It is with mixed emotions that I write my final “Presidential” message to the Mid-Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Society community. I am as appreciative as I was surprised to have been in this role, preceded by two years as “President-elect”/conference chair. I joined the Board initially as Member-at-Large. After two years of trying to understand the organization and find my way within, I was so pleased when I got the call from then-nominations chair Emily Lape. I am sure my sense of shock in reaction to the president-elect nomination was palpable. I assumed she was calling to invite me to run for a second “at large” term, which I would have been more than pleased to accept.
During these four years Mid-Atlantic has continued to thrive, and has continued its longstanding tradition of two (fall and spring) conferences every year. It was my pleasure to chair the Fall, 2007 and Fall 2008 conferences, work with Bonnie Buchele, past president of AGPA and George M. Saiger, Past-President of MAGPS and Ira Saiger, respectively. I gained an appreciation for the depth of thought and the magnitude of the endeavor that is a MAGPS conference. I also gained an appreciation for the wisdom within MAGPS in its involving more and more members in the work of the organization. During my tenure we have moved from having the president-elect serve as fall conference chair to our newest model in which the president-elect is the overall conference chair with two other members serving as fall and spring conference chairs respectively. Not only does this spread the wealth, but it also allows each conference chair some breathing room between conferences. Typically, each conference is decided upon before the previous conference occurs. Spring conference chair Margo London brought us Morris Nitsun in Spring, 2008, Jerome Gans in Spring, 2009, and Ellen Weber Libby in Spring, 2010. George Saiger Chaired Fall, 2009 with Michael Hegener presenting, and Henry Morris brought us Bill Roller and Vivian Nelson in Fall, 2010.
These past four years have been in extraordinary times. Our first African-American president came into office. My personal sense of horror at the cultural and political devastation of Haiti, which I saw first-hand some 40 years ago, was reawakened as our Board grappled with what to do in response to the physical devastation of the earthquakes that struck that island nation in January, 2010. And, as I write this column (will it be a blog?), I pray that my oldest nephew is safe in the south of Japan, while earthquakes, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown rock the north…I just got a voice mail message from him; he and colleagues are staying put. On a happier note, I became a grandfather for the second time, this week as well.
I have been very pleased to see our by-laws expanded to make room for additional “ex-officio” board members as needed, and that our webmaster (Rob Williams) and mentor chair roles are now on the Board. It is a pleasure to welcome Maryetta Andrews-Sachs as our next president-elect, and have begun to collaborate with incoming president Farooq Mohyuddin in insuring that MAGPS continues to be an active member of the AGPA Affiliate Assembly. John Rhead continues as treasurer, Rose McIntyre moves from Member-at-Large to secretary; Eleanor Hoskins continues as Member-at-Large, along with new at-large members Tom Large, and Lewis Weber, and Henry Morris who is also our fall conference chair. As past-president, I will also have the privilege of serving as scholarship chair. To have responsibility for finding worthy scholarship candidates and encouraging young people to become involved with this wonderful organization, speaks to the part of me that truly enjoys mentoring and bringing other folks along. I will also have responsibility for serving as nominations chair.
Some gentle readers of this column may not remember when having telephones with jacks, so that they could be moved from one room to another, was new and exciting. Many readers will remember when calling from one town to the next required operator assistance. Nevertheless, Mid-Atlantic is moving steadfastly into the 21st century with plans under weigh for additional member benefits including a “blog”, a listserv already established, paperless newsletter, and other technological advancements; very welcome, and not without their growing pains.
Throughout my tenure, I have tried to champion diversity and inclusivity. I hope that I have contributed to our collective awareness of the diversities that surround us in all aspects of our work, and the importance of what we do in relation to diversity. I was very pleased to see a proposal for an LGBT Special Interest Group (SIG) modeled after AGPA’s similar SIG come to a vote. It received a “not yet” with support for finding the best vehicles for this and other SIGS within MAGPS. I am confident that we will continue to find our way in these areas.
Our spring, 2011 conference, Shame and Excitement: Crucial Markers for Group Psychotherapy, features guest presenter Stewart Aledort, and will be held at the new Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. Saint Elizabeths holds a special place in the history of health and mental health treatment in the United States; we are indeed privileged to be able to have our spring conference there. I hope you will join us!