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         Updated 2009 2

Leading Psychotherapy Groups
Becoming an Expert Group Therapist

An Administrators Handbook for Teaching Group Psychotherapy in a Group Setting

by Susie Rotch
Psychologist and Psychotherapist

Leading Psychotherapy Groups        150 pp        ISBN 1 876687 31 2
An administrators handbook for teaching group psychotherapy group in a group setting

Using groups to teach group leadership

The Administrator’s Handbook is an adjunct to the self-administered Leading Psychotherapy Groups course published by Susie Rotch. The handbook outlines a course structured to run for twenty-eight sessions, at weekly intervals, the average length of a university/college year. Each session runs for about 3 hours, with a short break in the middle.

It is recommended that the course be run by two experienced group therapists together, however the course can be run by one experienced trainer/group therapist.


teaching psychotherapy
As someone with a long standing interest in the practice of ethics in human research, I was impressed to see that the administrator’s manual lays out Rotch’s strong commitment to ethical, evaluated practice.

Her view of others as equal and valuable human beings shines through her work. Her opening sentence, in fact, is “This program must be led by a competent group therapist.” (p.1), so there is no question of any participant suffering harm through ignorance on the therapist’s part.
           F.C.L. Allen, PhD., M.A.Ps.S.,
          Associate Professor in Psychology
          Monash University

The Contents of the Course
The content of the program is presented in two separate formats, DVD and print. The course information is conveyed as a ‘multi-level’ experience that is in some ways similar to the layers of group interaction that trainee group therapists need to be skilled in observing in the groups they will run.

The DVDs are illustrated with numerous examples of group work from a psychotherapy group which was filmed with the full knowledge and consent of the participants. This gives the trainee group leaders the chance to see the models and techniques in action.

Every aspect of the course is backed in the text book by individual exercises for the trainee group therapists to do in their own time. These exercises involve individuals and groups that they meet in their personal, social and professional lives as well as planning and assessment activities. This is intended to further embed the learning by observation and practice
( Contents PDF )
Psychotherapy trainers contents
Learning by doing

Research by Truax and Carkhuff and others finds strongly that the best way to learn any communication skills is in a group setting where there are many opportunities to practice communication. Extending these research findings suggests that the best way to teach group therapy to trainee group therapists is in a group setting. That is the basic premise upon which this project is built.
In the case of group therapy leadership training, the learning is in fact done in the same sort of setting as is being taught.


  •  It offers the opportunity for the group members to observe themselves and each other in many different ways.

  • Group members can take on a range of roles, including that of leader, co-leader, member or observer of the group and group therapist.

  • Trainee group therapists have many chances to receive a range of different peoples’ feedback in those different roles as well as the trainer’s feedback to them.

  • Trainee group therapists also have an opportunity to explore their own experiences in a relatively leisured setting - a luxury not afforded in groups they will run themselves.

Aims and Values of the Program

The program has a number of aims based on three values held as essential or core beliefs by the author:

Firstly it sets out to present and teach a cohesive model of group therapy to the stage that its users can apply it to the groups that they run
The model was developed out of my personal belief that learning is easiest when systematic. Learning with order superimposed is easier than learning where bits and pieces of information are taught piecemeal, especially to beginners, struggling to acquire the rudiments.

Secondly it teaches the practical application of a model of universal respect, respect for him / herself by the leader, respect for group members by the leader and respect for each other and the leader by the groups’ members, no matter what their age or stage in life.

This is a based on the fundamental value that I hold as a universal that everyone is entitled to such respect at all times.This belief may appear idealistic, and it is, but I believe that we make progress in our level of civilisation by practising and teaching such values.

Thirdly the program teaches techniques of self-observation, analysis and review together with techniques for assessment, review and quality control of the leaders’ work by others. These include the group members they lead, their co-leaders, peers and supervisors.

Evaluation and assessment of every phase of a course such as this or a therapy group needs to be built in from the formulation of it’s goals. Doing so is outside the scope of this program as the procedures to be used depend on the aims and methods of each group. However I have included at the end of each session a very brief proforma to be used by the trainer in self-evaluation. It can also be given to the trainees for them to give feedback to the trainers on their performance. Obviously there are many ways of achieving the same results.This is just the most basic one that will give you the feedback you need for review.

Remember, the feelings of the trainees and leaders may not always be a good guide for how well the course or group worked to achieve it’s goals or how effective the leader was in his endeavours. For example, some groups can be very cohesive in avoiding work and feel very positive towards the participants, the leader and the group. In other groups the learning may be difficult and challenging and a degree of upset on the part of participants may be an indicator that this is being achieved. This is often true in self-help and therapy groups and in any other groups where the learning stakes are high.

And fourthly, teaching the need for ongoing self-examination and review by others is also based on the value I hold that in order to learn group leaders and group therapists in particular must be prepared to subject themselves to the same sorts of risks that they expect of their group members in order to do their own learning - no double standards for leaders and participants.

You may care to present these aims and values to your trainee leaders for their consideration and discussion. Starting with an explication of a program’s values and assumptions and making these available for discussion is generally a good way to establish agreement on the task in hand. Be prepared to be challenged and to accept whatever concensus emerges. If you have a discrepancy between what your goals or the organisation’s goals are for the group and the groups’s goals this must be addressed.

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Leading Psychotherapy Groups
An administrators handbook for teaching
group psychotherapy in a group setting

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