AGPA Public Statement on War and Terrorism
October 24, 2023
In response to the terrorist attacks and atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel that have significantly harmed both Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, their loved ones and communities, as well as the way in which these events have engendered increased racism, religious discrimination, and hate crimes in the United States, the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) wishes to make the following public statement.
AGPA is a professional organization of psychotherapists from diverse backgrounds, orientations, communities, and nations who share common values about the power of group therapy in promoting understanding, overcoming divisions, and engaging in transformative dialogue across differences. We believe that communities thrive from the bonds that form between humans, and that individual vulnerability can be buffered and mitigated by collective resilience. As such, it is part of our ethical mandate to actively respond to systemic oppression and discrimination, and to confront injustices that lead to significant threats to life, safety, and autonomy.
The unspeakable acts committed in the Middle East are a living example of the devastation wrought by hatred, armed conflict, and mass violence. As witnessing professionals, we offer solidarity to our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues, their family members who have been called into military service, and the innocent civilians who are bearing the weight of war, lack of access to humanitarian aid, and loss of dignity. Your suffering does not go unrecognized.
This war has reverberated in the United States through Anti-Semitic, Anti-Israeli, Anti-Palestinian, and Anti-Muslim backlash and violence that have promoted fear and existential dread. We strongly denounce such divisive words and actions, which for many have re-vivified past traumas of the Holocaust and 9/11. The damage is magnified by societal and governmental divisions in the form of tribalism, partisan politics, and misinformation—large-group phenomena that contribute to a continuous cycle of violence.
As a U.S.-based organization whose membership is international, we bear witness to this war as well as the numerous armed conflicts and atrocities occurring within multiple regions of the world (including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America), some of which receive wide media coverage and others that do not. Research clearly shows that the psychological toll of mass trauma events and loss is felt both immediately and in the long-term, with mental health consequences for people directly affected in addition to those with familial, cultural, and religious connections to impacted communities. Likewise, clinicians providing support are at risk of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.
As group therapists, we hold the knowledge that there is no end to violence through violence, no resolution to trauma in detachment and alienation. We encourage our members to draw upon their clinical skills to provide communal spaces of shared empathy, compassion, and inter-group dialogue to transform hatred and division with cultural humility, curiosity, experiences of shared humanity and equanimity, and the possibility for grieving. As an organization, we remain committed to working to establish and maintain a professional community that embraces our differing perspectives and social locations as sources of collective strength and generative growth.
This statement was developed by the AGPA Community Outreach Task Force chairs Craig Haen and Suzanne Phillips with Task Force member Leo Leiderman, in collaboration with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force chairs Latoyia K. Griffin and Vincent Malik Dehili with Task Force member Wendy Freedman.
Community Outreach Task Force Co-Chairs
Craig Haen, Ph.D., RDT, LCAT, CGP, AGPA-F
Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, CGP, AGPA-DF
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Co-Chairs
Latoyia K. Griffin, LCSW, CGP, AGPA-F
Vincent Malik Dehili, Ph.D., ABPP, CGP