ABGP History

The development of the Group specialty grew out of the work of several individuals associated with different Divisions within APA.  The primary leader for the Development of the Group Division was Arthur Teicher of New York City.  In the 1980’s Dr Teicher and colleagues helped to stimulate “special interest groups” in a number of APA Divisions these included Clinical (12), Counseling (16), Psychotherapy (29), and Psychoanalysis (39).  These special interest groups sometimes organized as sections of the Division had their own governance format and typically submitted program suggestions for Division meetings both the annual and midwinter meetings.  The goal was to increase the visibility of practitioners, trainers, researchers and students who were committed to the group treatment modality.  Eventually, some participants felt that the sections/special interest group model was not adequate to serve the needs of psychologists who were involved in group work.

Teicher, along with Morris Goodman of New Jersey, Michael Andronico of New Jersey and Joseph Kobos of Texas, organized a petition drive to request that APA recognize the formation of a new Division.  The drive produced more than 900 signatures.  Teicher, Goodman and Andronico prepared the required documentation for APA and the petition for the Division went through all of the required steps with the APA Council of Representatives voting to approve Division 49 in 1991.  Dr. Teicher became the first President of the Division.  Recently, the Division has been renamed the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy.  The Society is currently being led by its’ 19th President, Nina Brown.

It should be noted that the founding leaders of the new Division all had been active in other organizations that focused on some aspect of group treatment or group training.  Many were affiliated with the American Group Therapy Association, the Association for Group Work, or Psychodrama organizations.  All of these organizations are multidisciplinary in format.  The founding leaders of the new Division were committed to developing an organization that focused on the unique training and practice patterns of psychologists who specialized in doing group work.  The name of the new Division, Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy emphasized the interaction between theory and practice as well as the multiple settings in which group theory and technique may be utilized.

Beginning in 1994, the leadership of the new Division formed a working committee to pursue recognition of group work as a specialty practice under the aegis of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).  The committee was chaired by Goodman and Kobos.  The first step was to develop and write the petition to ABPP.  In this process, Goodman and Kobos communicated with ABPP and the Standards Committee which provided consultation to applicant Boards re: format of the petition and the requirements that all Boards must satisfy.  The financial support for underwriting the new Board was provided by soliciting contributions from a wide range of individuals in the professional community who used groups in their professional practice.

The background material that formed the basis for the application was prepared under the leadership of Morris Goodman with the help of Bert Schwartz (New Jersey, deceased), Mike Andronico, John Gladfelter  (Texas, deceased), and Joe Kobos.  This document reviewed the theoretical and practice literature that provides the basis for the establishment of group psychology as a specialty technique with its own unique theories and practice formats.  The document enumerated the post-doctoral education and supervised practice experiences that prepare an individual as a group specialist. The document also described the proposed examination model.

In 1998, the BOT approved the application and authorized the new Board to offer the initial exams.  The initial examinations were conducted in Chicago, Ill in February, 1999.  Thirty individuals were examined.  This initial cadre of examinees was from the original group of contributors.   Each individual submitted a complete application that included documentation of licensure, academic training, internship, and post-doctoral training in group which included courses, workshops and supervised group experience.  Each applicant submitted a work sample that included an audio or videotape of an individual interview and an audio or video of the individual working in a group.

After we had examined the initial cadre and reached the required number of successful exams, we modified the work sample and examination requirement.  We determined that the recorded individual diagnostic interview was redundant and did not add new information about the applicant.  We deleted the individual interview and limited the audio or video (preferred) part of the practice sample to a demonstration of the candidate working in a group.  We added specific questions in the oral exam to address how the candidate evaluated individuals for group treatment and how they evaluated progress or change in the therapy.

In the recent past, we have added questions in the oral exam that address multicultural competence and issues of diversity in the individual’s practice.  As might be expected, group work involves dealing with a complex array of diversity issues including age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, race, socioeconomic factors, religious orientation and practice, physical disability, and culture.

Joseph C. Kobos
March 22, 2012