October 22, 2016 
(past workshop)
July 16, 2016

Interview with Martyn Whittingham

In preparation for our upcoming fall workshop, our AGPS president Bob Fredrick, LCSW interviewed presenter Martyn Whittingham, Ph.D., CGP about our workshop topic: Focused Brief Group Therapy.

 Bob Fredrick (BF): How is your approach to groups relevant to both the clinician doing short-term groups and the clinician who is conducting long-term psychotherapy groups? Also, what are the similarities and differences between Focused Brief Group Therapy (FBGT) and long term group psychotherapy?

Martyn Whittingham (MW): FBGT is as a brief, semi-structured process group approach.  It integrates Evidence Based principles and Practice Based Evidence (evidence used in real time to enhance therapy) to sharpen and focus interventions.  It also allows the therapist to prevent group “failure to launch” and “failure to thrive” by anticipating member self-sabotage and problematic group dynamics at the screening stage.  FBGT also predicts into group dynamics, co-leadership dynamics, transference / counter-transference and change pathways.  Although designed as a short-term approach, its utility extends to longer treatment approaches, albeit in modified form.

Similarities to long-term approaches include a use of the here-and-now, focus on process, and activation of insight using experience as a modality of change.  The differences are that insight is achieved rapidly during screening.  This insight is then transformed into group goals and behavioral activation during the here and now is emphasized.  The approach has been described by a previous workshop participant as “turbocharged Yalom”.

BF: What is your experience with using FBGT in institutional settings such as prisons and state-run mental health facilities?

MW: FBGT was developed in a university counseling center but was designed to be an effective method of achieving measurable improvement in interpersonal flexibility.  In the university counseling center, research showed gains in depression, social anxiety, interpersonal flexibility, and hostility in less than eight sessions.  Any agency that is looking for rapid clinical gains and sees interpersonal flexibility as etiological for its patients might find the approach useful. The approach would be more useful for those in intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization than inpatient, since those in acute settings are likely to benefit more from approaches that downregulate. This approach is more suited to settings where clients are stabilized and able to engage in approaches geared to interpersonal learning and personal growth.

The VA, military, correctional institutions, and private practices are all settings where, with thoughtful application, FBGT would be appropriate.  Since FBGT also relies on process and outcome measures as part of routine clinical practice, this enables those utilizing the approach to understand the impact of the approach in real time and to make adaptations as necessary.

BF: Would you discuss the term ‘interpersonal circumplex’ and its relevance to FBGT?

MW: The interpersonal circumplex is the most empirically validated measure of interpersonal functioning in psychology. It has two main axes – agency (sometimes referred to as power) and affiliation (sometimes referred to as communion).  Arranged around a circular structure, each interpersonal type is related orthogonally. So, dominance is directly opposite to submission, focused on the needs of self is directly opposite to focused on the needs of others and so on.

FBGT utilizes the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP-32; Horowitz, Alden, Wiggins, & Pincus, 2000) to help the client determine the impact and focus of their highest area of specific interpersonal distress. Goals are then collaboratively established and the clients are invited to act them out in the here and now during the group. The circumplex is also used in a myriad of other ways, ranging from understanding group dynamics through to preventing premature group dropout and self-sabotage.

BF: Would you give us some idea of the types of issues group members address in FBGT?

MW: FBGT is designed to target and impact the specific interpersonal distress that underpins diagnostic symptomology.  So while a client might identify depression and anxiety as the symptoms they are seeking to remit, FBGT targets interpersonal etiology, such as client self-identified social inhibition or being overly focused on the need to dominate.  The approach validates their basic personality makeup but invites the client to consider if becoming slightly more interpersonally flexible might help them better meet their own life goals and needs.

Horowitz, L.M., Alden, L.E., Wiggins, J.S., & Pincus, A.L. (2000). Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Manual. Odessa, FL: Mindgarden. 


Interested in learning more? Join us at our fall workshop with Martyn Whittingham on October 22nd.

We welcome your feedback about this newsletter. 

AGPS Website  |   Become a Member  |   Upcoming Workshop  |   About AGPS

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved.