Cara L. Solness, PhD <>

Thank you to the Div. 49 DEIB committee for selecting me as the recipient of the Student Diversity Award. I am honored and humbled to have been selected and appreciate this opportunity to share some of the insights from my dissertation research project. In line with Amy Nitza’s Presidential address at APA which focused on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in group therapy, my project also highlights this need, specifically for gender diverse persons. It is encouraging to see that more articles are being published related to group therapy for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary persons (TGNC/NB), and there is unfortunately, still a gap in the empirical literature for this population. 

My project was a mixed methods single case study design for which Transgender and gender  no-binary  (TGNB) persons participated in 12 weeks of interpersonal process group therapy. Recruiting for my project demonstrated that there is a large need and interest for groups such as this, particularly in smaller centers where other gender affirming support services may be less available. The potential of tele-health allowed us to expand the reach of the intervention to state-wide recruiting which was facilitated through relationship-building with state-wide gender-affirming organizations. My hope is that other group therapists will expand their reach to gender diverse individuals in the same way. Participants in this intervention emphasized how important it was to feel seen and heard and affirmed through their participation in the group. They expressed that it was largely the identity-based structure of the group and identity-matched facilitator that allowed them to experience a deeper level of trust and vulnerability compared to the degree of self-monitoring and self-protection that happens in mixed-gender groups. As clinicians, we have to balance the logistics of forming groups with the needs of our participants, however, it may be that forming mixed-gender groups inhibit the therapeutic experience of vulnerability for some.

This work was a starting place; one that I hope others will build upon in terms of expanding the empirical literature base. As a social justice endeavor and an issue of equity, it is imperative that group therapy researchers continue to expand beyond qualitative work, standards of care, and practice recommendations. We must make visible and affirm the unique lived experiences of gender minority persons through inclusion in quantitative and mixed-methods studies. Gender minority persons need to see themselves represented in our ranks and in our work and it is from this that group therapy providers will be able to practice with gender minorities with the best available evidence.

Group Psychotherapy and DEIB in College Counseling Centers

 By Rita M. Rivera, M.S. <>

College counseling centers continue to see a high turnout and a significant increase in services. Oftentimes, these settings are the first experience college students have with professional mental health services. This is especially true for students from traditionally underrepresented groups, such as racial/ethnic minorities, gender/sexuality minorities, international students, first-generation populations, and those from low socioeconomic status households. Thus, clientele for these sites tends to be diverse in terms of culture and clinical presentations, placing college counseling centers in the advantageous position of developing, offering, and sometimes even mandating DEIB training.

Furthermore, group psychotherapy continues to be widely used in college counseling centers. Due to this modality’s collaborative, engaging nature, group cannot only provide a supportive space for student populations but also expose them to diversity and matters related to equity and inclusion. As such, it becomes a tool for mental health practitioners seeking to integrate DEIB into treatment, as well as for institutional settings committed to DEIB training. Through group psychotherapy, college counseling centers can psychoeducate and support students as these centers are simultaneously in an educational and diverse environment. 

It is, however, important to note that DEIB work requires competent training and a space for individuals to reflect, ask questions, and process emotional reactions. Moreover, although the idea of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within college populations can be promising, it may also not be entirely well-received or accepted. Nonetheless, the continued demand for services and a reported shortage of mental health practitioners suggest that, as mental health practitioners, now more than ever, we have an obligation to use our platforms to advocate for the populations we serve and the responsibility to hold supportive spaces for the clients we treat. We cannot forget that the spirit of DEIB also calls us to remain empathetic, even with those who may not be supportive of its principles.

At the APA convention in August, 2022, The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging  (DEIB) Committee presented  The Award for Outstanding Professional Contribution to Diversity in Group Psychology or Group Psychotherapy to Jill Paquin, PhD. In addition, Cara L. Solness was the recipient of the 2022 Student Award for Outstanding Contribution to Diversity in Group Psychology or Group Psychotherapy with Rita M. Rivera receiving honorable mention. In this column, we invited both Cara and Rita to share their views about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in the context of group dynamics and group therapy; Jill will offer her reflections in the next issue of The Group Psychologist. 

Cara L. Solness, PhD (she/they), recently graduated from the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Iowa and is a clinical psychology fellow in Women’s Behavioral Health at Colorado University Anschutz Medical School Department of Psychiatry. Cara is pursuing a specialization in Neonatal Resuscitation Program psychology  with a focus on same sex and gender minority parents. They are a member of the National Network of NICU Psychologists Diversity and Social Justice Committee and former member of the Iowa Psychological Association’s Diversity and Social Justice Committee. Their areas of interest include group therapy for gender minority persons with a focus on therapeutic alliance, internet delivered treatments for perinatal mood disorders, and perinatal mental health for LGBTQ+ parents. Cara has clinical experience working with parents with medically complex children, group and individual therapy with LGBTQ+ populations, and treatment of mood disorders in the perinatal period.

Rita M. Rivera, MS, CTP, is a clinical psychology resident at Duke University and is pursuing a PsyD with a concentration in neuropsychology at Albizu University. She is a Certified Trauma Professional by the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP) and a Certified Crisis Worker by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). Rita is the Chair of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology-Division of Graduate Students (AACP-DGS), Student Representative for the APA’s Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Div. 49) and Past Chair of the Florida Psychological Association of Graduate Students (FPAGS). Rita is also Co-chair of several working groups of the APA’s Interdivisional COVID-19 Taskforce, including the Higher Education working group, and a member of the student committees of the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society and the National Latinx Psychological Association. She is a writer for both the APA’s Society of Counseling Psychology (Div. 17)-SCP Connect Team and her Psychology Today blog, “Physio & Psych.” Her areas of interest include fields that explore the relationship between physiology and mental health, particularly among minority and underserved populations. Rita has clinical experience working with Hispanic/Latinx individuals, trauma, and high-risk populations both in the United States and in her home country, Honduras.

If you have any reactions or if you are interested in participating in the DEIB Committee, please contact Eric <> or Aziza <>.

–Eric C. Chen (Chair) and Aziza Platt (Vice Chair) of the DEIB Committee