Noelle lefforge Ph.D. ABPP

Public Statements.

I’ve been in several spaces recently where public statements have been a point of discussion ; more importantly, a topic of inner tension. As I begin this Presidency, I am thinking about how to transform my positionality into a significant, positive impact. Public statements are a voice of leadership. Lately, I’ve been asking myself what I should do with my voice.

Are public statements helpful?

Yes, I hope. Public statements help us express our awareness of what is happening in the world around us and highlight the inequitable impact that specific events carry. The statements provide us with the opportunity to stand against identity-based hatred and violence. They call attention to ongoing issues that need to be addressed Most importantly, they shine a light on solidarity. The statements are an opportunity to see and be seen. However, I worry that too many, or repeated calls of attention to one issue, may lose their impact over time.

Are public statements harmful?

Yes, sometimes. When issuing a public statement, the statement alone shouldn’t make us feel like we have resolved an issue because there is so much more yet to do. When we issue a statement about one issue or group, we may miss another, thereby reinforcing feelings of being unseen. When we center our perspective from an outsider’s point of view, we lose the voice of those who should be most heard. The public statement (in itself) should not be our ‘pat on the back’.

So, what should I do?

Despite the risks of getting it ‘wrong’, I want to use my platform to promote solidarity. I feel compelled to recognize the work that needs to be done to address police brutality and other forms of systemic oppression that led to the murder of Tyre Nichols. I want to recognize the unacceptability of ongoing anti-Asian hate and rhetoric, recently amplified by mass shootings in predominantly Asian communities. We need to say something about ongoing efforts to dismantle the rights of LGBTQ+ folx, a context compounding fear in the wake of the Club Q shooting. We need to rally against the rise in anti-Antisemitism, (including events that, unfortunately, were enacted on my own campus in recent weeks). There is so much more to acknowledge. The bottom line is this: that we, as Division 49, need to stand in solidarity against all forms of identity-based hate and violence. I’m using my voice to say it with confidence that you’ll join with me. It begins with all of us.

From Saying it to Doing it – Division Highlights:

The Division met for our midwinter meeting at the end of January 2023. The highlights of the meeting (for me) were the various ways we tackled issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belongingness. I am so appreciative of the work our DEIB committee has done, particularly under the leadership of Eric Chen. DEIB work is the responsibility of the entire Division. There are several moments of progress from the meeting that are worth highlighting:

We recognize that we still have a long way to go before we reach our overarching goals. Soon, there will be a call for candidates for our open slates. I hope you will consider participating in leadership, particularly if your voice has been missing. We need your voice to continue this process.

President-Elect’s Column

Francis Kaklauskas, Psy.D.

Connection and Collaboration

I am humbled and excited to serve in the role as President of The Society for Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy.  Like many of us, my life has revolved around groups of all sizes, types, and membership. I hope to support inclusiveness, curiosity, passion, and satisfying relationships within our division, our work, and ourselves.

              For many of our membership, these last several years have been personally challenging with the trauma and isolation of COVID, unexpected changes in our finances, and important relationships interrupted. In addition, numerous concerning threats confront our embedding system of the United States, including increased polarization, stereotyping, segregation, and racial, gender, and ethnic violence. The mass media echo chambers have decreased our ability to discuss, think critically, disagree respectfully, and collaboratively problem solve. The many destructive group dynamics that we all know have taken center stage. As we examine our social and political sphere, many of us identify dynamics such as group think, obedience to authority, conformity pressures, idealization, scapegoating, and onwards. The knowledge and wisdom of our membership is urgently needed. 

              While each of us try in our own ways and as a division to address these concerns, my hope and request is that we also begin to focus on our connections and teamwork within the division. While attending the mid-winter meetings, the board members shared many moments of connection, intimacy, support, and kindness; however, I also witnessed how a small number of division members are working with great effort in solitude and potentially with limited recognition. We all can be grateful for the many younger, early career professionals and students, many from marginalized identity positions, who give of their time, energy, and expertise towards our continued survival and growth.

              Moving forward I want to offer an invitation to all to reconnect with one another and contribute to the other division members in any manner that fits with your current situation. For early career members, there are many opportunities to be involved, learn new skills, network, and establish and broaden one’s own expertise. While many of us have given to the division and the field, I wonder if now, we can find time and energy for each other. The many personal benefits that come from forging new relationships include new learnings, increased hope, and mutual emotional nourishment.  This is a call of encouragement to extend beyond our current circles.

              For mid and later career professionals, there are opportunities to share your experience and scholarship through our expanding educational and scholarship programs, but also to grow through connections with our new generation. The division’s institute program that pairs members from different career stages has been wonderful for all who have participated and provides significant benefit beyond just the hour or so each side gives each month. As group people, can we not only talk about constructive group functioning, but live towards these ideals with one another.  I believe we can create an inclusive diverse division where beyond the sharing of labor, we share, more importantly, ourselves.

The current board and I are available to support and help you find a meaningful place that fits with your interests. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the board and myself. I hope to see many of you during op discussions and meetings in our future. My desire is that you will be able to feel sustained and affirmed, while we move towards our personal and professional goals together.