AGPA AT WORK IN THE COMMUNITY
The American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) is a dynamic, thriving community made up of mental health professionals of all disciplines dedicated to excellence in group psychotherapy. AGPA is a non-profit organization which is a unique blend of member services and direct service. AGPA provides intervention, training, consultation and care nationally and internationally. The Association is made up of 27 local and regional societies whose membership includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, pastoral counselors and creative arts therapists.
AGPA was thrust into a new role in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack by providing direct service to thousands affected by the disaster. AGPA has become a public health resource focused on preparedness and response intervention following disaster and trauma. AGPA’s work has been compiled in a series of training modules and AGPA has produced a series of evidenced-supported trauma intervention protocols that integrate and synthesize the lessons learned in 9/11.
These materials and wealth of experience among our members is now being used to provide intervention, training and consultation to populations experiencing natural disaster, terrorist attack and other events that require a community based trauma intervention. In addition, AGPA offers clinical research tools, agency outreach, exceptional continuing education and training opportunities.
The American Group Psychotherapy Association is a non-profit organization providing quality group training, intervention, consultation and direct services nationally and internationally. AGPA is part of three inter-related organizations that work to support the delivery of group psychotherapy by qualified professionals. In addition to AGPA itself, the Group Foundation for Advancing Mental Health supports group psychotherapy education, research, training, and information dissemination for the benefit of the public and professional communities and the International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists is a standard setting and certifying body that administers the Certified Group Psychotherapist credential along with a referral listing of CGPs for the public.
About 3,000 members, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, clinical mental health counselors, pastoral counselors and creative arts therapists, are experienced in leading psychotherapy groups as well as non-clinical groups of various kinds. Many are organizational specialists who work with businesses, not-for-profit organizations, communities, and other “natural” groups to help them improve their functioning.
AGPA has expertise in group based mental health services, including the use of groups in disaster preparedness and response, and provides comprehensive packages of training, consultation and support for mental health professionals and communities. AGPA also has an organizational structure in place that makes it a logical partner for mental health training and services:
- A national directory of 2,000 Certified Group Psychotherapists, with verified licensure and liability insurance, searchable by language spoken, areas of clinical practice and population expertise
- Published training curricula and evidence-based programs using basic tenets of group psychotherapy
- 27 local and regional societies providing local services and connections.
AGPA’S ROLE IN PUBLIC MENTAL HEALTH
AGPA’s metamorphosis into a public mental health resource grew out of its experience of providing training and services following the events of September 11, 2001, and its desire to insure that the lessons learned from the tragedy were used as preventive measures. Initially, AGPA expanded its organizational services to provide direct community-based services to people affected by September 11 and to developing a variety of training and support group services for other mental health professionals who responded to the tragedy. Raising over $5 million from foundations and governmental agencies to support our programs in New York City and Washington, DC, AGPA provided group-based services to thousands of family members of victims, survivors, witnesses, emergency responders, relief workers and mental health professionals.
Simultaneously, at the request of the September 11th Fund AGPA developed trauma training modules for clinical service providers: Group Interventions for Treatment of Psychological Trauma. AGPA provided more than 1,000 mental health professionals on site training in understanding responses to trauma and disaster and in the use of group-based trauma intervention strategies and techniques. The association also conducted a series of online training seminars that involved the participation of thousands more.
Subsequently, AGPA organized a major initiative to integrate, synthesize and document what it had learned about designing and implementing group-based interventions for response to trauma. The result was Public Mental Health Service Delivery Protocols: Group Interventions for Disaster Preparedness and Response, a set of interventions that others could easily teach and adapt for use regardless of the type and scope of disaster.
AGPA continues to respond to communities in need. It has provided consultation, training and support at national and international levels in response to the tsunamis in Southeast Asia, hurricanes Rita, Katrina, school shootings at Virginia Tech, fires in the southwest, terrorist events in Mumbai, India and the earthquakes in China, Italy, Haiti and Japan.
The Association has also expanded its initial work beyond disaster response and prevention to provide broader-based trainings in group principles and dynamics with a variety of populations, internationally and nationally, in-person and distance based. From an intensive course in group principles via Skype to mental health workers in China, to a comprehensive series of in-person and web-based trainings for workers in methadone-maintenance clinics, to trainings for school personnel including teachers and guidance counselors, the organization can customize its evidence-based training and support programs in group for a variety of populations that provide services in groups.
WHY USE GROUPS
Since life takes place in naturally occurring groups such as families, schools, workplaces and communities, group interventions provided by well-trained leaders are especially well-suited to providing opportunities for healing and personal change.
- Groups provide a sense of safety, trust and interpersonal connection.
- Group therapy has been a widely accepted treatment option for more than 50 years
- Group therapy has been demonstrated to be both empirically effective and cost-efficient
- Groups can provide a safe, nurturing, non-judgmental environment where participants can feel accepted and emotionally supported
- Groups can offer relief from the aloneness and isolation disaster survivors often feel
- Groups can help members to find their voices, to share their experiences, to disclose painful feelings, and to speak the unspeakable
- Groups can validate, bear witness, and inspire members
- Groups can assist people to begin to restore their connections to others
- Groups can relieve the stigma and cultural barriers that often impede help-seeking
- Groups provide a context for education and access to accurate information
- Groups provide opportunities for members to help others thereby relieving the collective sense of helplessness of survivors and augmenting self-esteem
- Groups can help members to share and learn new ways of self-care and new strategies for coping
- Groups can help disaster survivors to begin to renew their disrupted sense of trust and hope in leaders, the world and other people
Goals for Mental Health Program Services for Group Interventions
AGPA has developed expertise in group based mental health services and can provide a comprehensive package of training, support and consultation. It strives to provide services within pre-existing systems to efficiently and effectively build their infrastructure and ability to provide quality group services to insure that the effort can be sustained into the future. Using a “train the trainers” model, AGPA strives to build expertise, provide support and strengthen infrastructure simultaneous with providing direct service delivery.
The Associations goals are to continue to develop, provide and refine:
AGPA offers quality education and training in numerous ways. AGPA’s Annual Meeting brings mental health professionals from throughout the world to participate in workshops and experiential groups. This unique training encompasses the fields of mental health, addiction treatment, couples and family work and a variety of other topics. In addition to this conference, AGPA offers training to groups and agencies on a variety of topics including its trauma protocols. AGPA offers distance learning opportunities. AGPA also has provided training to mental health professionals in China and India using Skype technology.
AGPA is also uniquely prepared to provide intervention to survivors, family members and caregivers themselves post-disaster. Intervention has been offered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, floods, earthquakes and mass violence. These interventions have also been offered to military members and their families with a special emphasis on caring for the caregiver.
AGPA’s network of highly skilled and trained professionals also offer consultation nationally and internationally to a variety of agencies, groups, individuals and organizations who wish to apply AGPA’s resources and knowledge in their community. Consultation is offered in person, over the phone and through other technologies to provide information and assistance in planning community wide intervention and services. Consultation on developing training programs for group therapists is also available.
Central to AGPA’s mission is to assure that the highest quality group psychotherapy treatment is available to individuals and communities globally. AGPA has offered onsite support to agencies and groups. AGPA has offered “Family Days” for spouses and children of firefighters affected by 9/11. In addition, AGPA has offered programs for couples traumatized by 9/11. More recently, these programs have been offered to military families. Programs of care for the caregivers are also essential to AGPA’s mission. Programs for mental health providers dealing with victims of wildfires in California, floods in the Midwest, returning veterans, and other populations are also available through AGPA.