The Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) is a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA), a professional non-profit organization. ASGW exists to support its members and other helping professionals by empowering them with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to practice effective, socially just, and ethical group work in a diverse and global society. ASGW values the creation of community; service to our members, their clients, and the profession; and group leadership as a process to facilitate the growth and development of individuals and groups.
The bi-annual conference event hosts on average between 125 – 225 attendees comprised mostly of practicing counselors across multiple specializations, counselor education faculty who work in higher education settings training future practitioners; graduate students completing the training. Attendees are mainly traveling from the U.S.A., Canada, and some from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Australia. Registration rates and categories have varied in recent years, but on average range between $150.00 – $425.00. Discounts are provided for early registrations, and onsite registration are accepted, although not common practice. Recent events have formally begun towards the beginning of February on a Thursday evening and conclude Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
ASGW was in Puerto Rico January 30-February 2, 2020 Groups Work! Lighting Trails of Hope after the Storm Grupos: Iluminando senderos de esperanza tras la tormenta
Hurricane Maria, the Category 4 storm that devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, flooded the streets, collapsed homes and left the entire territory without power. It is estimated to have resulted in up to 5,000 fatalities in its aftermath. Maria caused the longest blackout in U.S. history, leaving the entire island of 3.3 million people without power, including those in hospitals and nursing homes who relied on respirators. Over two years later, the recovery is halting and rebuilding continues. Because Puerto Rico’s local communities are powered by small businesses, helping them recover is critical to the island’s economic and social recovery. In late 2019 and January 2020, Puerto Rico was hit by a series of earthquakes causing fresh devastation.
The mental health impacts of these long lasting disasters and their daily assaults and stressors cannot be overestimated. Young children start crying when it rains because they are afraid it will never stop. The rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed. The suicide hotlines have seen a 230% increase. The island desperately needs trauma-informed care and assistance, not just for the people directly affected, but also for those who have been working tirelessly to rebuild.
The Association for Specialists in Group Work celebrated the power of groups to help and rebuild by holding our biannual conference in Puerto Rico on January 30 to February 2, 2020 at the Embassy Suites El Dorado. It is the first national counseling association to hold a conference in Puerto Rico and this was a great time to do so. The conference was designed to include service components and integrate with the rebuilding effort through offering mental health and wellness services in schools and communities, as well as opportunities for local group workers to access the conference resources. We also had other opportunities for participants to assist by donating to reputable organizations, purchasing arts and crafts, listening to local musicians, and simply showing up. Presentations focused on the themes of LatinX issues, disaster mental health, and the power of groups to rebuild community.