Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry - The Story of GAP


by Albert Deutsch

Relating to the origins, goals, and activities of a unique medical organization, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, and its contributions to professional and social progress

Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry

New York 1959

Table of Contents

The Story of Gap
Postwar Challenge
Gap is Organized
Basis for Action
 No Auditors Needed
APA Reforms
Light on the Law
Psychiatry and Socials Issues
Child Psychiatry
Brain Surgery
International Relations
Federal Agencies
Medical Education
How Reports are Processed
Influence Abroad
Gap Symposia
Statements on Current Issues
Mental Health Campaign
The Essence of Gap
The Attack on Gap
A Small Striking Committee
The Financial History of Gap


AS PREPARED by Albert Deutsch, The Story of GAP is factually correct, to the best of the knowledge of several of us who have participated since the creation of this unusual organization of psychiatrists.  The author is very well qualified for this assignment.  He is an eminent writer, particularly in the fields of psychiatry and social work.  From the beginning of GAP he has had many, many contacts with it as a non-member, and hence undoubtedly has been able to watch its development objectively, although there may be those who will be critical of his warm commendation.  This may be explained by the fact that GAP, in a very specific way, fitted into Mr. Deutsch's crusading efforts on behalf of the improvement of mental health so that he has written with a special warmth of interest and understanding.  Other than furnishing him as much information as they could, the officers and members of the organization played no part in the writing of this Story.

Although Mr. Deutsch has touched briefly on the background of GAP and its origin, a word of amplification may be in order.  During World War II more than two and a half million soldiers, sailors, and airmen were either rejected or discharged from the military service because of emotional problems.  Those of us most intimately connected with the examination and treatment of these men and women were greatly harassed and distressed.  We had neither the manpower nor the knowledge to do the job that should have been done.  Understandably, we looked in every possible direction for help.

Our first appeal for guidance and assistance was directed to our one-hundred-year-old professional organization, the American Psychiatric Association.  Three of us, representing the chiefs of the psychiatric service of the armed forces and government services, appeared before the Council of the APA in 1944.  Although the members of the Council were concerned and sympathetic, its large, loosely organized group of psychiatrists who were members of a scientific body, meeting annually to report the results of research and to exchange ideas relative to clinical matters, had neither the organizational structure nor the manpower to be helpful to us.

The frustration we experienced in attempting to practice psychiatry in the armed forces certainly was the major precipitating factor in the organization of GAP.  Fortunately, many of our colleagues who had remained in civilian life were equally aware of the responsibilities that confronted us--and the opportunities.

The organization of GAP was not a revolution.  With the deepest sincerity the founding group was seeking a way in which American psychiatry could give more forceful leadership, both medically and socially.  Although the name may sound presumptuous, it was chosen because of the sense of great urgency that psychiatry should advance, and the belief that by hard work, and teamwork, we could help it do so.  Those early years of GAP were marked by the feeling on the part of its membership that much needed to be done, and quickly.  We believed that when we were faced with a problem, if we could sit down together and take time to exchange views, we could determine what we knew and did not know about the matter and could plot the course of the search for the knowledge that we lacked.  Through group study we endeavored to collect and assimilate what was known about psychiatry and mental health so that it would be available when needed.  Perhaps the word which best expressed this attitude was  missionary.

GAP was not conceived as a political organization.  As a matter of fact, an original aim was that it might be fused with the American Psychiatric Association after the proposed pattern of applying psychiatric knowledge to non-medical as well as medical programs had become established.  This pattern included a multi-disciplinary approach--and also the circulation of the end-results of deliberations to those who might find them of use.  Although this aim was never realized, one of its significant consequences was the major re-organization of the American Psychiatric Association.

In 1949, immediately following our GAP meeting in Asbury Park, the members of the standing committees of the APA met for the first time as a group, to spend two days thinking about their committee assignments.  This is now the standard operating procedure of the American Psychiatric Association, a procedure which has continued and has been extending during the succeeding nine years.,

As Mr. Deutsch related, during the third, fourth, and perhaps even the fifth year, there was a great deal of soul-searching in GAP as to whether or not it should disband.  Those of us who were intimately connected with and very actively participating in the American Psychiatric Association came to the conclusion that it could and should go on.  We felt that it performed a function which perhaps could never be carried out by the larger, older organization.  It could continue to meet a minimum of six days in two sessions a year, whereas, because of finances and other limitations, the APA committees could, at best, meet only a day or two, once each year.  The GAP committees are strictly study groups that have no administrative responsibilities or functions.  Also, these committees are made up of people who are particularly interested in the area of study; they are limited to a small number.  Such selectivity is not possible with the 10,000 membership of the APA.

In a very literal sense, GAP has helped the parent organization in very specific and tangible ways.  GAP members are all members and active participants of the American Psychiatric Association.

The early sense of urgency has been replaced by a quality of solidarity.  If every GAP was a  striking force  to remold the American Psychiatric Association, it is now.  Instead it is a group of thoughtful, earnest, capable individuals who are concerned with their responsibility to advance psychiatry by the conclusions emerging from the deliberations of its committees.

Psychiatry, as a medical specialty, is young.  GAP has unlimited opportunities in the future!

William C. Menninger, M.D.