A joint program of The Florida Chapter of IASWG and SunServe


 This program was endorsed by The International Association of Social Work With Groups in 2016


 (Enrollment includes automatic registration in all three training events listed below)



Group work is a crucial program component for many social service and behavioral health agencies. Groups are used to teach important life skills, to improve interpersonal communication and install pro-social behaviors. Groups are used to provide peer to peer support, opportunities to test new identities and ways to recover from trauma or loss. Group work promotes emotional, relational and behavioral health in ways that surpass what can be expected of other kinds of interventions.


The quality of leadership and facilitation of group work in such agencies settings significantly affects the outcomes in treatment. While many evidence based practices used in the field of mental health and behavioral healthcare provide training for clinicians and peer specialists on the delivery of services in group contexts, few of them engage staff in learning or enhancing  the fundamental skills of group leadership and facilitation itself.  And especially in times of ever shrinking funding for services, many agencies have precious few opportunities to hone the facilitation skills of the members of their staff.


A team of group work specialists took on the challenge in 2013 to formulate a method for addressing this need.  (The members of the team are included in the list of SunServe Core Faculty below.)  A program begun in the Fall of that year put strong emphasis on experiential based learning. At its core, the training program was based on the simple principle that the experience of being a group member is the best platform for addressing the tasks of group facilitation. The faculty developed a learning module entitled “Multi-dimensional Experience of Group” based on that principle.  Participants in the program asked for more. The Florida Institute for Group Facilitation was formed by the team’s leaders to respond to that request.


The Institute has developed a more extensive training program that builds on the foundation of that first training module. Remaining true to the program’s experiential foundation, the enhanced program adds training on core topics and skills that are essential for group facilitators.

The program is designed for all who function as group leaders, facilitators or co-facilitators in behavioral health care settings, including mental health programs, addictions treatment facilities and related programs or facilities. Participation in the program is open to


  1. Mental health professionals from various disciplines including Psychology, Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy or mental health counseling. 
  2. Nursing professionals
  3. Addiction treatment  professionals
  4. Others who function in the role of facilitator or co-facilitator as part of a treatment team


The program content is guided by ...


  • "The Standards for Social Work With Groups, 2nd ed." This articulates role expectations for facilitators for groups convened for multiple purposes including  areas of direct concern for FIGF, namely group leadership in the context of behavioral health care. To read the full document click here: 



The program includes the following learning opportunities:


  • The six hour “Multi-dimensional Experience of Group,” as indicated above is at the core of the training program.  A description of the training day and a listing of objectives is provided at the bottom of this page


  • Three 2 hour modules in foundations of group facilitation theory and praxis. These modules address fundamental principles of group dynamics and guide facilitators toward understanding  methods for managing group members through the stages of group life from the perspective of the role of facilitator.


  • Three 2 hour modules in advanced topics on group facilitation theory and praxis address issues of group cohesion, diversity of members and special topics that arise in social service agency settings.


  • A once-monthly Group Facilitators’ Supervision and Consultation Group is the setting where participants in the training program have the opportunity to develop and refine their skills with the consultation of other facilitators from diverse settings and under the guidance of the core faculty members.  Participation in the supervision and consultation group is recommended for a minimum of 12 months


Program Objectives

Upon successful completion of this program, participants will demonstrate the ability to:


  • Apply their understanding of group work theory and practice to different group populations, incorporating an appreciation of the dimensions of human diversity
  • Articulate the rationale for choices concerning group services and practice with a wide range of populations
  • Understand and incorporate systemic variables when making interventions, including:  organizational context, group size, composition, structure, culture, and communication patterns
  • Use their knowledge of group dynamics and development to enhance their practice across a range of group models
  • Use practice skills to facilitate group process, promote mutual aid, and mediate between the individual and the group
  • Critically analyze ethical issues and dilemmas unique to group work.


Full Program Fee (all training modules and 12 sessions in supervision group): $350

Full Program Fee for IASWG Members: $200

A la carte registration: $30 per individual training module; $80 for "Multidimensional Experience of Group

Program Enrollment:  Contact James Lopresti, PhD, LMHC, Group Facilitation Certification Program Director, at Jlopresti@sunserve.org; 954-764-5150 ext 111 

Enrollment includes 18 CEUs for Florida licensed Psychologists, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Mental Health Counselors, ARNP, RN, LPN, Florida CAPs 

  1. Multi- Dimensional Experience of Group (6 hrs)
  2. Foundation modules (6 hrs)
  3. Advanced modules (6 hrs)
  4. Authorization to participate in monthly supervision group. 
  5. Certification as Group Facilitation Specialist by the Florida Institute for Group Facilitation

Individual  sessions: Some training sessions become available for others only when there are openings. Full program participants are guaranteed enrollment at all sessions and the cost is included in full program enrollment fee



A. CORE TRAINING: “A MULTIDIMENSIONAL EXPERIENCE OF GROUP”  (6 contact hours)This full day training event is designed for persons responsible for leading groups in various clinical settings. It provides multiple opportunities for inculcating, refreshing, enhancing and expanding skills for group work leadership in a variety of settings. At the end of the day, participants will: 

  • Achieve enhanced understanding of the experience of group from the members’ perspective
  • Understand foundational skills for facilitating groups such as creating safety, group norms and group culture     
  • Understand  approaches that address group dynamics  including: conflict, lack of participation, safety issues and  processing “taboo” subjects or topics
  • Understand the dynamics of group co-leadership, including leadership style, differing theoretical orientations and gender diversity


B. FOUNDATION MODULES:  These modules address fundamental principles of group dynamics and guide facilitators toward understanding methods for managing group members through the stages of group life from the perspective of the role of facilitator. Each module is 2 hours in length and provides 2 CEUs for all mental health and nursing disciplines. Descriptions for each module and learning objectives are listed below

Module I: This training module introduces participants to core principles of group work and draws on demonstration of various activities used to facilitate group process.  

    • Identify key fundamentals for group work 
    • Identify the uses and benefits of various group activities


Module II: This training module introduces participants to essential micro level skills when working with individuals and groups and necessary for the effective facilitation of Group Work. Identification and demonstration of various skills used in groups. 

    • Identify essential micro level skills for effective group work 
    • Identify and demonstrate various skills necessary to facilitate effective group work.


Module III: This training module introduces participants to the stages and life cycle of groups. This module introduces participants to additional skills necessary for effective group facilitation, particularly those of group leadership, self-awareness and the ability to effectively manage conflict when present in group work. 

    • Identify the stages of groups
    • Identify those skills present in effective group facilitators
    • Identify how they react internally to conflict when present in group work and how to mitigate and/or manage the external manifestation of such reactions


C. ADVANCED MODULES: Each module is 2 hours in length and provides 2 CEUs for all mental health and nursing disciplines. Descriptions for each module and learning objectives are listed below


Module I: Principles, Practices and Facilitator Characteristics That Foster Cohesion

Cohesion is to group working as the working alliance is to individual counseling. It is a necessary condition for groups to do their work and to progress in accomplishing the members’ goals for being in a group. Fostering cohesion depends on a personal stance for group leaders; it means having eyes and ears attuned to what is happening between group members on many overt and covert levels of communication all at the same time. And, simultaneously,  it means having the skills to use that awareness in ways that deepen connections and address barriers to connection. 

    • Identify Skills that lead to the creation of cohesion in a group
    • Identify factors and dynamics that impede group cohesion
    • Understand the key characteristics of a group leader/ facilitator that foster cohesion


Module II: Diversity in Group Membership: Principles, Practices and Facilitator Skills

Levels of diversity in group membership always set up challenges for group leaders. Certain issues arise for group leaders when members closely mirror each other in social-cultural and familial backgrounds, ages and life experiences as well as in communication styles.  And other issues arise when there is great diversity in each of these domains of human experience. Successful group leaders know how to navigate their way through these complexities to elicit the best opportunities for members to acquire the best outcomes from being in a group  

    • Understand principles of group composition for heterogeneous vs. homogenous groups
    • Understand the benefits and challenges for each kind of group: heterogeneous and homogeneous.
    • Identify skills for negotiating conflict between members who come from different populations, affinity groups, or sub-groupings (e.g. younger vs. older, male vs. female, straight v. gay, black v white, etc.)


Module III: Trauma And Drama In Group: Impact Of Past Trauma And Use Of Substances On Group Process.

Research evidence convincingly suggests that the neuro-biological processes that respond to intense stressors directly impact the “social” and interpersonal sectors of brain. As a result the impact that traumatic life experiences can have on attachments, social relationships, and overall life satisfaction can be quite profound. Additionally, many persons trapped in a pattern of addictive behaviors, have used substances as a means to escape, numb or deny the damage that trauma has done to them. Some treatment groups are designed to address these matters head on, but even those groups that are not about treatment of these disorders are affected by such histories in their members. Mandated groups, for example, are likely to have a larger proportion of persons who have been deeply hurt by trauma and least successful at dealing with its effects on their lives. 

    • Identify skills for group management when working with mandated clients
    • Understand key factors for management of trauma-genic behaviors that can impact group members and group process
    • Understand key factors for management of substance use issues that impact group members and group process




2017 Institute Calendar - Except where noted differently, all training and supervision sessions take place in Broward County, Florida

September 22, 2017: Foundation Modules (Sunshine Cathedral MCC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

October 27, 2017: Multidimensional Experience of Group (Sunshine Cathedral MCC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

December 1, 2017: Advanced modules (A track in SunServe's Annual Quality Care Conference at Barry University, Miami Shores, FL)

Monthly supervision group (dates by consensus of program participants - currently, 4th Fri. of month)






Kris Drumm, LCSW ACHT, former Group Program Coordinator at Sunserve, has over 25 years of experience of working with diverse communities.  Now in private practice at A Healing Space in Wilton Manors, she has led treatment groups in various clinical in-patient and out-patient settings.


David Fawcett, PhD, LCSW,  a nationally recognized author on HIV and sexuality, was a founder and Chair of the South Florida Methamphetamine Task Force and is a member of the National Steering Committee for National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day


Heidi Heft LaPorte, DSW  is Associate Professor at Barry University School of Social Work where she teaches Advanced Social Work Practice With Groups; Models of Social Work Intervention; Environmental Context of Social Work Practice: Poverty, Oppression and Trauma; Human Development; and Qualitative Research Data Coding and Analysis.  


James Lopresti, Ph.D., LMHC,  SunServe’s Director of Clinical Education and Senior Clinical Supervisor, is a frequent presenter on gay and lesbian issues for professionals, and has taught at various graduate level programs including Barry University, Loyola University of Chicago and the Johns Hopkins University. He has led group programs and mentored group leaders in clinical settings in Washington, DC and South Florida serving the LGBT community


Mark J. Macgowan, PhD, LCSW, Professor, School of Social Work at FIU, is the author of A Guide to Evidence-Based Group Work (Oxford University Press) and co-editor of Evidence-Based Group Work in Community Settings (Taylor & Francis) and IASWG Standards for Social Work with Groups (Taylor & Francis). He serves on the editorial boards of several peer-reviewed group work journals and is a board member of IASWG. His clinical experience includes working with persons with substance use problems and those affected by disasters.


Mark Smith, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor in Barry University’s School of Social Work where he teaches graduate classes in group work, co-leads the Florida Chapter of the International Association of Social Work with Groups (IASWG). 


Cindy Sterne, LCSW, MCAP, ICADC, Human Services Supervisor at the  Broward Addiction Recovery Center (BARC), has over 20 years of clinical experience working with multivarious populations in a variety of settings. She is an adjunct professor with the FAU School of Social Work where she teaches courses such as Practice with Individuals, Practice with Families and Groups, and Issues in Counseling Women among others. She also serves on the Florida Certification Board’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council. 




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