An Interview with Robert C. Berg: A Retrospective Look at the Career of a Group Counseling Teacher and Facilitator

Article excerpt

During his 38-year career, Bob Berg created a model of training for group practitioners. The following is an interview with Robert C. Berg, Professor Emeritus with the University of North Texas and Visiting Professor, Southern Methodist University, in which he reflects on his career as a counselor educator and clinician. Additionally, Berg elaborates on his experiences with facilitation and training in the area of group counseling. Recommendations for practice are included.

Over the course of his 38-year career at The University of North Texas, Robert C. Berg, Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor of Counseling, Southern Methodist University, trained more than 2,600 group leaders. He has authored or co-authored over 40 refereed journal articles and several books including, Group Counseling: Concepts and Procedures (2006), which is in its fourth edition. In addition, Berg and Carry Landreth created a model for training group facilitators that has been used widely by other counselor educators who were trained by Berg. Although Berg has published articles on other topics, group counseling has been his focus and passion.

Group counseling has been compared to a curious plant in the garden of counseling and psychotherapy (Yalom, 1995). Yalom noted that researchers have established the effectiveness of group therapy, but many mental health professionals underrate and fear it. Yalom also noted that many university programs have never recognized the value of group therapy nor given it a prestigious position in training programs. In fact, most counselor education programs require only one course in group counseling (Akos, Goodnough, & Milsom, 2004; Balkin & Leddick, 2005), but Berg developed a program that offers extensive coursework in group counseling that exceeds Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) standards for group work specialists.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2001) established the requirement for accredited programs that "students meet for a minimum of 10 clock hours in a small-group activity approved by the program. This planned group requirement is intended to provide direct experiences as a participant in a small group" (p. 10). In Berg's master's group counseling course, students were required to meet for over 20 hours. Thus, Berg prioritized experiential training in his course and exceeded the CACREP requirement. Like Berg, many group work educators have stressed the importance of counselors in training being members of a group so that they can experience the client role (Kottler, 2004; Yalom, 1995). Kottler acknowledged that he was puzzled if students believed they could be effective group leaders without knowing what it was like to be a client. Kottler asked his students, "How the heck do you think you're going to convince your clients to take risks, be open and authentic and real, when you are unwilling to be so yourself" (p. 52).

In addition to training group workers, Berg has served as a consultant to a variety of organizations and presented on countless occasions to professional associations on the topic of group counseling. He is a career long member of the Texas Counseling Association (TCA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and a charter member of the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW). Overall, he has 46 years of experience as a group facilitator and trainer. Two recent interviews with Berg provided the content for most of this article. The interviews include his early development as a group facilitator and instructor, influences on his philosophy and approach, descriptions of his group worker' training model, Berg's thoughts on advanced training, and recommendations for practice.

Development as Group Facilitator/ Instructor

Chris Simpson (CS) & Steve Armstrong (SA): Dr. Berg, would you describe how you got into the counseling profession and how you became interested in group counseling? …