Letter from the President
Jennifer DeSouza, LICSW, CGP
It was under the turbulence of the Trump administration, escalating racial tensions, and the pandemic that I took office last July. As I look back on this year filled with immense pain, hardship, and loss, I am also grateful for many things: my health, my family, employment, and my community. When I reflect on all that has happened, I am proud that despite so many challenges, NSGP has tried to be responsive and support our community. Our committees really stepped up and offered a variety of forums for connection, reflection, learning, and growth.
About this time last year, I attended AGPA Connect in NYC. It seems so long ago now. The week was fun and the NSGP dinner well-attended and jovial. We learned, celebrated, and socialized all week long. None of us were prepared to come home sick and to experience lockdown and home confinement. So many questions and concerns made the future seem frightening and so uncertain. While the political, economic, social, legal, technical, and ethical contexts of our social macrocosm remain challenging, I want to pause and reflect on some of the positive elements of what our organization has been able to do over the past year.
In the spring of 2020, NSGP learned to navigate the virtual world. The Breakfast Club Committee quickly mobilized and in what looked like a seamless transition moved its remaining events to an online platform. These popular meetings have become a place where members and non-members can connect, learn, and take their minds off the grim reality of the present moment.
Also in the spring of 2020, our then-president, Ann Koplow, began offering a weekly Saturday check-in that was well-received and where members connected, shared experiences, and, of course, processed the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. This group has recently restarted, meets bi-weekly, and is now called the Saturday Speakeasy. Practice Development was not far behind and offered an event which focused on tips for maintaining our online practices. In addition, they have been a presence on our listserv, offering suggestions for self-care, critical information regarding Covid, and reminders to savor small moments of joy.
It was a sad and difficult decision for the Conference Committee and the Board to postpone our June conference on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity to June 2021. A small but dedicated team persevered to put together a wonderful Community Day that offered a complete online, one-day event that included a community meeting, experience groups, and our essential business meeting. Appreciation was shared by those who participated in this well-attended event.
This was also a year when new and reimagined committees showed up in powerful ways. Our newsletter, renamed NSGPeople, replete with new, young, and energized editors burst onto the scene and offered the newsletter in a dynamic online format that shone with color, imagination, and top-notch branding. I know if you are reading this now you are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Feel free to drop them a line!
Our newly minted Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee stepped up this year and offered multiple opportunities for connection and the space to challenge our internal biases, our culture of white privilege, and the ways in which race shapes access in many regions of the world as well as here in the US and in NSGP. The committee offered several new opportunities while keeping up popular favorites including the Virtual Weekly Thursday Check-In that began in March 2020, which provides a space for exploring narrative, identities, and cultural background in the context of current events. Newer offerings have included a group for members and non-members who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) to share their experiences as BIPOC within our society and organization and a discussion group for reading the book Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. A growing group, the DEI committee promises to challenge us and help us grow via new and innovative offerings.
In keeping with our values and the needed focus on racism and inequity, NSGP is committed to examining our practices to become a more socially responsive, anti-racist organization. We are working to develop procedures for providing access, ensuring equity, and becoming a more inclusive and welcoming organization. We ask you to join us in this endeavor and share your thoughts at our upcoming Town Halls.
As I reflect on the many hardships of this year, I think about how our lives, our practices, and perspectives have changed. These changes, while difficult, provide an opportunity to look at the ways in which what we want and need from NSGP have evolved. The Town Halls, which began in January, offer an opportunity for a temperature check of our membership and to hear what they want and need to stay connected to NSGP. NSGP turns 60 this year and the mental health landscape and the provision of group and mental health services has shifted from a largely private practice setting to become more agency-based. Given this shift, it is important that NSGP think critically about how to support the current generation of group therapists and offer the training and necessary resources to support sound practice.
As NSGP considers changes to what we offer, it is important that we look at how we do this. For many years, NSGP has been a vibrant volunteer organization, a proud affiliate of the AGPA. Just as the practice landscape has shifted, so has life in the Boston area. It is no longer affordable and we are working harder and longer hours to afford a lesser quality of life than previous generations have enjoyed. This impacts the time and dedication our members have to commit to NSGP. In the past few years, it has become more difficult to support the breadth of our committees and the Herculean task of offering a conference and training program. In order to preserve NSGP for future generations, it is critical we look at our structure, assess its feasibility, and make the necessary changes. I hope there will be space in the remaining Town Halls to address these concerns and more. I look forward to hearing how you would like to contribute to the vision for NSGP and hope to see you at our Town Halls and our conference.
Jennifer DeSouza, LICSW, CGP