NEW YORK, June 1, 2020— In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on African American communities, as well as recent killings of Black people at the hands of police and civilians, the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) issues the following statement.  

We condemn, in no uncertain terms, the unnecessary violence that has resulted in the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we stand in support of their families and communities. 

As a professional organization whose mission includes the provision of interventions and outreach to diverse communities nationally and internationally, and whose Code of Ethics requires respect for the dignity of individuals and prohibits discrimination, we register the outrage, grief, and horror that accompany these all-too-frequent events. We raise our voices in support of fellow therapists, patients, and citizens who have been directly and indirectly impacted by this hostile environment of attack on Black individuals.

However, as an organization also dedicated to disseminating knowledge of group dynamics, AGPA contends that empathy and support are merely first steps in responding to suffering.  Group therapists are particularly attuned to the fact that atrocities such as hate crimes, incidents of racial discrimination, and police brutality are supported by a wider cultural context.  While we reject discrimination in all forms, we urge particular recognition of the often-hidden ways that white supremacy creates and defends a system dependent on the marginalization of people of color. 

Institutional racism has been woven into this country’s history for generations.  Volumes of research have served to demonstrate the far-reaching impact of structural inequality on the lives of Black and Brown people, which manifests in differential access to healthcare, economic resources, academic support, and legal justice.  Such disparities negate the ability to be safe and heard, and, ultimately, to survive.  While these recent incidents have gained international attention, we are well aware that there are many others that have occurred and are experienced by African Americans on a continuous basis.  

As an organization, we commit to bearing witness to marginalized families and communities, and we echo and amplify their voices.  We urge action that clearly acknowledges racially motivated brutality and works to mitigate further injury through attempts to repair the lasting psychological damage and trauma such actions cause and to prevent their reoccurrence.  As is evident from our work within groups and organizations, effective repair must be accompanied by direct and lasting changes to the very systems that perpetuate inequality.  

We call on all members of the current administration to stop supporting discriminatory actions that protect offenders and devalue victims by inciting rage against them for not silently accepting their experiences and circumstances.  We call on all stakeholders, including policy makers, elected officials, law enforcement organizations, community leaders, and members of our community at large to work together to create strategies that address explicit bias toward African Americans and other communities of color; bring an end to disparate treatment in Use of Force procedures; and repair a valuable connection between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.  It is our duty as therapists to fortify the emotional and physical safety of those most in need of protection.  And it is our duty as citizens of the U. S. and the world to invest in deep-rooted change that dismantles racial hierarchy.

This statement was developed by the AGPA Community Outreach Task Force, co-chaired by Craig Haen and Suzanne Phillips, which is charged with establishing and executing community outreach programs to provide professional assistance to diverse group populations in the aftermath of traumatic events, in collaboration with the AGPA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, co-chaired by M. Sophia Aguirre and Wendy Freedman, and the AGPA Racial and Ethnic Diversity Special Interest Group (SIG), co-chaired by LaTasha Smith and Marcée M. Turner. 

Molyn Leszcz, MD, FRCPC, CGP, DFAGPA
Marsha S. Block, CAE, CFRE
Chief Executive Officer
Gary M. Burlingame, Ph.D., CGP, DFAGPA
Martha L. Gilmore, Ph.D., CGP, LFAGPA
Hank Fallon, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA
Eleanor F. Counselman, Ed.D., ABPP, CGP, DLFAGPA
Retiring President
AGPA Board of Directors
Alexis D. Abernethy, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA
Kelsey Balaban, LCSW
Shari Y. Baron, MSN, CNS, CGP, FAGPA
Aaron E. Black, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA
Helen Chong, LCSW, CGP, FAGPA
Michelle Collins-Greene, Ph.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Leonardo M. Leiderman, Psy.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Nubia G. Lluberes, MD, CCHP-MH, FAPA
Shunda McGahee, MD, CGP
Jeanne Pasternak, LCSW, CGP, DFAGPA
Darryl L. Pure, Ph.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Michele D. Ribeiro, Ed.D., CGP, FAGPA
Jana Rosenbaum, LCSW, CGP, FAGPA
Tony L. Sheppard, Psy.D., CGP, FAGPA
Ryan Matthew Spencer, LMFT, CGP
Lorraine B. Wodiska, Ph.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Community Outreach Task Force Co-Chairs
Craig Haen, Ph.D., RDT, LCAT, CGP, FAGPA

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Co-Chairs
M. Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D., CGP
Wendy Freedman, Ph.D., CGP
Racial and Ethnic Diversity SIG Co-Chairs
LaTasha Smith, Ph.D., LCSW, CGP
Marcée M. Turner, Ph.D., CGP

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