Letter from the Editor:
Greetings! As the brand new Newsletter Editor, I'd like to introduce myself to the MAGPS community by sharing a bit about my passion for group therapy. I never really imagined myself doing group therapy until my externship on the George Washington University Hospital Inpatient Psychiatry Unit, where my wonderful supervisor allowed me the flexibility to facilitate or sit in on groups all day, every day I was there. I was in awe of the way that group therapy could provide people with such incredible support, hope, and validation in a learning space where the problems that brought them there were portrayed and processed in real time. It was during this externship that I decided I'd rather do group therapy than anything else. Since that time, I've been learning about groups in different ways - workshops, group relations conferences and consultancy training, facilitating a variety of therapy groups, clinical peer consultation, and participating in group therapy as a member. I feel so lucky to have recently started working at Washington Hospital Center's Intensive Outpatient Program, where I get to facilitate at least three therapy groups every day. I feel energized and reconfirmed in my passion for group therapy every day.
Many of the people who have helped me develop as a clinician and group therapist are part of the MAGPS community and I'm excited to become more involved with this organization. I am fortunate to be supported by a wonderful Newsletter Committee including Jonathan Lebolt, PhD and Gina Sangster, MFA, MSW, LICSW. And a thank you to Sonia Kahn, PsyD, who has been such an incredible support through my transition into this position. I'm so honored to help maintain this collective, expressive space for the members of this incredible organization and I look forward to connecting with you all!
Rebecca Abell, PsyD, CGP
MAGPS Spring Conference: "Play with Me: The Role of Improvisation in Personal Growth, Relationships and Therapy" with Lisa Kays, LICSW, LSCW-C
by Christopher Straley, LICSW, CGP, CST, Co-Chair of the Spring 2019 Conference
As Conference Co-Chairs, Lenore Pomerance, MSW, CGP and I are delighted to invite you to the MAGPS 2019 Spring Conference, with Lisa Kays, LICSW, LCSW-C. On March 30-31, Lisa will be presenting, "Play with Me: The Role of Improvisation in Personal Growth, Relationships, and Therapy." Lisa lives and practices here, in the Washington, DC area. She is a graduate of Catholic University and has completed additional advanced training through the Washington School of Psychiatry. Lisa comes to us with a great deal of clinical and improvisational experience, and is well known in our local area for teaching improv classes to therapists. Lisa was even featured on a local news channel. You read move about her in the interview below and on her website:
Lisa has planned an experience for us that will be interactive and challenging, as well as fun. There will be more physical movement and interpersonal interaction during the plenary times than usual at MAGPS conferences, so please wear comfortable clothing. Lisa has also taken in to account that participants will be on a spectrum of physical participation levels, and so all may participate We believe we will all be challenged to grow during the conference by: sitting without having the answers; having fun while looking silly at the same time (and being ok with that); being gentler with ourselves; and learning to help our clients learn through play themselves.
Jeffery Franks, MSW will be our guest small group leader. Though he currently practices in Sarasota, Florida, he worked in Washington, DC for over a decade. He is also certified in Intensive Short-term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP). We are also excited about our diverse and skilled group of small group leaders. We listened to the attendees at the Fall Conference and worked to come up with what we think is a great group of leaders, so please check out their bios on the website. We have also listed their individual websites so you can check them out further.
We are at our favorite site for our Spring Conferences--the beautiful and historic mental health facility, Saint Elizabeths Hospital--where Farooq Moyhuddin, PhD and the St. E's staff graciously extend a welcome to us each year.

If you are interested in increasing your own tolerance for the unknown, learning about the intersection of improv and therapy, having your own small group process, or meeting other great group therapists in our region, go to the MAGPS website and register! We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Please join us on March 30-31, 2019! 
Register by March 15, 2019  for the best rate and guaranteed space. 
No walk-in registrations will be accepted. 
Scholarships are available.  Click here to learn more.

Visit  http://group.magps.org/conferences  for full conference details. 
What's Inside

President's Column
by Lorraine Wodiska, PhD, ABPP

What do I know about lions? Not much, but I am just back from Africa, where I trekked to find gorillas in Uganda (a story there!) and then journeyed to Tanzania for a safari.  


This is the last column before my term is up and it is typical to review the time served as President of MAGPS. Goodness knows, we have had many accomplishments in our Affiliate these past two years. We have a new Operations Manual, a new MAGPS brochure, four immensely successful conferences on the important theme of managing our groups and ourselves in this chaotic political and social time, and eight fabulous nights in our Cinema Series.  I am tempted to give more space to these and other accomplishments here, but my thoughts are more engaged with lions and groups. I think I will follow that instinct.


In Tanzania, in a fully open Land Cruiser, for about ten hours total we watched a particular pride of lions. There were ten of them (just the right size for a small group), with a dominant male, some females, some other males, and some young'uns.  We followed their progress twice a day for four days. They were indeed a group and interacted in ways that seemed to be group oriented.


I had just read, When Elephants Weep-a book not just about elephants but about the rich emotional lives of all animals, including lions. Written by a psychoanalyst, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the book provides a fascinating perspective.  Masson trained to become a Freudian analyst but left the field when he agreed with Freud's original thesis that many women had been sexually abused as children. This was an unpopular position at the time and he transitioned from professor and analyst to researching animal emotions. He knows our psychological language and published this work in 1994, before animal research had begun to be a focus in our field of psychotherapy.


As many of you know, I have been interested in the emotional life of my two Professional Therapy Dogs, Stella and Teddy, and the benefits they bring to the consulting room with canine assisted psychotherapy; so, this topic as related to lions is a natural interest of mine. As mammals, lions have a limbic system somewhat similar to ours, with attendant emotions.  Consider what is going on within their emotional lives. 


Lions are clearly group beings. As Harry Guntrip, in Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations and the Self notes of people, "We are constitutionally incapable of living as isolated units." Who knows -- this might apply to lions as well.  When lions act (hunt) cooperatively, they are more successful. They feel affection for one another and hum, face lick, and nuzzle to show their pleasure. They sleep touching one another, with paws up, over and around the others in the group. They grieve when a member of their pride dies and at those times they may wail. The lioness may be vengeful if her cubs or mate is killed.  Mostly, they genuinely seem to like one another and to enjoy spending time together.


They also watch others: lions, other animals, and humans. We watched them during the day and they watched and visited us at the camp at night (sometimes a bit scary for me as a tent does not seem like much of a barrier to protect against an angry lion).  


Why bring this up as president of MAGPS? I believe we share several group experiences with these majestic animals. Hopefully, we like being together in a group (therefore, we are group therapists and belong to MAGPS, an organization that supports group work).  


Of course, we don't sleep 20 hours a day, we don't hunt, we don't kill for food.  But...


We pay attention to one another's feelings and express affection and endearment in some similar ways. Okay, we are not face-licking, but we may kiss hello on the cheek. We touch, hug, and  enfold one another as a way of showing we care. We grieve when there is sadness in our group and sometimes, we are angry with one another and want to express that too. It's "human" -- or beyond that.


Similarly, I hope the time we spend at MAGPS is felt as a group endeavor, needing one another's cooperation, enjoying one another's company, being friendly, bearing witness to one another's sadness, and expressing our care for one another.

I want to thank each individual on the MAGPS Board for offering precious time and talent to keep us a top Affiliate with AGPA. In alphabetical order: Alison Howard, Bradley Lake, Candice Vinson, Cristina Sacarea, David Heilman, Jonathan Goode, Karen Eberwein, Lenore Pomerance, Lisa Haileab, Liz Marsh, Myrna Frank, Nancy Hafkin, Raquel Willerman, Rose McIntyre, Sally Brandel, Sonia Kahn, Terri Dilmore, and Victoria Lee. Several will be staying on the Board, some are in new positions, and some will be "retiring." Each and every one has my gratitude. Please join me in celebrating them and their contributions to MAGPS, perhaps with a nuzzle.


And, welcome Rose as the incoming President! Connect with us at the Spring Conference entitled Play with Me: The Role of Improvisation in Personal Growth, Relationships and Therapy with Lisa Kays.
It should be fun to play together as a group. I think that happens with the lions too.


Lisa Kays  is creating a conference for MAGPS that is responsive to our mission to work as effective and compassionate therapists. She will present a  group therapeutic approach that utilizes experiential exercises to illustrate the mind-body connection of emotions, and how to work with them in the moment, including with reluctance or anxiety. She will also demonstrate how therapeutic playfulness with Improv can help us, and our clients, accept all that we bring to an experience, and the opportunity it provides to explore, and get "unstuck".  She will highlight how the importance of compassion and empathy from our own Improv experiences are helpful in our work as group therapists and our lives as mental health professionals in our community.

On behalf of MAGPS and the Washington School of Psychiatry, please join us!

MAGPS supports the professional development of students, interns, residents, and clinicians early in their careers by offering discounted rates for first-time attended and new professionals. Various scholarships are also available, which can be used to cover registration and banquet costs.  If you are interested in obtaining a scholarship, please email scholarships@magps.org.

Questions? Email  conferences@magps.org
n Interview with Our 
Spring Conference Presenter, 
Lisa Kays, LICSW, LCSW-C
by Christopher Straley, LICSW, LCSW-C, CGP, CST
Lenore Pomerance and I had the opportunity to spend time with Lisa at a couple of conferences in Fall 2018, where we were able to talk some about her improv work and her passion to teach it to others. I found her positive energy and playfulness to be contagious, and I looked forward to the opportunity to interview Lisa about the Spring 2019

Chris Straley: It's nice to talk with you again, Lisa, especially about the Spring 2019 Conference where you are presenting Play with Me: The Role of Improvisation in Personal Growth, Relationships and Therapy. What improvisational skills can conference attendees anticipate learning about during the weekend?
Lisa Kays: They should, first and foremost, anticipate having fun! Yes, there will be clinical applications and learning, and all of that will stem from the experience of genuine play. For every concept I teach and its applications to clinical work, attendees will experience it firsthand themselves. For instance, we will explore the concept of the mind-body connection of emotions, and we will do that through an experiential game (or a few) that will allow attendees to shift, in the moment, their feeling and cognitive states by changing how they move their bodies, and to reflect actively on that afterwards. When we explore anxiety and its impact on cognition and performance, we will do this through a specific game that will allow participants to empathize actively with their own, and their patients' anxiety and to learn ways to manage it, actively and in the moment.

CS:  It sounds experiential and interactive! Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for attendees who might be feeling a little uncertain about learning improvisational skills at the conference?
LK: Yes! When I went to my first improv class, I didn't know what improv was. I think I imagined it was stand-up? I was totally clueless. So, first of all, you do not need any experience to participate in this workshop. Second, if you have the capacity to play simple games, like Duck, Duck, Goose or Hide and Seek, you can do this workshop. You do not need to think of yourself as funny, witty, creative, or a performer (though secretly, you probably are!). You simply need to bring a willingness to play along with fun games and to reflect on the experience with those around you. And if any game makes you uncomfortable, you don't have to play! Or you can watch a bit and join in when you're ready. Improv is, first and foremost, about accepting all that we bring to any experience, and if part of that is reluctance, then we work with that (which helps us work with reluctance in our patients!).

CS:  The pairing of improv and therapy seems unusual. How did you get interested in improv, and what led you to combine it with your work as a group therapist?
LK: I was going through a lot of personal transition and was struggling to meet people and feel challenged or engaged. I met the then Creative Director of Washington Improv Theater through a friend and was intrigued. I thought improv was comedy (it is and it isn't) and had always wondered if I was "funny." When he assured me that anyone can do improv, it took me a year or so but I signed up for a class, primarily to meet new people. I had no idea that I would be re-encountering myself and my sense of fun, play, and joy. It was hard for me (and still is) in many ways, but I loved how I felt when I was improvising and the people I was meeting. I decided to learn to teach it and soon after, when I began my MSW program, I realized how much the concepts of improv align with the concepts of good therapy and of healthy relationships. I discovered through research that improv actually was created by social workers and was used therapeutically in many ways and we have been integrating improv and therapy in various ways ever since!
CS:  Can you elaborate on what your theoretical points of view are and why they are important to your work? Or personally?
LK: The longer I work, the more I find myself simplifying the way I think about it. I certainly start from a psychodynamic and attachment perspective, with the practical application of that being a frame of healthy relationships, including the one we have with ourselves. The principles I tend to most focus on then are: compassion, empathy, processing and sharing emotions, and boundaries. All of these are inherent in improvisation, which allows us a safe space to explore different decisions, feelings, and relationships within a space where it's safe to make mistakes and experiment, and, when we need and want to, to try again in a different way. Forgiveness and acceptance, of self and others, is also an important component of this process. 

As a patient in individual and group therapy, and a therapist and group therapist, I have found that these are the primary skills needed for relational and emotional health, and for recovery from many types of trauma and addiction.

I will add that I find that one of the hardest emotions for me, and many of my patients, to experience is actually joy, not sadness or anger. The latter are challenging as well, but we tend to forget to allow ourselves to really experience joy, and I find that improvisation, play, and related concepts can help us remember how to fully experience joy and to be more conscious of doing so in our "real lives" even when we're not playing, per se. 

CS : It's clear you have had many meaningful and moving experiences that have been incorporated into the way you practice. Who would you say has influenced your work the most?
About the Presenter
  Lisa Kays, LICSW, LCSW-C is a Social worker in Washington, DC,  who has been practicing psychotherapy with individuals, couples and groups since 2013. She acquired additional training from the Washington School of Psychotherapy's ISTDP First Year Program and from Rehearsals for Growth!, which trains psychotherapists in the use of improvisation.
Lisa has studied and performed as an improviser for more than seven years and was on the faculty of the Washington Improv Theater (WIT) from 2008-2017. While at WIT, she developed the theater's first Improv for Mental Health Professionals class, which received press on NBC4 and in The Washington Post .
In addition to providing improv-informed training and team building for local agencies, companies, and organizations, she offers improv-informed group therapy and Improv for Therapists. She has partnered with Kate Symes to offer "Punching Up" workshops to local improvisers, focusing on the use of improvisation as a tool for empowerment, compassion, and building cultural, racial, gender, ability-based and other differences that often involve imbalanced power dynamics. During this experiential workshop you'll experience the exhilaration, liberation, and authenticity that improv inspires! Please join us.

LK: If I had to pick one person, it would be my therapist, Tandy Levine. She has been a true model of acceptance, love, and nurturing while also maintaining boundaries and being authentic, even when it's difficult or challenges the relationship. She, and my therapy groups with her, have been the safe "home base" that has allowed me to understand the importance of acceptance, safety and boundaries, and, therefore, the freedom to diverge from them, to disagree, and to be authentic and independent in a productive way. As I have developed and deepened my thinking and use of improvisation in therapy, I have often drawn links between improv concepts and what I've experienced in my relationship with her, as well as in how I've seen her work with others, which has helped me understand the clinical applications. And while not an improviser herself, she has always actively encouraged and been interested in my work in this arena. 

All of this informs my work with improvisation and therapy, as I come to it first and foremost with an understanding that in order to improvise and to play, we must first feel safe. Improvisation, when engaged in thoughtfully and with intention, can be a perfect space to go back and forth between safety and fear or exploration and adventure, and to know what we need as an individual to navigate the new, scary spaces. We can then translate this into our life to help us navigate new challenges or things that make us anxious. 

CS: What important lessons have you learned from your work?

LK: The biggest lesson for me has probably been the letting go of perfectionism. I have a pretty strong streak of it and it has hampered me, I think, in many areas from taking risks or trying new things. Improvisation broke this limitation in me, helping me to understand that I can do things not because I am good at them, but because I enjoy them and have fun doing them. This tendency is something my patients struggle with as well, and I'm often grateful when I listen to them that I was able to find my way out of that trap. It has opened up so much for me to know that I can struggle, flail, screw up, be vulnerable and imperfect at something, and still survive. I often say to my patients-in improv groups and otherwise-when they take risks and flounder, "And look, no one died!" It's cavalier, but it has an important message about how we tend to overemphasize success and perfection in our culture, and it robs us of so much. Without letting go of the perfectionism, I don't think I'd have gotten my MSW, become a therapist, dated my husband, had my sons, or been willing to even consider leading this conference-which is, indeed, intimidating to me. But hey, I figure, no matter what happens or if I completely bomb, it's not going to actually kill any of us! This helps me keep perspective and to do things that scare me and I'm so grateful for that.

CS: Finally, what are you hoping conference attendees will take away at the end of our weekend?

LK: I'm actually hoping they'll leave some things behind: limits, rigidity, and restrictions. I'm hoping they will experiment with at least one new personal or clinical behavior for them. For example, this might mean being more active or disclosing in their work, or it could mean sitting back and allowing things to happen. I hope each person will come in with one goal along these lines and allow themselves to play with it, in the big group when we play games and experiment together and then in the small groups where they'll be looking at themselves in a more relational way. If I've come to learn anything, it's that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to be in every situation, and what we need is flexibility to know when to be which way. I think often in our work, and in our lives (and this applies to our patients, too), we get stuck in one way or another. This workshop is an opportunity to get un-stuck or to try on a different way of being and to see what happens. If you tend to be quiet and reserved, what happens if you're loud and take the lead? If you tend to be assertive and in command, what happens if you let yourself follow? Pick a side of yourself that you haven't seen for a while, or may think doesn't exist, but that may be useful to you, and see if you can let it out a bit. Leave behind the limits and the "no" and say "yes" and play!

CS: It sounds like the conference you have planned for MAGPS will provide us with opportunities for both growth and fun. I am looking forward to it.

Mark your calendars for the 
2019 Fall Conference!
November 1-3, 2019
Hyatt Regency 
Hotel &  Conference Center 
Cambridge, MD
Spotlight:  Turning the Focus on Exciting 
Happenings in the MAGPS Community 
The Washington School's CSREC Sponsors Events of Interest to
MAGPS Members
by Jonathan Lebolt, PhD

The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture (CSREC) at the Washington School of Psychiatry has been offering events of interest to group therapists since July 2015. CSREC's mission is to "promote human welfare through experiential and didactic study of the range of differences and intersectionalities among individuals and groups," including "race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability and disability, religion, social class and other factors which perpetuate marginalization within and between groups."

Reginald Nettles, PhD, CGP, Co-Chair of CSREC, is an active MAGPS member and past President of MAGPS, and Venus Masselam, PsyD, CGP, CMFT, also Co-Chair of CSREC, is an active MAGPS member and former Board Member and Conference Co-Chair. Topics at CSREC have included:
  • Conversations about Race and Psychotherapy: Hearing the Voices of Others, with Reginald Nettles, PhD, Janice Berry Edwards, PhD, Michael Stiers, PhD, and Venus Masselam, PhD
  • What the Election Means for Race Relations in America, with Clarence Lusane, PhD
  • Passion, Art & Politics through the Composite Lens of Mexican Culture: A Screening and Discussion of the Film, Frida, with Macario Giraldo, PhD
  • Deconstructing Stereotypes: Racism, Classism, Sexism and ... , Film: Crash, with Farooq Mohyuddin, MD, past president of MAGPS
  • Our Country 'Tis of We and Them: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on our Fractured American Identity, with Dorothy Holmes, PhD, ABPP
  • Mental Unrest, Social Unrest, Global Unrest: A Psychoanalytic View, with Salman Akhtar, MD
  • Slavery's Long Shadow: Its Effects Upon Self And Culture, with Janice P. Gump, PhD
  • The Power of Deception in Racism and Love: A Screening and Discussion of the Film, Get Out, with Katherine Marshall Woods, PsyD
The next event,  Mother of George: Cultural and Generational Influences on Identity and Relationships, with Albert J. Brok, PhD, Joel Idowu, MD, Ellen Gusaroff, PhD, Alicia Peterkin, LCSW, and Reginald Nettles, PhD, is co-sponsored by Washington Professionals for the Study of Psychoanalysis, and will take place on March 24 from 9:30 am-4:00 pm.
The film, Mother of George, is about a Nigerian American couple who are struggling with fertility. (For more information or to register, click here.)

Most of these events include both small and large group discussion, making them a good fit for group therapists who are interested in issues of cultural diversity and oppression. I hope to see you there.

Jonathan Lebolt is on the editorial team of the MAGPS Newsletter and is a member of the CSREC Steering Committee.

*           *           *
Member News

Britt Rathbone, LCSW-C, CGP co-authored the chapter "Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Group for Adolescents" in the book Handbook for Child and Adolescent Group Therapy: A Practitioners Reference, published by Routledge.

Update: Early Loss Psychotherapy Group - Six Months In
by Gina Sangster, MFA, MSW
This is a follow-up to  an article I wrote about starting my Early Loss Psychotherapy Group in the
Fall 2018 MAGPS Newsletter.

When I saw the announcement of the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (ICP+P) Short Course, To Group or Not to Group: Assessment and Preparation of Potential Group Members, scheduled for February 8 th, I was faced with a dilemma. I was already participating in a monthly consultation group on couples and sex therapy with Deborah Fox and that Friday would be our final meeting. This caused me to suffer an attack of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), almost equally virulent on both sides of the dilemma. I hated to miss a last meeting of what had been an enjoyable and productive consultation group and I find working with couples to be both engaging AND challenging; but six months into the first group I've facilitated in a long time-an Early Loss Psychotherapy Group -- had inspired both enthusiasm and a plethora of questions in me. I sent Deborah an apology email and signed up for To Group or Not to Group. It was a good decision.
After losing two members at the beginning of the New Year, I now have a strong group of four women (not my intention to have a women's group, but that's how it turned out - so far), all of whom have suffered early losses. Some of the questions I got answered during the short course are:


1. What can I learn about why two of the group members dropped out? Clearly, their preparation for group was insufficient. One of the presenters explained how important it is to pay attention to resistance when talking with a client about the possibility of joining a group, and equally important to notice a too-eager response, which is exactly what I had received from one of my early drop-outs. Her pattern of people-pleasing - along with a genuine desire to be part of such a group - led her to make an impulsive decision, to give me an emphatic, "Yes!" right away. And my inexperience in terms of careful preparation led me to accept her willingness too readily without thoroughly discussing with her with any of the potential challenges she might face. 


The other group member who left had been referred to me by another therapist. The Short Course presenters emphasized how critical it is to work closely with a client's individual therapist and to meet with the prospective group member multiple times before welcoming them into your group. Though the referring therapist is within the practice where I work, our collaboration was fairly minimal and I had met with the client only once. So, impressed with her enthusiasm and openness, and so pleased to diversify my group with someone from a background different from other group members, I gave this client a ready thumbs-up. She too was sincere but ill-prepared to follow through on the level of commitment I was asking for in my group agreement.


2. How do I deal with the current group's apparent resistance to welcoming a new member (or two)? This led to a fascinating discussion of the relative niceness that tends to prevail in all-women's groups, often leading to a warm, cohesive atmosphere but one that may not be open to dealing with conflict or the kind of disruption that can be caused by a new member coming in. I believe the back story of traumatic loss also has a significant influence on my group's strong desire for safety and security and a resistance to anything - or anyone - that may pose a threat to their new-found cohesion and connectivity. During the Short Course I was also inspired to think about the benefits of bringing in two new members at a time rather than one (an idea I mentioned to my group during our subsequent Saturday meeting, and which they all endorsed). Whether I can make that happen is another story.


3. Are there advantages and disadvantages to a group member being a "singleton"; i.e., to aspects of their identity's being unique from the rest of the group? This was the case with my second group member to drop out and I don't know but suspect that some of her differences may have played a part in that decision, although she seemed quite open and willing to share in the group setting. The Short Course presenters stressed the importance of bringing out differences, of naming them in the group, something I had not explicitly done and something I'm thinking about now in terms of group members' relationship status.

At this stage of my group's development, we are building closeness and empathy and creating corrective emotional experiences through deepening levels of disclosure. I am often struck by the extent to which group members describe details of their losses more graphically than they have in individual sessions, as if the bonding that occurs with their peers in grief is the powerful alchemy needed to open up certain doors that were only partly opened one-on-one.

I came away from the Short Course, To Group or Not to Group, " inspired to encourage my group to venture into areas of potential conflict, to test these warm waters of support and acknowledgment to see if there's any space for disagreement and the healing that can come from working that through. I may have to be the first pioneer, seeing if someone can allow herself to be angry at me, or even a bit disappointed, frustrated or skeptical over something I've done or said so that we can find our way back from that. These group members have lost so much, it may take us a while to get there.

To Group or Not to Group was presented by Rob Williams, LICSW, CGP; Liz Marsh, LICSW; David Heilman, PsyD and Jennifer McLish, LCSW and attended by a dozen therapists with varying levels of experience in group work. This essay outlines only a small portion of areas covered in this 3-hour program.                                                                          

Cinema Series

Our final event of the 2018-2019 Cinema Series is around the corner on April 13, 2019 (dinner at 5:45pm, movie at 6:30pm)! 

See the  Cinema Series page on the MAGPS website  for more information. We hope to see you there!

See below for interviews about the past two Cinema Series films.


Cinema Series Interviews

Call Me By Your Name
Allison Howard, PsyD, M.Ed, CGP 
interviews Sonia Kahn, PsyD

Alison Howard: Sonia, I am so glad that we have the chance to talk about this movie! I don't think I would have watched it otherwise (I don't see a lot of movies), and certainly not with the same level of interest towards the symbolic meaning. So thank you, both for choosing this movie and for agreeing to talk with me about it.
Sonia Kahn: You're welcome! Talking about  Call Me By Your Name is a real pleasure for me, so I'm grateful that you took the time to watch it - especially since you don't get to the movies all that often.

AH: As you know, Call Me By Your Name was touted by Rolling Stone magazine as the "Sexie st Film of 2017." I believe you chose to present this movie for other reasons as well? I mean, I like a steamy movie, but was thinking that maybe you had something else you wanted us to be thinking about as we watch it!
SK: When I went to the theater to see  Call Me By Your Name , everything I had heard and read about the movie described it as being very, very good. And because I love a good movie, I was excited to see what all the hype was about. I was also drawn to the film because of its reported "sexiness"-especially since it's probably impossible for me to say no to two hours of watching Armie Hammer parade around Italy in his swim trunks-but if inviting sensuality and steaminess into our group was my primary reason for screening this particular film, it was completely unconscious! Consciously, I chose the movie for the MAGPS Cinema Series because of how deeply it resonates-emotionally, viscerally, sensually. And by picking an emotionally provocative film, I hoped I'd be setting the stage for a stimulating, post-viewing conversation.
At its core,  Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age drama-and like other films in this genre, the movie uses its youthful characters (especially the 17-year-old Elio, played brilliantly by Timotheé Chalamet) to explore themes of individuation and sexuality. Ostensibly, this film tells a particular story-a gay story, a coming out story, a closeted story-that I (as a straight, cis-female) would struggle to see myself in. But in the weeks and months after I first saw  Call Me By Your Name, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Elio appeared in my reveries and in my dreams. I went hunting through my parent's basement, digging up old journals and photo albums, and whenever a day with warm air arrived-I listened to the soundtrack in the car with my windows down (as 17-year-old Sonia was wont to do.) I imagined that even if I were alone in my affection for this film, there's enough to explore about its themes (differentiation and individuation; lust, love, heartache, and heartbreak; sexual identity; family secrets) to guarantee a lively conversation and debate after viewing it as a family (at Lorraine's home for the Cinema Series).
AH: Yes, and Elio, the 17-year-old main character, has an extraordinary relationship with his parents. It was a focal point of the movie, and I wonder if you can talk a little more about this dynamic?
SK: Late in the movie, Elio shares a scene with each of his parents, which feel like two of the most heart-warming and heart-wrenching scenes I've ever seen depicted on film. At the same time, I see Elio's relationships with his parents as completely romanticized. In the film, Elio is 17 years old and going through a massive period of self-discovery and growth. He is also depicted as unconflicted about his parents. He is frequently shown spending time with them and having a good time doing so. He is also physically affectionate-which we could interpret as being reflective of his cultural upbringing (his mother is French and the family lives in Europe) and/or secure attachment. His parents are portrayed as equal parts affectionate, doting, and appropriately distanced; they somehow manage to be as empathically attuned as they are encouraging of their son's precocious intellect. And while his father's monologue near the end of the movie is so full of love and courage that it's pretty hard not to get choked up listening to it, much of the attunement in the movie comes from his mother, who truly seems like she sees, understands, and accepts her son. Perhaps she is capable of 'knowing' Elio because of what she (perhaps unconsciously) 'knows' and accepts about her own husband. At one point, when she's engaged in a political discussion, she describes two politicians as engaging in "the historic compromise." Hearing this, I couldn't help but wonder if she's talking about her own marriage (in the displacement).
AH: Another aspect of the plot is the introduction of Oliver, a "new member," shall we say. In the beginning of the movie, Elio refers to Oliver as the Usurper. Do you think this was an accurate term to use for Oliver?

SK: Yes, Oliver's arrival to the group (on both the family level and community level) sure does shake things up! He's smart, handsome, flippant, outgoing, and confident-a good foil for Elio, who can be all these things as well (minus the confident part). Naturally, his arrival stirs up a lot for the existing members: some are drawn to him, some see him as a threat... some try to test him, and others try to fill their own longing with his image.
AH: The movie takes place in an exquisite part of northern Italy. The beauty of the landscape isn't relegated to the natural backdrop of the movie. What significance does this beautiful setting play in the love story?
SK: I think it's fair to describe the director, Luca Guadagnino, as an auteur: his fingerprints are all over this gorgeous film. The love he had for his subject material (an eponymous book by André Aciman) is reflective in how he filmed the setting: the summer of 1983, "somewhere in Northern Italy." The setting is provincial and picturesque, Roman and secluded. For a story teeming with Grecian nudes and other classical references (a summer internship brings Oliver, a Classics student played by Armie Hammer, into Elio's life), it's hard to imagine a better (yet still subtle) backdrop. The 16th-century villa where Elio's family summers is enormous yet somehow cozy, packed with food and books, beautiful instruments, and luscious fabrics. The villa is surrounded by verdant, resplendent countryside: trees abundant with leaves and delicious fruits, the sun casting off the town's piazza and rolling fields of wheat. Guadagnino somehow also manages to imbue the viewer with the physicality of the summer heat-he's made a hot, humid, sticky, and sweaty film. (Perhaps for some, this will be a welcome mid-winter respite!)

One final note: the setting's seclusion is also protective. By limiting the characters' interactions with the outside world, the story is protected from having to contend with (or even acknowledge) the crushing pain and terror of the abounding AIDS crisis. I suspect our audience will have mixed feelings about this and look forward to hearing what this stirs up.
AH: Agreed! Along those same lines,  the film is a cultural banquet, inviting its viewers to partake in different languages, food, social mores, attitudes about sex and sexuality... It reminded me of how diversity is so important in our groups: much like the sumptuousness of the cultural offerings in the movie, heterogeneity is both reflective of our society and enriching to our work. I was curious whether that was something you wanted us to pay attention to?

SK: Early in the movie, our protagonists dance to the song "Love My Way," by the Psychedelic Furs. It's a catchy, ear-worm of a song, and the hook gets stuck in my head: "Love my way, it's a new road, I follow where my mind goes." Frankly, your question was not on my mind when selecting the movie, but I love that you thought of this, so I'll follow (where your mind goes) and attempt a thoughtful answer!
Certainly, the film exists on many layers. The film touches on-though never fully examines-myriad societal differences between its group of characters, including nationality, political affiliation, religious affiliation, generational grouping, sexual identity, and mother tongue. And, as you point out, the movie is quite sensual and sumptuous, allowing food, fashion, language (formal/slang), literature, art, and architecture to expound on these themes. That said, whether it ultimately succeeds as a broad social commentary-a meditation on the phrase, "love conquers all," perhaps?-may be up for debate.

AH: Switching gears a little bit, There is a scene in the movie that takes place at a WWI monument. I see this scene as a symbolic representation of a battle waged and won within Elio to talk to Oliver about what he feels. This scene is on the heels of the story that Elio's mother poignantly reads aloud to him and her husband about speaking one's truth. It is at this monument that Elio speaks his truth to Oliver.Can you talk a little bit about the relevance of that moment? It made me think about linkages in our work.

SK: What a wonderful interpretation of the scene! Despite the number of languages spoken in the movie (English, French, German, Italian, Greek, Latin, sheet music...), prior to this moment in the film, many of the most important statements ("I like you," "I love you," "I want you," "I need you,") are expressed non-verbally, or indirectly using metaphor. In the story Elio's mother reads aloud (from the French story collection,  Heptaméron ), a knight wrestles with whether to tell his princess that he loves her and asks, "Is it better to speak or to die?" Should he open up and risk rejection, or stay shut but risk going to his deathbed with unrequited longing?

In the monument scene, Elio risks rejection when he opens up to Oliver and instead is handsomely rewarded for doing so. In moving the story in this way, the film makes a strong case for authenticity, vulnerability and emotional risk-taking; a stance that dovetails with the stance of the group therapist. In process groups, members are encouraged to behave as Elio did in this scene; openness, authenticity, and vulnerability are typically rewarded with increased emotional support and connection to the other members and group leaders. And, much like Elio learns in his relationship with Oliver, by repeatedly risking vulnerability and openness, members are able to strengthen their bonds, develop self-esteem, heal old wounds and traumas, and learn to trust (themselves and others) in a deeper, more fulfilling way.

I also see a meta-commentary in the WWI monument scene. According to Elio (child genius, though admittedly naïve about "the things that matter"), 170,000 souls were lost at the Battle of Piave. Presumably many of the men who died were Elio and Oliver's ages. In this way, the scene seems to function as a warning: Life is short! Speak up before it's too late! As we see through the choices other characters make in the film, Elio's path (to speak) is hardly the obvious choice. It makes me sad to think of where Elio would be if he  hadn't taken this risk. Thankfully, that's not the ending we get. (Side note: In preparing for this interview, I read that a sequel is in the works...!)

AH: The title of the movie is perplexing, even when made clear. Can you help me understand what it means without giving away the movie?

SK: The title refers to an inside joke between Elio and Oliver, and because it appears as an intimate exchange ("Call me by your name and I call you by mine..."), it's probably impossible for us to truly understand what this means to each/both of them. That said, my mind is full of associations! I'm reminded of Stephen Mitchell's (2002) seminal book,  Can Love Last?, and his descriptions of romantic love, including the inherent tension between self and other in romantic attachments, and how sex, eroticism, and "falling in love" blur these boundaries. He writes, "the central feature of sexual passion is in the transcendence of the self, of the familiar boundaries of one's own experiences-the sense of reaching and being reached by, penetrating and being penetrated by another," (p. 81). In this exchange, Elio and Oliver put the experience of sexual/romantic merger into words ("I am you, and you are me"), and in the same breath, assert their separateness ("your name/my name").

AH: The father has a great line as he is talking to his son at the end of the movie: "To make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything... what a waste." I think this is a poignant commentary for the work we do as therapists, and I was wondering if you see it that way too and if you could expand upon this?

SK: Most definitely! I absolutely  love when a piece of art validates my work as a psychodynamic clinician, so this scene stirs a particularly wonderful feeling of self-satisfaction. Elio's father also says, "Now there's sorrow, pain; don't kill it and with it the joy you felt." Here, I see a man speaking of the damage we can do to ourselves when we build brick walls around our tender underbellies; of the damage we can do to our experience of the world and its glory when we numb in an effort to protect against pain and sorrow, grief and loss.

AH: I love that line about sorrow. I think it is the conflict we feel as therapists when people come to see us to feel better but we also have to help them feel and tolerate the pain. And, conversely, if one doesn't allow oneself to feel the more unpleasant feelings, one cannot feel or express the most pleasant of feelings.

SK: Bingo. Can't do both without splitting the difference, or numbing one's self to emotions writ large.

Nancy  Hafkin, PhD, CGP
interviews Reginald Nettles, PhD, CGP

NH: Reggie, I am glad to have a chance to dialogue with you about the film you presented at our Cinema Series.  The film has received high praise and has won significant awards in 2016:  Best Picture at Golden  Globes,  Academy Award for the Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and more.    The New York Times  called it the "Best Film of the 21st Century."  There are plenty of "firsts" for the movie,  as well. What do you make of the mistake made in the announcing of a different movie as the Academy Award winner - then the correction?
RN: This snafu could be interpreted in many ways.  Could it be that talking about a film that puts "homosexuality" at center stage could have generated anxiety in the presenters?  "Hot potato" as a metaphor comes to mind.  And this film also puts the stigmas of both racial minority and sexual orientation in the forefront.  Not only did we see the stages of a gay boy's development into manhood, but we saw the effects of horrendous treatment of members of both groups laid bare before us in profound as well as subtle ways.
NH: Do you resonate with the awards and trail-breaking nature of the film?
RN: Clearly the awards were well deserved.  I certainly resonate with aspects of this film.  For me,  the trail-breaking nature of the film has more to do with the intersectionalities depicted than any of the depictions of particular identities.
NH:   What about as a trail breaker in terms of its subject? And what exactly do you mean by "intersectionalities?"
RN: It's a trail breaker in terms of its subjects, plural; more than its subject, singular.  By intersectionalities I mean intersecting minority identities of same-gender sexuality and racial minority, in this instance, in the context of a particular element of African American culture. The contours of both identities are defined in part by stigma, prejudice, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and often, by resultant poverty.  There have been earlier films that dealt with combined Black and Gay identities (e.g., Looking for Langston ; Brother to Brother ),  so in that sense, this film gave us another glimpse of Black Gay life in the United States.  Moonlight differs from these films in that it shows Black Gay life among members of poor and drug infested communities.  And in Moonlight , we see developmental stages in Gay male identity in at least two of the characters.  That stages in development within culturally stigmatized identities were shown may be more "trail-breaking" than other elements of this film.
NH: Given these Black and Gay intersecting identities in  Moonlight  do you have ideas about how understanding the characters could assist our membership in understanding ourselves and our clients?
RN: This question may be suggesting that  Black male identity and sexual identity among men can be separated.  Yet all men have "sexual identity." Confusion often exists in dialogues about sexual (or gender) identity and sexual (or gender) orientation.  In Moonlight , we saw the intersection of minority racial and same-gender sexual orientation in the main characters.  We also saw many complexities of male identity among African-American men,  and a range of sexual orientations from apparently Straight to apparently Gay.  Homophobic reactions toward the latter were also clearly evident in mutually devastating ways.  This contrasted with the paternal love and nurturing of the apparently Gay boy by the apparently Straight Black male father figure, who was also a drug dealer.
Understanding these complexities, I believe, can assist all of us in understanding the complexities in the identities of the men (and women) with whom we work.  To the extent that we may be blinded by the surrounding cultural milieu, and then not see these complexities, is suggestive of the work we need to do on ourselves in order to optimally benefit our clients.  We must be able to see through all the stereotypes to reach and connect with the individuals with whom we work.
NH: Would you agree with one reviewer who said the film is not relevant to a "Straight, White, middle-class" audience?
RH: To see Moonlight as not relevant to a "Straight, White, middle-class" audience speaks to a massive denial of the mutual relevance of these cultures.  In many ways,  Moonlight ,  I believe, could have been set in almost any impoverished ghetto in the U.S. and beyond to other cultures affected by similar histories.  And, if we look historically, there is much to suggest the genesis of ghettos in the U.S. to "Straight, White, middle-class" culture.
NH: What do you hope our membership will "take away" from the viewing and discussing of the film?
RN: First, I hope our membership will not take away an understanding that this is the totality of African-American culture.  Instead, I hope they will see the setting of Moonlight as one aspect of African-American culture.  At the cultural level,  I hope people will take away the importance of intersecting minority (e.g. sexual and racial minority) identities and the importance of recognizing both in their clients and perhaps themselves.
I also hope that members will recognize the complexities and the sensitivities of the characters involved.  Male identity is rendered more complex in the context of racism, stigma, prejudice and discrimination.  Recognizing the importance of these factors can,  I hope,  help members recognize that we all have roles to play in the amelioration of the societal dilemmas shown in Moonlight .  And, as clinicians, we have much to offer if we can allow ourselves to embrace the totality of our clients.
NH: Thank you, Reggie.
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Our Clinical Training Groups & Couples Psychotherapy Groups Continue in 2019!
Trish Cleary, MS, LCPC, CGP, LFAGPA and Ginger Sullivan, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA
As private-practice clinicians, we provide individual, couple, and group psychotherapy. Our collaborative styles provide rich experiences for group members.
Clinical Training Group  Read more
This short-term group nurtures the "use-of-self"in therapeutic connections with clients. The Winter/Spring Series meets for four 2-hour sessions one Saturday afternoon a month.
Process Group for Therapists  Read more
This long-term experiential group expands mental health providers' abilities for self-reflection and relational awareness that promote clinical insight and therapeutic expertise. Groups meet for a 2 hour session one Saturday morning a month throughout the year.
Couples Psychotherapy Groups  Read more
These work-and life-friendly groups support partners' efforts toward achieving the relationship they desire and deserve. Two separate groups are offered. Groups meet for a 2-hour session once a month on either Saturday or Sunday morning.
Your continued support of our groups through referrals to clinical colleagues, licensed graduate professional counselors, clients and friends is appreciated.
Sincerely, Trish  trishcleary@comcast.net  & Ginger vmsmail@aol.com
A Look Back at the Fall Conference
Remembering the Fall 2018 Conference
by Lisa Haileab, PhD, Conference Co-Chair

The 2018 MAGPS Fall Conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Maryland. Trauma of These Times: Impact on Therapist and our Groups was courageously led by Bonnie Buchele, PhD, CGP, DFAGPA, ABPP.  Dr. Buchele is a psychologist, practicing group psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. She serves in the Councilor position on the Executive Council of the American Psychoanalytic Association and was both Past President and Distinguished Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA). She is also President-Elect of the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes (IAGP).
Participants had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Buchele's reflective thought process when confronting the trauma of these times; a subject matter that is still very raw and fragmenting. In the interview prior to the conference, Dr. Buchele described feeling the strain of dealing with her own and patients' feelings during these times. Attendees experienced a similar strain when discussing political chaos, unconscious racism, identity politics, and the marginalization of salient issues.  As a result, Dr. Buchele demonstrated flexibility as a leader by attending to the cadence of varying emotions in the group while also providing participants with didactic information to deepen the understanding of collective trauma. The power of the collective unconscious with the skill of Dr. Buchele offered the opportunity to experience and explore polarization, perhaps at unexpected levels. Dr. Buchele emphasized the importance of hope that can be rediscovered as groups and individuals learn how to work through pain and heal from the trauma of these times. The weekend proved to be a powerful experience!
Snapshots from the Fall Conference 
A special thank you to Paul Timin - our Fall Conference Photographer!
Our speaker, Bonnie Buchele 
Daniel Turetsky and Yavar Moghimi
Nicholas Kirsch and Xi Bi
Karen Eberwein and Lorraine Wodiska
Myrna Frank, Jonathan Lebolt, 
and Paul Timin
Lisa Halieb and Victoria Lee
Getting ready for another session
Farooq Mohyuddin and Maryetta Andrews-Sachs
What a lovely setting for learning!

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