Austin Group Psychotherapy Society


Austin Group Psychotherapy Society Newsletter

The Austin Group Psychotherapy Society is an interdisciplinary organization of psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatrists who share a commitment to continuing professional development and to excellence in the practice of group psychotherapy.

Over the past decade, the Austin Group Psychotherapy Society (AGPS) has gained national recognition for the quality of our training opportunities and the warmth and enthusiasm of our members.

AGPS trainings and social events are designed to mentor new professionals and students, expand the knowledge and clinical skills of all members, and enrich and rejuvenate established practitioners.

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  • Sunday, January 28, 2024 10:30 PM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    Deborah Sharp, LCSW-S, CGP, AGPA-F is a previous President of Austin GPS and is Chair-Elect for the Affiliate Society Assembly, an Executive Committee position for AGPA. She runs four groups in her private practice and a monthly formation group for Jungian Analysts in training. Deborah is delighted to announce her graduation on January 21st from the Center for Group Studies where she also serves as a member of the Steering Committee for Social Justice.

    If you are interested in joining her Thursday morning 8:00 consultation group call 512-422-5818 or contact her through her website.

  • Thursday, July 20, 2023 11:57 PM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    You are leading an institute on emotional engagement. What led you to focus on this topic?

    I have both a professional and personal interest in the topic! As a sensitive, deep feeler who internalized a lot as a kid, shame and fear took residence in my nervous system. Many (many!) years in emotionally engaged individual and group therapy has helped me explore the thoughts and feelings I decided were off limits, not safe, or would result in rejection or relational ruptures I wasn’t equipped to handle. My window of tolerance for my own emotions, and others’ emotions, expanded. As a group leader, helping my clients authentically engage with one another is a foundational part of the job. Emotions help people bond to one another. They help us know where the hurts are, what’s important to us, what we want or need, where our boundaries are.

    Groups that spend too much time analyzing, fixing, or storytelling can start to feel boring and disconnected. Helping people say more about what they feel, while staying curious about what they aren’t expressing and why, creates thriving groups.

    And why an institute on the topic?

    Experiential learning is critical for group therapists. The more parts of ourselves we get to know, the more conscious and regulated we can be in the therapy room. We increase our capacity to be with our clients in the fullness of their own growth and healing.

    What are the challenges of emotional engagement, the positives, or the goals?

    Groups with high emotional engagement have an energy current that feels alive and self-renewing. When members take risks to express what they feel inside themselves and towards one another, they typically feel alert, engaged and invested in the process. But everyone has a different window of tolerance for emotions, and everyone has defense mechanisms or protective parts that show up when things feel too vulnerable. In a group there is often a push/pull between wanting to engage emotionally, but also wanting to stay safe and comfortable. As a leader it can be challenging to balance members’ different experiences of safety and hold the dialectic of respecting protective strategies while also encouraging emotional contact.

    My kids attended a camp that encouraged taking “reasonable risks” and I loved that phrase. I think it applies perfectly to group therapy. The goal isn’t to break down all our defenses, overwhelm the nervous system, or discharge emotions in an uncontained way.

    The goal is for members to take enough reasonable emotional risks that they are growing and the group feels alive.

    What do you love most about group therapy?

    At the top of the list is probably how group therapy provides a new experience in a “family.”

    Group can stimulate family of origin wounds like nobody’s business, but it also provides a unique therapeutic environment that supports healing and integration when those old wounds emerge. To sit with a group that’s deep in emotional work, then erupts in shared laughter in response to a member’s well-timed joke, is a master class in nervous system co-regulation. The ritual of showing up week after week, staying curious about oneself and others, and investing in a shared relational experience provides a slow drip of healing and personal growth that’s hard to replicate and very needed in our world.

    Tell us something about your groups (the idea here is your ideal client and what that client could possibly gain from becoming a group member)

    I lead four long-term process groups focused on personal and relational growth. I also lead a process group for therapists, and have a new online group for therapists starting in early fall (I still have spots in this group if anyone is looking for a group home!). I tend to work with people who have family of origin wounds, attachment insecurities, perfectionism, and shame. Group supports people as they learn to express the thoughts, feelings, and desires they adapted to ignore or manage in less relationally healthy ways. Group also provides a secure base. Over time, being part of a “good enough” group – one that is reliable and responsive and doing the work of rupture and repair – can support one’s movement towards earned security.

  • Thursday, July 20, 2023 9:31 AM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    Austin Group Psychotherapy Society (AGPS) believes everyone deserves access to comprehensive, evidence-based, competent care informed by accredited and licensed professionals. As mental health professionals, we are deeply concerned about recent legislation in Texas and other states unaligned with evidenced-based, inclusive practices.

    The Texas state legislature has introduced a record number of anti-LGBT+ bills, with several seeking to criminalize essential health care for transgender youth, their families, and the medical and mental health providers who support them. Recently, a group of families, health care providers, and human rights organizations have sued Texas and some state agencies over Senate Bill 14, signed into law last month to ban gender-affirming care.

    These bills endanger the health and well-being of transgender youth, their families, and communities. They serve only to propagate harm and stigmatization and interfere in a relationship that most appropriately lies with an adolescent, their parents, and their doctors. With the continued threat to trans healthcare and safety, many families and adults with financial means have made the difficult decision to uproot their lives to find new homes, jobs, and schools outside of Texas. Knowingly producing or advancing legislation oppressing fundamental human rights to comprehensive, evidence-based, competent care hurts our communities. 

    AGPS Board Statement

    Austin Group Psychotherapy Society (AGPS) condemns policies of discrimination based on an individuals sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Clinical interventions for gender dysphoria should not be criminalized or restricted. AGPS advocates for policies and laws that promote acceptance of all without fear of harassment, exclusion, or bullying because of gender expression.


    AGPS Board

    Alyson M. Stone, PhD, CGP

    Courtney Stollon, LCSW-S, LCDC, CGP 

    Steve Cheney, LPC

    Monrovia Van Hoose, LCSW, CGP 

    Allen Lambert, LCSW-S, CGP,

    Donna Rich, LCSW

    Melissa Hargrave, LMFT-S, LPC-S

    Aaron D. Bandy, NBCT, LCSW

    Janet Griffis, MA, LPC, LMFT

    Amanda Fuhr, LCSW

  • Thursday, June 22, 2023 1:32 PM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    We are happy to congratulate to Monrovia Van Hoose, AGPS Board member. Monrovia became a Certified Group Psychotherapist in February, and an LCSW Supervisor in May of 2023.

    Monrovia was a member of AGPS for nearly a decade before she started her own process group or joined the board. "Receiving training and being in the milieu of the AGPS community for so long seems to have had a cumulative effect on me. It felt like one day I just woke up and felt ready to start leading groups, but in reality I'd been subtly preparing myself for years."

    The CGP designation is determined by the International Board for Certification of Group Psychotherapists, and you can find out more information about it from our governing body, the American Group Psychotherapy Association at:

    You can find out more about Monrovia’s training and supervision offerings at:

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2022 4:28 PM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    AGPS member, Kathleen Adams, Ph.D, is the author of Attuned Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Non-abused, High-functioning People Living Outside of Time (©2022, Routledge). This book takes a painstaking look at developmental trauma as it manifests in group, individual, and combined psychotherapies, tracking the growth of non-abused individuals who have courageously addressed overwhelming childhood experiences to make sense of the chaos in their lives. Adams has specialized in primitive states, dissociation, and developmental trauma since 1977. Extensive experience in inpatient settings complements her long-term outpatient psychotherapy practice with children, adolescents, and adults.

  • Tuesday, September 13, 2022 1:10 PM | Melissa Savoie AGPS Coordinator (Administrator)

    AGPS member, Stacy Nakell, LCSW, CGP, is the author of Treatment for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors: An Integrative Psychodynamic Approach (©2023, Routledge). The book establishes a theory and practice of a psychodynamic approach to treating body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (BFRBDs), one grounded in attachment theory and neurobiological research. Nakell provides psychotherapy to people struggling with body-focused repetitive behaviors and provides clinical consultation.

  • Monday, December 20, 2021 3:00 PM | Scott Phillips

    Dear friends & colleagues,

    This message marks the last time I will write to you as President. It’s been a challenging past two years for us all and it’s been an honor and a privilege working with such a great Board. I certainly had different expectations about what our organization would be navigating when I started this role. Though I would have liked to be working on different priorities, l am quite proud of what we have accomplished together. 

    In a quick pivot the board successfully transitioned to provide events and training online. Our Board successfully gave energy to maintaining our connections and continuing to develop as an organization. We provided more events with a focus on the impact of diversity and difference. We welcomed a large cohort of scholarship recipients. We transitioned to a new website that allows better membership management and removes the need for technical skills on our board. We continue to be financially sound. We continue to grow our numbers and welcome new members. Shifting and maintaining all this during a pandemic is a testament to the Board and to our organization.

    What’s Next

    I am excited what comes next for AGPS!  I warmly welcome Pierre Choucroun, LPC, CGP as our new President in January! Pierre has a strong group practice, a creative clinical mind, and a deep commitment to group therapy. He brings fresh eyes and ideas along with patience in his leadership to the Board. His value for increasing awareness and access to great group therapy training here in Austin will continue our growth. 

    Join me in welcoming the following members to our Board of Directors. They have been recommended by the Nominating committee and officially elected by our membership.

    • Treasurer: Steve Cheney, MA, LPC

    • Member-at-Large: Monrovia Van Hoose, LCSW (Institutes Chair)

    • Member-at-Large: Donna Rich, LCSW (Events Co-Chair)

    • Member-at-Large: Allen Lambert, LCSW, CGP (Events Co-Chair)

    • Member-at-Large: Dana Reichman, LMSW (Development Chair) 

    Continuing on the Board:

    • President: Pierre Choucroun, PhD, LPC, CGP

    • Past-President: Scott Phillips, LMFT, CGP

    • Secretary: Courtney Stollon, LCSW, LCDC

    • Member-at-Large: Patty Olwell, MA, LPC, CGP (Marketing Chair)

    • Member-at-Large: Stacy Spencer, LCSW-S (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Chair)

    With Appreciation

    As I transition into an advisory role as Past-President, I’m acutely aware of the contributions of our Board members and leaders that made these challenging past two years a success. Send them a message or say thank you when you connect with them again. 

    Rolling off the Board:

    • Treasurer: Rhea Pledger, LPC, CGP (2020-2021)

    • Member-at-Large: Kayle Evans, LCSW-S, LCDC (Programming Chair, 2018-2021)

    • Member-at-Large: Charles Couchman, PhD (Institutes Chair, Editing Chair, 2018-2021)

    • Member-at-Large: Kristen Wicke, LPC, CGP (Development Chair, 2020-2021)

    • Member-at-Large: Bree McDaniel, LCSW (Membership Chair, 2020-2021)

    Special thanks for the work of Annual Conference Chair   Laura Ebady & Committee members Aaron Bandy, Courtney Stollon, & Michael O’Donnell for facilitating a powerful learning experience   Katherine Barnhill has done an outstanding job as CEU Chair. Our Nominating Committee Chair  Anna Graybeal  & committee members  Lavanya Shankar   and  Jason Sugg have done wonderful work identifying our next leaders.

    Our leadership is consistently made stronger with fresh perspectives and diverse interests - consider enriching your group community by serving on a committee, a project, or the Board! Committees and projects offer a great way to get to know other leaders or for long time members to get reconnected and to give back. We continue to look for a good fit to fill our Membership chair for the coming year - reach out to Pierre Choucroun with any recommendations or interest (

    We hope to see you on Friday January 14, 2022 at our AGPS Annual Business Meeting and Small Group Breakouts “Returning to the office?: Practical, Ethical, and Emotional Considerations”. 

    All the best - and Happy Holidays!

    Scott Phillips, LMFT, CGP

    Austin Group Psychotherapy Society

  • Friday, June 04, 2021 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    Many thanks to Rachel Burgreen, LCSW-S for her presentation on “Radically Open DBT and Disorders of Overcontrol”. Attendees reported the training was wonderfully informative and useful - providing a lot about the subject matter. We appreciated Rachel’s warm and accessible presenting style.

    Find the presentation slides below:

    Radically Open DBT and Disorders of Overcontrol with Rachel Burgreen.pdf

    RODBT Handout 16.1.pdf

  • Monday, May 24, 2021 9:00 AM | Scott Phillips

    Message from the President


    After months of hard work and dedication, we are delighted to announce the launch of our newly updated website! The address is the same (, but we hope visitors will find it more user-friendly, faster, and easier to navigate.

    The new website integrates multiple functions, including our membership platform, events registration, and groups directory. Our previous website served us for more than a decade, but was no longer working together in these areas and required frequent troubleshooting. By simplifying the complexity with one integrated system, we anticipate our board’s time and energy can be better spent engaging with people instead of technical problems. 

    All changes come with bumps in the road, but we expect you will have an improved member experience. The updated site features easily accessible online profiles with direct access to edit listings, update contact & financial information, and see records of event registrations and transactions. We also expect the update will provide improved communication regarding event experiences and membership needs. In the future, we intend to expand the ways we use News & Updates features to provide more information about what’s going on behind the scenes and increase involvement with the community we serve. 

    I would like to specifically thank my fellow website committee members, Gianna Viola and Patty Olwell, for the donation of their time and energy, and our web developer, Mindy Morgan-Avita, who has been a responsive and helpful partner for us. We wholeheartedly recommend her work!


    Scott Phillips
    President - Austin Group Psychotherapy Society

    Suggestions for AGPS Members:

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