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.