Reflections on Division 49 Membership

Joe Miles, PhD

Recently, I was on Zoom call with our President, Francis Kaklauskas, and two Past Presidents, Cheri Marmarosh and Martyn Whittingham, and a topic that came up was growing the membership in (and engagement with) Division 49. In the time I’ve been a member of the Division (about 15 years at this point), this has been a recurring topic, as it is for other APA divisions. This conversation got me thinking about what has sustained my own membership and engagement with the Division all these years—and I realized how much I get from having Division 49 as a professional home. So, I thought I would use my summer column to reflect on why I am a member and the benefits I see to of Division 49 membership.

In some ways, actually, The Group Psychologist encapsulates some of what I find so valuable about being a member of Division 49:  It provides a venue for group psychologists and group psychotherapists to share their experience, wisdom, knowledge, and skills related to group research, theory, and practice across diverse group settings. In just the past issue, for example, long-term Editor of the newsletter, Tom Treadwell (stalwart shepherd of the publication for 15 years!) shared his insights from having recently served as a consultant to trainers of evidence-based substance use group work (Treadwell & Deiederich, 2024). I think this column reflects the value of the publication, but also membership in the Division more broadly. In this column, Leann & Tom discuss the lack of literature related to the development of positive group norms, suggesting an important area for empirical study or clinical writing, and he invites readers to engage with him about resources they may know. Similarly, Nina Brown uses her experience as an ombuds and mediator to discuss entrenched conflicts in academic departments. Even as I have faced similar conflicts, I often overlook the perspective she offers—that, sometimes, entrenched conflicts cannot be resolved; instead, they need to be managed (and she provides interesting strategies for doing so) (Brown, 2024). Finally, a column by Ronn Johnson about poverty sensitivity as an important cultural consideration for group therapists brings an important and timely topic of conversation in the broader discipline of psychology (e.g., APA has recently developed a Deep Poverty Initiative (APA, 2019) and a petition has been made for the development of a new division, the Division of Division of Economic Justice, Poverty, and Social Class Issue) into the realm of group psychology and group psychotherapy. His column invites us to think about the roles that we can play as group psychologists to these movements, starting with our own reflective practice (Johnson, 2024). These and other contributions to The Group Psychologist invite thoughtful conversations about group psychology and group psychotherapy and reflect part of why I find Division 49 membership so valuable as someone who studies and practices group work.

The same is true about the Division’s other publication, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. The journal was my first point of connection to the Division, as I served as a graduate assistant for the journal under Editor Dennis Kivlighan when I started graduate school. In the first issue, Editor Donelson Forsyth articulated the vision for the journal of creating “a unified approach to the study of groups” (Forsyth, 1997, p. 6) and said the journal “[opened] its pages to anyone interested in groups, regardless of educational training, discipline, methodological preferences, theoretical background, or professional identity” (Forsyth, 1997, p. 4). As someone getting a degree in an applied field, but with an experimental background as a master’s student, I found the Division’s effort at unification of diverse researchers, practitioners, and theorists to be refreshing and unusual in my experience thus far in my psychology education and training. This unification makes group work and Division membership especially appealing to me.

Being a member of the Division also means having the opportunity to help shape the future of group psychology and group psychotherapy theory, research, and practice. Individuals and groups within the Division have done amazing work to advance group psychology and group psychotherapy, in the discipline of psychology and beyond. The hard work of Division 49 members on the Group Specialty Council, for example, led to the designation of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy as an evidence-based specialty by APA’s Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Subspecialties in Professional Psychology (CRSSPP). This means that group psychology and group psychotherapy are recognized as “a defined area of psychological practice which requires advanced knowledge and skills acquired through an organized sequence of education and training” (APA, 2021), which has helped formalize education and training through the creation of models of training, descriptions of competencies, and guidelines for group psychology and group psychotherapy (Brown & Lefforge, 2023).

There are so many more benefits to being a member of the Division, like its grant funding and awards. It also offers many opportunities for learning, networking, and mentoring, including through its newly developed Institute aimed at raising attention to the cultural, social, and political contexts that are a part of group psychology and group psychotherapy, while mentoring students and early career psychologists interested in group work. The Division has a large number of committees that can give the opportunity for members to have input into the future of group psychology and group psychotherapy, and are often in need of additional members. As a member of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee, I’ve appreciated working with leaders like Eric Chen and having a voice in how the Division furthers its work related to DEIB, both internally and within the theory, research, and practice of group.

As I continue my time on the Board, I’d love to hear from other members, new and old, about what brought you into the Division and what has sustained your own membership in Division 49.


American Psychological Association. (2021). Specialties, subspecialties, and proficiencies.

Brown, N. W. (2024, Spring). Navigating the academic department: Entrenched department conflict series 5. The Group Psychologist.

Brown, N. W., & Lefforge, N. L. (2023). Education and training guidelines for group psychology and group psychotherapy. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 17(2), 126-132.

Forsyth, D. R. (1997). The scientific study of groups: An editorial. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1(1). 3-6.

Johnson, R. (2024, Spring). Poverty sensitivity as a diversity factor for group psychotherapists in medical settings: Ten strategies for cultural competence. The Group Psychologist.

Treadwell, T., & Diederich, L. T. (2024, Spring). Training group therapists: What we take for granted. The Group Psychologist.


Return to The Group Psychologist Homepage