kelly at melissakellylicsw@gmail.com 

  • Friday, May 29, 2015 12:30 PM | Pamela Enders

    MGH social worker Jenn De Souza was so impressed with our conference and community that she has become an active and contributing member of our organization.  Here she is in her own words:

    "I attended my first NSGP conference in 2011 and was impressed to find that the NSGP extended beyond a conference to a vibrant and engaged community.  Members old and new were and are warm and encouraging. I formed connections with other young professionals who were also drawn to the energy of the organization and wonderful training opportunities."

    I suppose you should be forewarned...if you come to our conference, you just might want to get involved in our organization.  And that would mean you would be part of a vibrant and connected group of fun people.  What a shame that would be!

    Are you registered yet?  Come on...there's still time - just do it!

  • Thursday, May 28, 2015 2:00 PM | Pamela Enders

    Psychiatrist Dr. Adam Silk is a regular at our Conference.  Here he describes what keeps him coming back:

    "I have attended the annual conference of NSGP every year for the past several years.  I find the workshops and conferences to be extremely helpful in my practice.  I have also incorporated things I have learned in my work as a clinician and as a teacher.  As an example, I did a one-day workshop with Dr. Robert Moore on clinical supervision a few years ago.  In it he presented a new model of clinical supervision that has changed the way I teach and supervise profoundly.  I continue to utilize this model to this day. 
    I find the level of teaching in the conference to be generally very high.  Teachers tend to be very well-prepared, and discussion is lively and stimulating."

    Another outstanding endorsement of our Conference.  Have you registered yet?  What are you waiting for??

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 2:00 PM | Pamela Enders

    There's no reason to feel shy or lonely if you are first-time attendee at the NSGP Conference.  Here is what Dr. Vinod Rao had to say about his first conference experience:

    "I attended the 2014 NSGP conference at the recommendation of the co-leader of my group, and I'm so glad I went.  As a first time attendee and a novice leading groups, the conference helped open my eyes to what groups could mean.  In particular, the experience group both helped nurture a sense of play into my leadership style but also really taught me more about myself. 

    "The NSGP community was so incredibly warm and welcoming.  It's not always easy to give up a weekend.  But the friends I've made, the personal growth, and the growth as a growth as a group therapist have made the NSGP conference totally worth it."

    Wow!  So - what are you waiting for?  Register already!

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 1:30 PM | Pamela Enders

    Arlington Psychotherapist Maxine Sushelsky will be offering her wonderful workshop on grief at our annual conference. She offers these thoughts about it:

    1)What are you most excited about in giving your workshop?

    "Offering opportunities to see grief in a new way."

    2) What keeps you engaged and coming back to your area of interest?

    "Witnessing clients experience, make meaning of, and transform their grief into something they can hold onto for a lifetime."

    3) What keeps you engaged and coming back to group therapy?

    "The ah-ha's, shared pain, and shared joys when people risk being vulnerable with others."

    4) What is one thing people attending your workshop or group might be surprised to learn (either about themselves or about the topic)?

    "Laughter in a grief group? ... who knew."

    For more about Maxine, see her website - http://www.transitionstherapist.com/

  • Tuesday, May 26, 2015 4:47 PM | Pamela Enders

    Cambridge Psychologist, Dr. Joe Shay, has been a popular teacher/workshop leader/supervisor for many years.  His workshops at NSGP and AGPA draw big crowds because they are entertaining and highly informative.  Even the title is worth the price of admission!

    Joe responded to several questions about his workshop and group therapy.  Here you go...

    1)What are you most excited about in giving your workshop or running your Experience Group?
    I always have a great time in presenting my workshop on couples therapy because the participants are so responsive and energetic. Many people who treat couples do so without much, if any, training, so this offers a chance to help clinicians feel less lost when working with couples. Given that I show a number of videos, the workshop is a lot of fun as well.

    2) What keeps you engaged and coming back to your area of interest? 
    Treating couples, like treating groups, is endlessly interesting to me because of the multiple challenges that exist when there is more than one person in the room. Forgot doing brain teasers to keep the mind sharp. Try group therapy or couples therapy!

    3) What keeps you engaged and coming back to group therapy?
    There used to be a Disney clip many years ago (or a clip from somewhere anyway) in which numerous pingpong balls were delicately perched on numerous mousetraps in a closed room. Everything was still. Until the very first mousetrap was triggered and the first pingpong ball flew. Which triggered a second mousetrap, which triggered a third, and so on. So, this is why I love group therapy. Can anything be more electric or challenging!

    4) What is one thing people attending your workshop or group might be surprised to learn (either about themselves or about the topic)?
    Many people treating couples think they are alone in not knowing what is actually going on. In this workshop, they will be able to lay that quiet belief to rest.

    Sounds good, right?  Well, Joe is even better in person so go on, register for the conference and sign up for his workshop.  You know you want to...

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