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


No Auditors Needed

The men present at this initial meeting do not want to proselyte numerous members, Dr. Menninger went on.  The group must be small to be maneuverable.  Personal friendship and allied ties should not count in inviting or joining this group.  The single item is to promote a thoughtful, industrious, competent, well-established body of men who are genuinely interested in advancing psychiatry by this means.

The emphasis on work and action was again underscored in Circular Letter No. 2, dated June 7, 1946.   Each member is expected to be an active participating worker agreeable to carrying out his assignment,  it declared.   There is no need for auditors.  There will be much individual work between meetings... If a member finds work on his committee too time-consuming, he should withdraw without prejudice.

Not only were GAP members expected to work, and to work hard, at meetings and between meetings; they were expected to pay for the privilege of laboring in the vineyard.  Since the organization started without any outside support, it was anticipated that members would have to pay their own traveling and hotel expenses for GAP meetings--subject, perhaps to equalization through a pro-rating plan.  For GAP members in private practice, a double financial burden was imposed, since time spent at meetings meant loss of income from fees.

A most heartening spur to GAP occurred within a month of its founding, in the form of a $17,000 grant from the Commonwealth Fund to be used toward defraying expenses during the first year of operation.  This welcome award not only lightened the financial load of individual members, but encouraged GAP to expand its scope.  While GAP membership was exclusively psychiatric, its spirit was interdisciplinary.  It was hoped from the outset that committee explorations and reports would be developed with the aid of expert consultants from other fields--anthropology, psychology, education, social work, sociology, jurisprudence, etc.  The Commonwealth Fund grant made it possible to pay the expenses of consultants invited to join in the deliberations of specific committees.  GAP, in the years to follow, was to prove itself amazingly successful in drawing top experts in virtually every field of human relations, to serve as consultants to its several committees, with no reward save the stimulation of a dynamic group and the satisfaction of collaborating in a useful enterprise.

One of the most vexing problems facing GAP was the format of the semi-annual meetings.  Should each concentrate on some particular central theme, with the various committees concerning themselves with some special aspect of the general subject?  Should each committee choose its own subject of inquiry, independent of all the others, and concentrate wholly on its special interest?  Was it possible to harmonize both approaches in drawing up the agenda for a meeting?

The first GAP conference held in the Westchester-Biltmore Hotel at Rye, New York, November 4-6, 1946, was an attempt at compromise.  A central theme was chosen:  Psychiatry and Medical Education.  The first day was given over to meetings of the individual GAP committees, concerned with their own specific topics of study and discussion.  The second and third days were devoted mainly to the central theme, led by members of the Medical Education Committee.

The central-theme format was featured in the next two semi-annual meetings of GAP.  At the Nicollet Hotel in Minneapolis (June 30-July 2, 1947) the general deliberations revolved around State Hospitals, and at the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey (April 16-18, 1948) the central topic was Therapy.  This arrangement did not prove very satisfactory.  Many members felt it tended to interrupt the long-range committee studies which lay within their special fields of interests and skills, and involved them in broader or tangential areas where their potential contribution was minimal or dubious.  Other meeting formats were experimented with in subsequent GAP conferences.  Asbury Park continued to be GAP's meeting ground until the fall meeting of 1959, when an experimental shift to New York City was scheduled.

The first years of GAP were characterized by a sharp accent on it action goals.  Significant accomplishments were recorded on two fronts:  vitalization of the American Psychiatric Association and the preparation and publication of GAP committee reports on important psychiatric topics.