in groups of students in the same training program. Members are highly motivated, psychologically minded, and generally verbally active. The highly experienced group therapist will find that such groups are not difficult to lead. Occasionally, members may test, judge, or compete with the leader, but the great majority are there for no-nonsense work and apply their own knowledge of psychotherapy to help the group become maximally effective.
The training experiences I have thus far described--observation of an experienced clinician, group therapy supervision, experiential group participation, and personal therapy--constitute, in my view, the minimum essential components of a program to train group therapists. (I assume a trainee's previous or simultaneous training in general clinical areas: interviewing, psychopathology, personality theory, and other forms of psychotherapy.) The sequence of the group therapy training experiences may depend on the structural characteristics of a particular training institute. I recommend that observation, personal therapy, and the experiential group begin very early in the training program, to be followed in a few months by the formation of a group and ongoing supervision. I feel it is wise for trainees to have a clinical experience in which they deal with basic group and interactional dynamics in an open-ended group of nonpsychotic, highly motivated patients before they begin to work with goal- limited groups of highly specialized patient populations or with one of the new specialized therapy approaches.
Training is, of course, a lifelong process. It is important that clinicians maintain contact with colleagues, either informally or through professional organizations such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association in New York City. For growth to continue, continual input is required. Many formats for continued education exist, including reading, working with different co- therapists, teaching, participation in professional workshops, and informal discussions with colleagues. Postgraduate personal group experiences are a regenerative process for many. The American Group Psychotherapy Association offers a two-day experiential group, led by highly experienced group leaders, at their annual institute, which regularly precedes their annual conference. Follow-up surveys attest to the value--both professional and personal--of these groups. 20
Another format is for practicing professionals to form leaderless support groups. There is little literature on support groups of mental health professionals, but I can personally attest to their value. For some time, I have profited enormously from membership in a group of eleven therapists of my own age