President’s Foreword

Contexts, Issue 76, Summer 2017 Robi Friedman

Dear Members,

This is my last foreword for Contexts – our Newsletter, so well-edited by Peter Zelaskowski in recent years. I am grateful for his work and investment. Contexts has changed in the last year to be online, and while some of you will make this step only with difficulties, I hope we’ll finally find the way to enjoy it. GASi membership will read and use Contexts as frequently as possibly: it’s interesting and being online makes it is more up to date. There are also many layout and aesthetic advantages.

Our next (and my last) endeavor is the Berlin Symposium in August. It is a huge gathering with enormous potential for growth and productivity for the group analytic approach to therapy and groups in general. If we want to be more than 600 registrants, we need your help. For four and a half days we will have a space where we can communicate knowledge, thoughts, doubts and dreams and where we can re-experience groups of all kinds. During this Symposium GASi will have an AGM where new members of the management committee will be elected, including the next president. I sincerely invite you to nominate capable and willing colleagues to serve the Group Analytic Society. It is a challenge and a developmental opportunity. And we need many international members to join in our Society.

I wish to communicate our gratitude to many, in the MC especially to those very active in different roles: Sue Einhorn who is doing an enormous effort in the Scientific program; Sarah Tyerman who is in different committees; Angelika Golz who is in the Symposium MC; Regine Scholz, Kristian Valbak and others who organise days and panels. I want also to mention our German and European partners – they are over and above all expectations. Kurt Husemann, Katrin Stumptner, Pieter Hutz and Kirsti Lyngard are some of the collaborators. One of our achievements is the provision of about 60 bursaries, paid for by our newly founded GASIF – an initiative of Frances Griffith. With Gerda Winther chairing a bursary committee, we succeeded in establishing rules and measures for the almost 20000 Euros we collected.

My last foreword may also be an opportunity for me to describe how the whole Society has changed during my two terms – six years in total.

We have grown from about 380 to more than 700 members. More than a hundred are students and I believe many will stay in our Society after they finish their studies. The Honorary Secretary, Carmen O’Leary, together with many others have accomplished this change. Maybe it is also important to acknowledge that GASi is appealing to group analytic colleagues and our growth has not happened by chance.

Accordingly, many more readers use our Journal and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole editorial committee, chaired by Dieter Nitzgen. They do the professional work and enjoy complete independence in the process of judging and administrating the publication of articles.

During these last years the structure of the management committee has changed. Many of the MC members are actually also chairing sub-committees, which make proposals for the MC to discuss and decide upon. This has made the growth of activity possible.

We have many activities: The Scientific committee, chaired by Sue Einhorn organizes the academic programs, especially the annual Foulkes Lecture and Study Day as well as the Winter Workshop. Every two years the Winter Workshop is organized by an Institute in Europe – e.g. the last one was organized in co-operation with Kristian Valbak and the Aarhus Institute of Group Analysis.

So far GASi has organised 3 Summer Schools, chaired by Regine Scholz and David Glyn with the cooperation of many local colleagues in the different countries hosting these events. A Summer School is really a small congress with group work at its centre. A mix of students and colleagues who feel young get together for some days to experience small and large groups, lectures, supervision and fun.

The Group Analytic Dictionary (GAD) is another project which was started during my period of office. GAD is a genuinely international project, as no group analytic institute nor any country alone can cover the whole world’s conceptualization of even one single item. I personally hope we’ll be able not only to have viable article(s) on any concept, but in the end also an entry in Wikipedia. Managing Editors Svein Tjelta, Marina Mojovic and Carmen O’Leary are committed to this huge enterprise.

In these 6 years GASi has also opened a Quarterly Members Group in London. We also have a Forum in which all our members can participate in many highly exciting discussions. I was blessed in these years with a management committee which really supported GASi activities. It is my pleasure to thank our Honorary Secretary, Angelika Golz, our Honorary Treasurer, Sarah Tyerman and Linde Wotton, our administration manager.  They, together with Julia Porturas, our office manager and others, have helped me every time a new plan, project or congress had to be made a reality.

Finally, there are projects which I wanted to accomplish and didn’t. I wanted to do more about research and it didn’t work. My wish was to organize an international GASi “research forum” for colleagues interested in this topic, but I must admit that we have not really made progress.

I had also the wish to organize virtual discussion groups (VDG). I have written about this in a former Contexts – my own experience of a pilot VDG was interesting. Learning in the VDG was possible and not only because of a facilitator. We met for 90 minutes every month, to discuss an article and any other field experience. I believe this will be for many a future opportunity for post-graduate and continuing learning.

Both projects should be promoted by future contributors. The Jewish tradition tries to comfort you by saying: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task” (Pirkei Avot 2) but then obliges you to pursue the task by saying: “but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it”. I certainly don’t feel ‘absolved”!

Personally, I have served with a conviction of the significance of group analysis and our Society. After more than 40 years of clinical work in individual and group therapy and about 20 years of experience in conducting large groups and working in conflict resolution, I am convinced that group analysis is a must for the growth and cure of individuals, groups and the societies. Group analysis has a unique contribution to make, and its absence in therapy and group work seems to me unthinkable.

Dr Robi Friedman