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Leading Psychotherapy Groups
Becoming an Expert Group Therapist

by Susie Rotch
Psychologist and Psychotherapist

psychotherapy reviews

F.C.L. Allen, PhD., M.A.Ps.S.,
Associate Professor in Psychology
School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine,
Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Monash University

Susan Hutchinson-Phillips
Susan is a psychologist in Private Practice, as well as being an educator at the Australian College of Applied Psychology, and a supervisor for psychologists who are pursuing the Supervision Pathway to Registration. 
Susan is currently the President of the Australian Society of Hypnosis in Queensland, and has worked extensively with both educational and therapeutic groups.

Angie Paton
Private Practitioner and Group Therapist, Melbourne

F.C.L. Allen, PhD., M.A.Ps.S.,
Associate Professor in Psychology
Monash University

Comprised of two volumes, an administrator’s manual and four DVDs, this guide to leading psychotherapy groups is a meticulously put together and very impressive introduction to the field. It is an exhaustive introduction to the various components involved in leading therapy groups and includes areas neglected or covered only sketchily by many other manuals.

Many people are aware that when you teach a course, you teach both the course content and how to teach it, but few people incorporate this into their practice as Rotch does.

Each section is accompanied by useful exercises to build skills in the practical aspects of running groups and to allow participants to experience the various theories in action. Dr. Rotch clearly has a playful side, which is essential in teaching practical skills to adults, for example one of her nonverbal exercises encourages trainees to imagine cold water running down their backs and try to communicate this feeling nonverbally. It’s only rarely understood that exercises for young children often work very well for adults.

The text and presentation style is readily accessible and the structure of the program, in line with Dr. Rotch’s clear commitment to system and structure, is very clear. The theoretical background is well done and thorough but not overwhelming. Appearing early in the structure of the course (session 3), it is handled in a way to promote understanding and exploration of different viewpoints. Clearly this issue is seen as so important that the leader of the group needs to talk about it, but she does not try to enforce a particular viewpoint covering Gestalt, CBT and psychodrama.

Basic assumptions about human behaviour are spelled out. It’s enough to let you know that there is a real basis to what she advises without detracting from the applied nature of the enterprise. This is inherently a book about learning how to do things.

The accompanying DVDs are also very well organised in terms of content and match the textbooks well. The content of these visuals constitute a rare asset in Australian practice; data on a group of Australian adults. I believe that the profession is ready for this change and that it would constitute a strong selling point.

A clear insight into the experience of group therapy and into the demands of learning to be a group leader emerges from the DVDs and some tricky issues are covered. Appropriate ways to deal with challenges to the leader and with negative emotions are clearly modelled.

( About the Administraor's Manual )

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.

This commitment is essential given the very thorough coverage of a number of challenging issues in group psychotherapy (e.g., storming, sexual attractions, repulsions to other group members), requiring careful debriefing if they are not to cause lasting distress.

Two guiding concepts for Dr. Rotch’s approach are firstly system and secondly respect. She assumes an ordered, predictable and systematic course structure (weekly meetings, planned sessions) and that every trainee will wish to have all of the possible areas of group psychotherapy covered fully.

She also offers and expects respect. This view is not only stated, but guides her approach in many areas. She warns the group leader not to assess but to encourage and cautions “Don’t make them wrong.” (p.5) even when mistakes have been made, but rather to ask questions so that trainees rethink their actions. She explicitly expects and plans for “..stumbles, mistakes and triumphs..” (p.3). Allowing for errors and teaching people how to deal with them permits them to take the risks that they need to take in order to learn and conveys very clearly the message that to be human is to be imperfect.

This woman is practical! She has noticed that people need to have a break. How refreshing for someone who has sat through endless hours of psychological waffling.

My recommendation would be that ... I would buy and set this text in my own courses if I ran leadership groups at the moment

Susan Hutchinson-Phillips
Educator at the Australian College of Applied Psychology

The Leading Psychotherapy Groups series includes two volumes described as both Manual and Journal. That is, didactic input is followed by comprehensive exercises to ensure that experience makes the learning effective. As well, there are four 90 minute DVD’s, which have been divided into sections which illustrate, often dramatically, the concepts being addressed in the written material.

An optional extra is a Leader’s Handbook, which can be used by an instructor to lead groups of therapists through the material in the Manual/Journal. Thus the series would be useful for a therapist in private practice who wishes to add either Group Psychotherapy to his/her repertoire, or for someone who would like to add group leadership training to his or her oeuvre. The program is intended to be offered over 12 months in the latter case, but is so well organized that it could be structured in any manner which suits those participating.

The whole program is superbly structured, from the presentation of the package and its cross-referencing of Manuals and DVD’s, to the listings of presentations on those DVDs.

What really appealed to me were the wonderful diagrams integrating Group stages, with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the Leadership skills which allow a group to work optimally at various stages in its life. Conceptually, this seemed to give a wonderful map for those new to the leadership and processes of group work. In fact, the whole package is well integrated, and gives a very useful structure for the planning and execution of group therapy.

I believe it would be a most useful introduction to Group Therapy for students in undergraduate Psychology and Applied Psychology courses, as well as for practicing therapists who wish to broaden their skill base. In fact, for any practitioner who is engaged in the facilitation of any group process, this program would be beneficial.

The price compares very favorably to video recorded materials produced overseas, which are usually around the $200.00 price range for a one or two volume set. Susie’s series includes the Manual/Journal, which is far more comprehensive than the tiny handbooks accompanying most of those DVD’s, which often include only a transcript of the sessions and some suggested discussion topics.

The excerpts from an ongoing group which Susie ran with a co-leader, and which are presented on the DVD’s, are very apt illustrations of the ideas Susie develops throughout the Manual. A broad range of therapeutic styles – bodywork, psychodrama, Neuro Linguistic Programming, to name a few – is illustrated. While these approaches may not appeal of all viewers, Susie certainly demonstrates the benefits of the kinds of psychodynamic therapies which seek to revivify past trauma, and assist the participants in the group to obtain insight into their current behaviors as a basis for change.

While much of the material in the series will not be new to readers/viewers who are seasoned practitioners, it is the coherent manner in which Susie has combined the concepts which is its strength.

As an old hand at groups, I found Susie’s ideas very useful, and was able to change some of the ways in which I contract with those groups as a result of this program. As an educator, I have found the dearth of practical visual materials relating to group management a serious frustration and a limitation to my effectiveness in ensuring that the trainees have a good grasp of group process. Susie’s materials round out the aforementioned gap in appropriate resources, and provide a structured background for the kinds of video material currently available to those wishing to train therapists in group leadership.


Angie Paton
Private Practitioner and Group Therapist, Melbourne

This is a world first and unique. There are no actors with this one, this IS the real deal, warts and all, and what a privilege of invitation Susie Rotch has extended by producing this absolute gem in the art, skill and powerful intervention of psychotherapy group work and psychotherapy in practice.

If you’ve ever longed (as I did), for a hands on tool kit for training, extending your learning’s, consolidating and or reviewing your knowledge in psychotherapeutic group work, systemic therapies, your own practice of counseling and or psychotherapy practice , ‘Leading Psychotherapy Groups’ is the Mecca, with icing on top, whether a trainee or advanced.

But there’s more, as the eclectic simplicity of theories and concepts presented, can easily be integrated in to most counseling orientations, and generally understood underlying assumptions.

This quality, slickly directed and produced program is tastefully and sensitively filmed, and edited, so as to maintain the respect, dignity and integrity of the of group members in the often frustrating and emotionally painful process of psychological healing. It has been shot fly on the wall style, with oodles of invitations in to group member’s therapeutic life journeys, as if you were participating as a group member.

The two Volume training program seamlessly supports the four DVD components of the production, as does the Trainer's Administrative Manual. Combined they work to challenge thinking at multi levels of understanding, to allow access to the cognitive, affective, physical and spiritual experience as the group member, and a co-leader or trainee.
The easy to follow program is designed to integrate theory, challenge personally and professionally, and make sense of group work in a concise, succinct, comprehensive, yet practical and sequenced way.

A long standing debate about Group Psychotherapy has been that it’s grueling, and too emotional and confronting. Why would one need to, or want to subject a client or indeed the therapist, to such an arduous process? Most practitioners have definite ideas, and stand firmly in their respective camps of yea, nay, or the proverbial sit on the fence.

If you sit in the two latter camps if would be interesting to see if you would be swayed, or even change your mind after witnessing - the swift acquisition of skills; the uptake of increased responsibility for ‘the problem’; increased range of choices; reliefs; empowerments; and immediate personal growth and pride at group members accomplishments, during, and at the conclusion of their work.

But of course I am biased and sit squarely in the yea camp. What other methods other than group work, serve to confront the self at all levels, deliver quick results, offer immediate access to reality testing from numerous perspectives, can be supervised, monitored and supported so intensely when lead and co-lead well? This is especially when the client has limited or no skills and knowledge in their resources tool kit.

Susie Rotch sets the user of Psychotherapy Group Work a series of challenges {particularly if you are not psychotherapeutically oriented), and an invitation in to an area of our profession rarely examined or seen unless you practice it.

She offers a consolidation of theory which has been sadly lacking within group work, group process and their links to psychotherapy. I think if you work in any area of counselling or group work it’s well worth the journey and investment.

I don’t think it’s possible complete the program without having changed something inside.

Contents                Sample exercises                 DVD contents

Leading Psychotherapy Groups      
A self administered course for psychotherapy group leadership

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