Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry - The Story of GAP

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

Basis for Action 

While the upset in the APA Council election was the most conspicuous act of the GAP's at the 1946 convention, a more substantial groundwork was being laid for the structure and operating rules of the new group.  At the May 27 meeting it was decided to make  working committees  the core of GAP.  Indeed, the two key words used most often were  action  and  work.   Membership was not to exceed 200 psychiatrists, each of whom would be assigned to a specific GAP working committee.  Each committee would concern itself about a particular area of psychiatry--such as mental hospitals, therapy, relations with governmental agencies, lay groups, etc.  During the first two formative days, prospective members of the group-to-be had been recruited loosely.  As one member later recalled:   I was walking down the APA headquarters lobby, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned around:  it was a friend of mine.  He told me a psychiatric action group was being formed, that he knew I'd be interested to work with it, asked me to pay five dollars on the spot--to help pay for secretarial and postage expenses--and asked me to join the founding group in a certain hotel room that evening at ten.  I was in.  I understand others were recruited in the same way, just like being tapped for a college fraternity.

Hereafter, it was agreed, members would be chosen with more care.  GAP membership was to be obtained only through special invitation, not by direct application.  Prospective members were to be selected not on the basis of goodwill, social compatibility, or professional eminence, but mainly on the demonstrated capacity for group study of the broad problems facing American psychiatry, and a willingness to give time, effort, and some money to a common endeavor that held out little prospect for personal glory.  Suggestions of possible candidates made by individual members would be sifted through a nominating or admissions committee.

GAP committees would be small--a maximum of ten or fifteen members on each was proposed--and would enjoy a great deal of autonomy.  Each committee would choose its own subject for exploration and possible report.  A report was to be rendered only if and when the committee had something significant to say.

Originally, there were nine GAP committees--on Therapy, Social Work, State Hospitals, Cooperation with Governmental (Federal) Agencies, Cooperation with Lay Groups, Public Education, Racial and Economic Problems (later changed to Social Issues), Preventive Psychiatry, and Medical Education.

A third meeting held on Tuesday evening, May 28, was attended by Drs. Menninger and Brosin, the tentative committee chairmen, and a scattering of general members.  Plans were laid for assigning members to specific committees, and for organizing the first meeting in the fall.  The three-day conferences at Hershey, Pennsylvania, had been proposed as a model for GAP meetings.  The idea took hold, and Secretary Brosin later sought to engage the Hershey Hotel for the GAP meeting.  When this site proved unavailable, the Westchester-Biltmore Hotel in Rye, New York, was chosen for the first meeting.

The general purposes of the new organization, as formulated later, were:

  1. To collect and appraise significant data in the fields of psychiatry, mental health, and human relations.
  2. To reevaluate old concepts and to develop and test new ones.
  3. To apply the knowledge thus obtained for the promotion of mental health and good human relations.

Another contemporary document defined GAP as  a group of psychiatrists, all members of the American Psychiatric Association, who wish to meet together to study problems more often and more informally than the stated meetings of the APA permit, and to effect action where indicated.

From the outset, Dr. Menninger adopted the policy of keeping the membership informed of developments through the medium of circular letters, issued as occasion demanded.  This informational device had been used effectively in the Surgeon Generalís Office during the war.  (Up to January, 1959, more than 286 circular letters had been issued by successive GAP presidents.)  In his very first circular letter, Dr. Menninger set the tone of the infant organization.   Referring to the initial meeting in Chicago, he noted that the founders felt strongly that the basic program of GAP  was worth fighting for with deep conviction, and that real work could bring real results.