A Letter from AGPS President Deborah Sharp

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we move into a New Year and I begin serving as your President, there is much to acknowledge and celebrate within our organization that I see falling into four broad categories – education, training, outreach and support. The board members and volunteers that have served this year have accomplished some great things in 2017:

  • We held our first Annual Conference – a change from the shorter conferences held in Spring and Fall in past years. The Annual Conference Committee led by Katie Griffin, and committee members Jay Erwin-Grotsky, Ryan Spencer and Scott Phillips created a great learning experience that also allowed us to connect with each other.
  • The Program Committee, led by Ryan Spencer, ensured we held high-quality workshops and Friday Night Conversations. Sue Marriott arranged our various Institutes, expanded this year to include intermediate and advanced options. We deeply appreciate the contributions of members of our own AGPS Community, who volunteered their time to help the next generation of group leaders.
  • The Scholarship Committee awarded 38 scholarships last year, greatly increasing the opportunity for students, new professionals and others new to group to join and enjoy a year of training in group leadership. For 2018, we will be awarding 15 scholarships, with some reserved for our agency outreach efforts.
  • Gianna Viola served as Membership and Website Chair as well as hosting two social events this year. She also kept us up to date on By-laws and continued as part of the team creating The Voice newsletter.
  • Stacy Nakell continues to serve as Editor of The Voice and has put together a talented team including Gianna Viola, Sarah Pollard and Amelia Canally. Thank you for your efforts to keep us educated and informed.

I’d like to thank Dave Kaplowitz for being such a strong leader over the past two years in the modernization of our website and membership process, strengthening of our financial position, and support of efforts towards more diversity and inclusivity in our organization. Several members will be rolling off the board this year, and their contributions have been significant. Thank you to Mary Lynn Marinucci, Ryan Spencer, Stacy Nakell, Jason Sugg, and Sue Marriott for all you have done and your continued support of AGPS. Continuing board members include Dave Kaplowitz as Past President, Scott Phillips as Secretary, John Cooper as Treasurer, Gianna Viola, and myself.

The support of our membership, through contribution of time, talent, dues, donations and participation, makes it possible to continue to expand our reach as a welcoming and supportive community for all Austin group therapists and those who are group curious.

We are welcoming new board members Patricia Florence, Amelia Canally, Neathery Thurmond, Kayle Evans and Charles Couchman in 2018. I’m looking forward to working with this great group of people over the next two years.

As President, I will continue to support the financial and structural health of our organization. In addition, I hope to move AGPS further in our exploration and institutionalization of diversity and inclusivity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, sexual orientation, age, ability, theoretical orientation and modality. An important step toward these goals will be to increase our outreach and service to individuals running groups in agencies, who sometimes receive limited support and training in forming, facilitating and maintaining groups. The support of our membership, through contribution of time, talent, dues, donations and participation, makes it possible to continue to expand our reach as a welcoming and supportive community for all Austin group therapists and those who are group curious.

Please be sure to log in to austingroups.org, check to see if your membership is up to date, and renew or join if you need to. We don’t want to lose you! One of the many benefits to membership is being able to list your groups on our website, where many go to search for a group for themselves or their clients. Membership also entitles you to reduced rates on registration for training events and invitations to Members-only events. In my experience, the best part of membership is the connection and sense of community that comes from being welcomed into a group of like-minded therapists.  

Our 2018 Annual Business Meeting and Panel Discussion will be held on Friday, January 19th from 2 pm-5 pm at the Doubletree Hotel University Area. I will be moderating a panel discussion entitled Beyond the Binary: Exploring Gender and Gender Identity in Group. Panelists Pam Greenstone, Paula Buls, Anne Marie Jennings, and Derek Leighton will share their perspectives on these issues, and we will have the opportunity to continue our exploration in small break-out groups. I do hope you will make a point of starting out the year by attending this free event and joining with other members of our community.

I can’t close this letter without acknowledging the terrible loss we experienced in AGPS last year with the death of Jay Erwin-Grotsky. Jay, of course, served as a previous President of our organization and earned a number of accolades for his ongoing leadership and support both here and at AGPA, and for his work on behalf of LGBTQIA+ youth. But mostly, what I will miss is his warm and genuine support of me, and almost everyone that he encountered. We stand together to honor you, Jay.

Looking forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting, one and all,

Deborah Sharp, LCSW, CGP

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