Mission & History
The mission of GLGPS is to promote excellence in the training and practice of group psychotherapy by:
- Sponsoring educational and training programs aimed at enhancing skill in group leadership.
- Providing opportunities for collegial and supportive interchange among group psychotherapy professionals.
- Spreading information about resources available to group psychotherapists, and to consumers of group psychotherapy services.
GLGPS, formerly Illinois Group Psychotherapy Society (IGPS), was founded in 1964 as an affiliate of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. The cultural and political climate from which GLGPS emerged feels eerily similar to the struggles facing our nation today. Across our 57-year history, our values of excellence in the training and practice of group therapy and the promotion of a field of practice that is accessible and welcoming to all, have remained consistent and9 strong.
In a historical reflection written for the 50th anniversary celebration in 2014, Don Fuhrman writes about the factors that proved the backdrop and foundation for our organization as we know it today. Even before the inception of IGPS, there was a new interest in group-based treatment modalities. A study group from the University of Chicago formed to explore the potential of group work. Some members of this original group (Nancy Orlinsky, Bob Daniels, Tom McGee, Mike Williams, and Bob Lipgar) eventually went of to become GLGPS’s first five presidents.
The 60s were a time of great unrest that led to important changes in many facets of our lives. President NIxon undermined the country’s faith in government and there was a movement to deinstitutionalize mental health facilities. This led to the need for more community-based services that served larger numbers of people, a niche into which group treatment fit perfectly. The increased need for group services stimulated an increase in government and university funding for professional development in this area. Many professionals attended training programs in group dynamics such as National Training Labs (NTL) in Maine. As an organization supporting the training of group treatment, the membership of exploded.
The early roots of GLGPS’s commitment to social justice and equity are evident as early as 1968 following the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots and continued throughout the 70s. Furhman write, “Don Fuhrmann, representing the IGPS Private Practice Committee, and Tom Bennett, an experienced NTL organizational consultant, met with Superintendent Conlisk of the Chicago Police Department and his deputy superintendents in an attempt to find ways of assisting in the training/education of police officers in dealing with attitudes/behaviors about race and countercultural events, and violent responses to crowd situations.”
Later GLGPS pushed for inclusivity with the national organization. Again, Fuhrmann recalls, “IGPS continued to have a powerful influence regarding membership criteria in the American Group Psychotherapy Association by refusing to join AGPA for an extended time. AGPA at that time was struggling internally between those wanting only psychiatry, psychology and psychiatric social work credentials as the necessary criteria for membership and those wanting to expand membership to include psychiatric nurses, pastoral counselors, and mental health workers of various sorts. As IGPS continued to lobby for membership and AGPA made the requirements for membership more inclusive, IGPS as a state organization became a member of the AGPA family.”
In more recent years, the increasingly extreme political division of the Obama and Trump presidencies and the heightened awareness around the deadly consequences of systemic racism, have moved GLGPS, once again, to use group process to promote social healing and unity. We are now looking inwardly at our own leadership with a deeper understanding that broad social change starts with challenging ingrained and implicit biases that we as an organization hold. We have embarked on a board-level journey to correct our misperceptions and learn our blind spots so that any programming or initiative born from our organization might be as enlightened and open as possible.
Most recently, recognizing that our society draws professional members from states other than Illinois, we decided to change our name to more accurately reflect our membership and to broaden our presence in states such as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Thus, in 2020, from the seeds of the wisdom and dedication of all of it’s IGPS predecessors, The Great Lakes Group Psychotherapy Society was born. As a multi-disciplinary organization, our wish is to build upon IGPS’s impressive foundation and continue to bring excellence, community activism and equity to the field of group work.
I stumbled upon GLGPS (then IGPS) by providence, perhaps seven or eight years ago.
I’ve always had an affinity for group psychotherapy and was looking for something to augment my participation in the Illinois Counseling Association (ICA).
Somehow information came to my attention concerning a workshop (I forget which) IGPS was sponsoring that was specifically geared toward those interested in learning more about group psychotherapy. After attending that workshop, I was hooked.
After attending several workshops throughout the years, I was approached by the then president, Dr. Larry Viers, and asked to consider joining the IGPS executive board, but first I would need to obtain experience working with one of the organization’s committees. This of course made sense to me.
Fast forward to the present, and I am not only a member of the board, but am also an active member of the Program and Training Committee, as well as the organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) liaison.
It goes without saying, that I am honored to be a part of a team dedicated to growing clinical excellence in the area of group psychotherapy.
If you’re reading this from the outside, consider joining us. The water is fine!