Tribute to Joseph P. Powers, Ph.D.

In Memoriam: Tributes to Joseph Patrick Powers

Phillip Speiser, PhD, LMHC

Group Psychotherapist Director

Arbour Counseling Services & Partial Hospitalization Program

Norwell, MA

Joe Powers, Ph.D
Joe Powers, Ph.D.

Dr. Joseph (Joe) Patrick Powers passed away on January 14, 2017, in his home in Needham MA. He lived with his wife Kathleen O’Brien and has two children, Devin and Cullan.

Joe was an active member of the Executive Board of Division 49 of the APA, where he recently helped pilot a new journal that focused on group practice and the practitioner. He was Director of Group Psychotherapy at the prestigious McLean Hospital in Belmont MA and was a ‘master’ group therapist. How does one become a ‘master’ at their art? We can trace this passion for the learning about ‘living, surviving and thriving’ in-group back to Joe’s formative years, growing up in the Bronx NY, as the second child of eight siblings. Born September 29, 1944 he spent much of his childhood playing stickball, basketball, handball, touch football and other sports on the streets and playgrounds in the community. In those days the neighborhood was safe and the streets became part of your extended family. Most neighbors knew each other and kept an eye out for each other. It didn’t matter much if you were Irish, Italian, Jewish or other ethnicity as long as you could ‘play ball’ and this he did. He excelled and thrived in this environment sowing seeds that touched on inclusion, fairness, and social networking. Joe then went on to study English Literature at Catholic University and then Communications at New York University. He would begin to integrate these studies and skills as he then proceeded to study Group Psychotherapy, Sociometry and Psychodrama with J.L. and Zerka Moreno in the early1970’s. The Moreno’s were early pioneers in the study of the group and have left us with many practical tools to work with and study groups, including: role play, role training, action methods, sociodrama, social atom and sociogram. Psychodrama dealt with the study of the individual within a group therapy setting through dramatic enactment- exploration. Joe quickly became a leader and trainer in this early, specialized field of study. It is at this time that I first met Joe and he became my mentor and teacher and later, friend and colleague. In 1975, Joe left NY for Boston to found the New England Psychodrama Institute with Peter Rowan. Together they also started a Psychodrama, Group Psychotherapy Master’s program at Lesley University. His passion for learning led him to continue his journey in the study of groups, as he went on to complete his doctorate at Harvard University and Boston College. It is from here he found his professional home at McLean Hospital as Director of Group Psychotherapy. For over three decades Joe continued to work as a ‘master’ group therapist, teacher, supervisor and researcher. He touched the lives of hundreds of clients, students and colleagues as he shared his wisdom and wonder for life. The ‘group’ became a second home, one filled with compassion, empathy, wonder and awe- a forum where lives could meet and find common ground as they moved towards healthy relationship and change. To quote from a family member: ‘His profound devotion to helping others find peace was surpassed only by the love he had for his family and dear friends and his capacity to see the beauty in this world.” Joe will always have a special place in our hearts and he will be greatly missed.

Book Review

Group Therapy Workbook: Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice

Group Therapy Workbook:

Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice


Thomas W. Treadwell

Letitia E. Travaglini, Debbie Dartnell, Maegan Staats, and Kelly Devinney

As Director of Group Psychotherapy at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, I have ample opportunity to experience how important treatment models such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mentalization – Theory of Mind, Mindfulness, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Expressive Therapies, Interpersonal Therapy, Milieu Therapy, Psychopharmacology, Electro Convulsive Therapy, Group Psychotherapy, and other modalities are systematically utilized in a treatment environment encompassing inpatient, residential, partial hospital, and outpatient programs. Though falling under the rubric of “hospital-based” treatments with stabilization and step down programs to assist individuals and families, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has emerged as an essential part of the hospital’s treatment repertoire across all treatment programs. In fact, one of our excellent partial programs, Adult Behavioral Health, is often described by participants as “being in college,” learning important information and strategies to assist recovery. Psychodrama, because of necessary limitations for more vulnerable treatment populations, is significantly less utilized as a method and finds more applicability as role playing.

Tom Treadwell’s contributions to the integration of action and experiential methods with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are significant steps for both theoretical models. On the one hand, psychodrama, as practiced in classical styles, often relied on spontaneity and the importance of action rather than just telling. Cognitive Behavioral therapy developed a protocol with systematic methods that integrated thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Mirroring my first exposure to one school of CBT in New York City, a la Albert Ellis, Tom Treadwell has created a bridge in which each method can inform and expand the relationship in the cognitive triad. He introduces a group format that utilizes multiple measures to inform each group member concerning particular areas of concern, educates group members on the Cognitive Behavioral treatment model, and gives feedback that stimulates both the individual and the whole group in behavioral change.

This synthesis is not an easy endeavor. I would suspect that Treadwell, with the support of Aaron Beck, would have to establish a training program that initiates professionals in the utilization of action methods and cognitive behavioral methods and strategies. When I project an image of the two methods on to a Field Diagram created by Freed Bales, I would probably predict that CBT would be rated as an “intellectually controlled, rationally energized” method and Psychodrama would be “more emotionally expressive, intuitive.” Both mirror the oscillating patterns in groups, i.e., the need for task completion and, on the other hand, the need for socio-emotional connection. Treadwell’s Group Therapy Workbook makes a substantial contribution for practitioners in CBT and Psychodrama to practice in their accustomed method by expanding the range and applicability of each method.

I recommend this Workbook for practitioners in both methodological arenas: CBT therapists could well utilize action methods to expand their practice in important concepts such as the cognitive triangle and defeating schemas. Psychodramatists could well utilize the basic components of CBT in the practice of psychodrama, helping protagonists to better understand the internalized thought, feeling, and behavior patterns that are related to the here and now. Treadwell’s contribution is an important milestone in the connection of these two important modalities. As the process unfolds, more learning will emerge and the integration and development of “integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice” will certainly make a significant contribution to peoples’ lives.

Reviewed by:

Joe Powers Ph.D
Joe Powers, Ph.D.
Book Review

Book Review: Impromptu Man by Jonathan D. Moreno

Joe Powers Ph.D
Joe Powers Ph.D.

In February 2013 I was in New York City and had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art for a show entitled: “Inventing Abstraction – 1910 to 1925.” When I arrived at the museum and went up the escalator to the exhibit, I was transfixed by a 30’ by 20’ network wall map that graphically displayed the connections that some 90 artists had had with each other via personal communications or actual meetings. These were the individual artists who played an important role in the creation of abstract painting, a radical departure from what had preceded in terms of art. The wall map delineated by color highlighting those artists who had more than 24 connections in the network and those artists who had less than 24 connections, graphically linking these many people. Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Francis Picabla, Alfred Stiegliz, Wassily Kandinsky, and Guillaume Apollinaire were the major “stars” in this artistic social world.

The birth of abstract painting was embedded in social relations – these artists were not isolated individuals. They communicated with each other, formed schools, met frequently in groups in Munich, Berlin, Russia, and France, creating works that were certainly influenced by these relationships. Wassily Kandinsky, trained as a lawyer, but also a multi-talented artist, philosopher, a controversial charismatic leader, and a skilled marketer of his art, had a synesthetic sense (a person who could see colors in sounds) and was influenced by Arnold Schonberg’s music. When he attended a concert, Kandinsky could see colors in Schonberg’s music. His abstract art then became his endeavor to put colors on canvass, inspired by what Schonberg had created in his music.

On a wall in my office at McLean Hospital is a print of J. L. Moreno’s “Sociometric Geography of a Community – Map III” (from his epic work: “Who Shall Survive?”) that depicts the social relations of young juvenile delinquent girls in a treatment facility in Hudson, New York in 1932. This social network map portrays 13 cottages in which the young girls actually lived at the Hudson facility and contrasted their current living conditions with the cottages and people with whom they would like to live. 435 young teenagers made 4350 choices and, much like the Museum of Modern Arts’ graphic social network, their choices were graphically depicted. It is an extraordinary document, clearly demonstrating Moreno’s pioneering efforts to understand group psychology and to offer interventions that would remedy common individual and group problems. Giving the members of this Hudson community choices with whom and where they wanted to live was an empirical study for the purpose of reducing common events in this community: running away, violence, recidivism, and individual conflict. Moreno understood the intricacies of group ecology in a way that few theorists and practitioners at the time did.

impromptu manI mention these two social network displays, one from 1932 and another from 2013, to highlight the importance of Jonathan Moreno’s significant work detailing how his father, J..L. Moreno, impacted the historical, social, theatrical, philosophical, religious, political, psychiatric/psychological forces that are still emerging today. Reading his biography of his father could be likened to that social network wall map at the Museum of Modern Art. Moreno was simply at the center of multiple, multiple connections and a force in the development of our modern culture. Like Kandinsky, no matter in what direction you turned, J.L. Moreno was there: a creative, charismatic force, challenging the psychiatric hegemony of the times and daring to create theory and methods to promote growth in individuals, groups, and society. He, like no other, influenced many, many theorists and practitioners in the field of psychology, social psychology and sociology with his emphasis upon the importance of our “group health life” and the centrality of spontaneity and creativity in everyday living.

Jonathan Moreno has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the origins and development of group psychology and group psychotherapy. His book should be required reading for all graduate students and group practitioners in this field. This book is a compendium of contributions, innovations, controversies, and events in the life of J. L. Moreno which provide rich and long-needed testimony to the brilliance of this man. Here are several important highlights in Jonathan’s comprehensive biography of his father:

  1. “The God Player” – Moreno discovered early on that we are all fallen gods and, in the spirit of the religious traditions, he warmed himself up to take on the spirit of religious figures, even to the point, perhaps shrouded in his own self-proclaimed megalomania, where he wrote a book entitled, “The Words of the Father.” In contrast to the Bible and the Old Testament where frequently “God” was angry and demanding, the New Testament where the Son of God was charismatic and portrayed love and the golden rule, Moreno emphasized that within each of us is a godhead and that we approach our relationships in the spirit of “I-Thou.” Godhead need not only be externalized by the Old Testament, nor personified only in the personhood of the Son of God in the New Testament, but also within each of us – we too are sources of the Godhead. His 1919 chant echoed this perspective entirely: “God is spontaneity. Hence, the commandment is: “Be spontaneous!” Moreno’s “Invitation to an Encounter” was a clarion call for all of us to treat ourselves and others as creators and be willing to see the world through others’ eyes. This was the bedrock of his many innovations. Jonathan Moreno’s description and details of this phase is a wonderful exegesis of Moreno’s early development.
  1. “Spontaneity Theatre” – similar to a “new perspective” reflected in the birth of abstract art which rejected the limitations of representational art, J. L. Moreno founded a new order of theatre called, “The Theatre of Spontaneity.” He rejected the traditional theatre as a “worship of death,” that is, theatrical presentations were finished products: actors memorized other peoples’ scripts, took positions and postures on stage that were previously “blocked,” music and lighting created context, and the audience was just that: “listeners” who voiced appreciation at the end with applause. Moreno would have nothing of that, following his principles of spontaneity and creativity. He wanted theatre to be forum for all to create together: no script, no actors, no three act format with plots and directions. The Theatre of Spontaneity was to live in the “here and now;” the process of birth was as important as the finished product or what Moreno called the “conserve.” Much like Kandinsky seeing “colors” in listening to music, Moreno saw the centrality of process, the here and now, and wanted to “search for a new order of things.” His book, “The Theatre of Spontaneity,” is a magnificent treatise on this “new order,” a primary source for the development of improvisational theatre, appreciation of the arts as manifestations of spontaneity and creativity, and the primary impact upon a long list of well known actors, artists, dancers, musicians who were influenced by these ideas.
  1. Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama – though he was not successful in making Theatre of Spontaneity an acceptable and appreciated form of theatre, Moreno transported his ideas and innovations into therapeutic endeavors. Again, much like prophets in religious traditions, he proposed that the “group” was the primary source of treatment and that action methods (for example: role play, role training, role reversal, social atom enactments, current events, and surplus reality) were formidable avenues for individuals and groups to embrace growth and healing. He challenged the “talking cure” and the hegemony of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic principles to develop a philosophy and method that utilized the whole group to assist in the emergence of a “protagonist” who would represent a common dilemma that group members experienced in their own lives. Once the individual protagonist had completed his/her psychodrama, assisted by group members, the group psychotherapy process would commence. There was no analysis, no interpretations, no advice giving during the group psychotherapy phase, only personal sharing, compassion, understanding, only how each person could identify with the protagonist. This was the enactment of his “Invitation to an Encounter.” Psychodrama and its companion method, sociodrama, were instruments to promote healing and moderate group and individual obstacles for growth.
  1. Social Network Theory – as any person who is familiar with the internet, social media, and smart phones, there are constant reminders of how all of us are connected to the whole as John Dunne spoke about several centuries ago. The “need to belong” plays a substantial role in all of our lives and when that need is met, that is, when we have satisfying, reciprocal relationships, an important aspect of our psychological health is satisfied. Moreno’s pilot study at Hudson, the utilization of social network analysis in therapeutic endeavors, and frequent visual depiction of social connections revolutionized the way that we understand how groups develop and exist. Whether it be marketing research, political polarizations related to reading materials, economic stratification related to income distribution, friendship development throughout middle school and high school, a New York Times Sunday Magazine article written by a Harvard sociologist utilizing time-lapse photography to show group development at a fashion show, Moreno’s ideas and methods depicted our real world – our relational climate. The important and empirically supported method, “Interpersonal Therapy,” utilizes social network analysis as an important centerpiece in the treatment of affective disorders such as depression and bipolar illness. The examples are endless. Moreno’s creative ideas on how those networks influence our well-being, starting at a very young age, established the principal components that blossomed into Social Network Theory.
Jonathan Moreno
Jonathan Moreno

As I had substantial contact with J.L. Moreno, and his wife, Zerka Moreno, during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, and knew Jonathan Moreno when he was a teenager and young adult, reading this biography of his father was a gift and a joy. Having lived in the Beacon, New York training center for an entire year as a resident fellow and led psychodrama demonstrations in the New York Center on West 78th street, I had unlimited access to J. L. Moreno’s writings and publications. I was honored to have spent time with him at his dining room table and asked questions about his work and his ideas. I read all the early journals: “Sociatry,” “Sociometry,” “International Journals of Group Psychotherapy;” read the seminal contributions by prominent social psychologists, such as Kurt Lewin, who published in Moreno’s journals. At that time, Zerka Moreno was the principal trainer in developing skills in group psychotherapy and psychodrama and was just an incredibly skilled therapist and person – she had a tremendous impact on my professional and personal development as well as the many professionals who came for training from all over the world. The synergy created in those training groups was incalculable. The Moreno Institute in New York, where demonstrations of psychodrama were held every night of the week, was gifted with exceptional leaders: Jim Sacks, Bob Siroka, Ellen Siroka, Hannah Weiner, and Marcia Karp. All of this, and much more, is captured in Jonathan’s biography — a wonderful recounting of this great leader whose influence is still felt and is still important. This biography is an honest and essential narrative of his father’s life and the people in his grand social network as a result of his innovations, charisma, controversial challenger to the status quo, gifted group theorist and clinician, or as a prophetic voice for the future of psychiatry, psychology, social psychology, and sociology.

There is one more, most important item of “unfinished business” that Jonathan Moreno has accomplished in writing this biography of his father. Having taught seminars in group psychology and group psychotherapy and read numerous narratives about the origins of group psychotherapy, there is no doubt in my mind that J. L. Moreno has not received the recognition that he fully deserves. He is the founder of Group Psychotherapy. Not only did he give us the name, “Group Psychotherapy,” but he gave us theories and methods in which to practice this important treatment modality. He emphasized that the group was the essential component in our society and he focused on the “group.” Many other claimants for group psychotherapy innovations were based upon migrating theories of individual development and dressed up to be applied to group work. Many theories and practices of group work, even presently, were unaware of the importance of group dynamics and how group dynamics affected individual functioning.

Jonathan Moreno’s biography is a must read for group practitioners in the field. The narrative creates the historical and social forces that enveloped his father and propelled him into prominence as an agent of change who gave us ideas, methods, and theories that have assisted all of us to look at the world and people in a kinder, empathic, and creative way. This book is a wonderful gift from a son to his father and to all of us who knew and treasured him.

Committee Reports

Division 49’s New Journal

Joe Powers Ph.D
Joe Powers Ph.D.

A proposal for a second journal for Division 49, Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy, was presented at the Board’s August meeting in Washington, D.C.  Based on survey results conducted earlier in the year among Division 49 members and the discussion at the Board meeting, there was strong support for a second journal. Discussion highlighted the preeminence of “Group Dynamics” as the esteemed journal of Division 49 yet a second journal, focused more upon group work practice, would address an important need in our field.  The proposal was presented to the Board in January 2015 and approved. The immediate task now is contacting APA to meet with representatives to discuss our proposal. Due diligence requires processing several important details to ensure a successful outcome.  We welcome questions and suggestions, so please contact the proposal committee chair or committee members.

Joe Powers, Ad Hoc Committee Chair

Other Committee Members:

Dennis KivlighanRebecca MacNair-Semands

Thomas Treadwell

Nina Brown


Maria RivaSally Barlow

David Marcus

Jill Paquin

Craig Parks