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Summer/Fall 2020 Issue 1

Letter from the President

Ann Koplow, LICSW, CGP
Past President

As I’ve thought about writing this — my final letter to you as President of NSGP — my mind has naturally gone to ideas about closure. (Personally, I don’t like the word “termination,” because that sounds too final.) As I have learned from trainings and experiences at NSGP (and as I often tell people in my drop-in groups at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) a good- enough sense of closure is critical in transitions — allowing us to appreciate what we’ve shared together and also to move ahead, better equipped for future challenges. 

In my open-access groups, we often discuss insufficient and disappointing closures with family members, friends, work situations, organizations, and other important aspects of our life, and how this lack of satisfying closure in important transitions can keep us stuck. During these challenging days of 2020, when we might be feeling uncomfortably stuck in contagions of different kinds, closure is especially important. 

So what helps with closure? I believe good-enough closure includes:

  • Naming what you got. 
  • Naming what you didn’t get (which allows you to think of other ways you might get what seems lacking). 
  • Leaving behind that which is not serving you well. (In my groups, I invite people to throw unhelpful thoughts, old habits, toxic people, etc. in a “magic wastepaper basket.")
  • In general, saying what feels left unsaid. 

Naming what I got from from serving as President of NSGP has to include getting to know members better, getting to know myself better, participating in all of the organization’s valuable offerings over the last two years, gaining confidence in my leadership skills, and gradually reducing my astonishment that I would ever be the President of an organization I have loved and learned so much from since the 1990’s. 

What did I NOT get from being President of NSGP? I did not get: 

  • the usual routines and rituals of an NSGP presidency closure — including in-person interactions at our annual conference — because of the coronavirus, 
  • a parade, or 
  • an answer to my long-time question, “When group therapy is such an important treatment modality, why doesn’t our organization have more members?” 

Now, in my closure letter, I have the always valuable opportunity to consciously leave behind what is not serving me well. I would like to leave behind: 

  • worry (which kept me up too many nights during my Presidency), 
  • a tendency to try to solve problems on my own without reaching out for more support, 
  • unrealistic expectations of myself and others, and 
  • insecurity about all the things I do not know (triggered by spending time with NSGP people who know so much about group therapy, leadership, and writing). 

Since I am using my magic wastepaper basket to throw all those away, I wish I could throw in these things that plague any organization, including NSGP: 

  • systemic racism 
  • systemic sexism 
  • systemic ageism 
  • other systemic isms
  • homophobia
  • transphobia
  • blind spots
  • splitting
  • unconscious reenactments of familial patterns 
  • regrets about the past, and 
  • fear about the future.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just throw all those away and be done with them? As an organization, we are smart enough to know that it takes a tremendous amount of work to even recognize and especially to discard any of those. Luckily, NSGP members do not shy away from difficult and painful work. If we did, I doubt we would have chosen to be healers of personal and interpersonal trauma. 

As I close this, my last letter from the NSGP President, what feels left unsaid?
Just this: my enormous gratitude to all who are reading, here and now, including YOU. 

Ann Koplow, LICSW, CGP
Past President

Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy
P.O.Box 356 | Belmont, MA 02478
 groups@nsgp.com

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