Inside the Classroom: Group Theory & Techniques

Written by Kristina Alvarado
April 29, 2015

Most students in Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry will encounter opportunities to facilitate groups at some point in their work, whether they plan to work in clinical or ministry contexts. Group work may include clinical therapy groups as a licensed couples and family therapist, faith sharing groups, support groups, educational groups, and more.

This summer, during a week-long intensive course, students in all of the school?s degree programs will have the opportunity to dive into the complexities of leading groups while acquiring experiential practice conducting group sessions alongside Dr. Ruby Takushi. ?A long-time adjunct faculty for the school, Dr. Takushi brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her study and work in a variety of holistic clinical settings, including work in her own private practice and in Seattle?s Recovery Caf??a unique addictions recovery and support center in the heart of Seattle. ?

As a couples and family therapy program, the Master of Arts in Relationship and Pastoral Therapy focuses on preparing clinicians who think about issues systematically, recognizing that individuals exist within a system of relationships. Similarly, all of the degree programs at Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry are dedicated to preparing students to meet the growing needs of our world, and in turn, urges students to think relationally.

The school?s ?STMC 5540 Group Therapy & Techniques? course prepares students for the unique task of leading a group session. Students will explore the group session from a theoretical, practical and experiential standpoint and engage the work of different group theorists including Irvin Yalom, a well-known and respected existentialist with a lifetime of experience in group therapy work. Additionally, students will gain an understanding of how groups function from both the perspective of facilitator and participant and have a chance to put their learning into practice by conducting mock group sessions in class. In preparation for clinical and ministerial application, students will be challenged to create their own proposal for a group series that integrates their clinical/ ministerial interest with what they have learned and experienced in class.?

MARPT student Spencer Byl, who took the course this past fall quarter, says of his experience: ?Through this class I not only learned the importance and benefits of group therapy but also discovered how group factors were able to benefit an individual?s progress in ways which individual therapy could not. The ?mock group? experience in the classroom allowed us to hone our own ability while also learning from one another.??

Chaplaincy student Melissa Trull offers another perspective, as she ?looks forward to integrating group theory into her work as a chaplain: ?Something extraordinary happens when we hear the words, ?me too.? We are no longer alone; the world is no longer as scary. As a Master in Divinity- Chaplaincy student, I hope to one day work with children in a Hospital setting. I registered for Group Therapy class because I want to learn how to facilitate a healing space for a room of people processing illness, trauma, and loss. This kind of vulnerable space demands thoughtful and careful preparation?the stakes are too high to be otherwise. As I continue to form my ?self of a Chaplain,? I want to be influenced by both theology and therapy because, to me, the two fields of thought seem to be good friends.?

More about Dr. Ruby Takushi
Driven by her desire to understand how psychology and theology interact, Dr. Takushi received her doctorate in clinical psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. She is a licensed psychologist in two different states and completed a two-year postdoctoral specialization in group psychotherapy. Dr. Takushi specializes in the treatment of adults, specifically those with addictive behavior. She trained at the Addictive Behavior Research Center at the University of Washington and has published on topics of gambling addiction and cross-cultural counseling. As a clinician Dr. Takushi integrates an appreciation for the physical, psychological, relational, and spiritual as essential elements of mental health. ?As part of a group who recognized the need for a supportive place for the large percent of people experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction or other mental health issues, Dr. Takushi was one of the founding board members of Recovery Caf? in 2004. The Recovery Caf? is a non-profit recovery support center that utilizes a therapeutic community model to support men and women recovering from addictive behaviors?providing education, resources, and support groups for those recovering from addiction. Dr. Takushi now serves as the Director of Programs at the Recovery Caf?.

The class promises to be a challenging and exciting course for students this summer! Students, check with your advisor in preparation for registration.