Harold Bernard: An icon in the field of group psychotherapy

We honor the memory of the late Harold Bernard and the contributions he made to the field

By Gary M. Burlingame

An icon in the field of group psychotherapy has left the stage; on February 4, 2012 Dr. Harold S. Bernard passed away. His contribution to the fi eld of group treatment was enormous. Harold was a fellow in Division 49 of the American Psychological Association (APA), a Diplomat in Group Psychology (ABPP), and the past president of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), where he was also recognized in 2006 with its highest honor, Distinguished Life Fellow. Although I was familiar with Harold’s contributions before 2001, I worked side by side with him after 9/11 when he shepherded an AGPA task force funded in part by a multi-million dollar grant from the New York Times Foundation. This task force provided group treatment for survivors of and fi rst responders to the tragedy in New York and Washington, DC. In 2002 Harold began his presidency of AGPA and ushered in a period where AGPA transformed from a guild society to a service provider helping literally thousands of individuals affected by the trauma associated with 9/11.

Dr. Bernard was a consummate trainer of group therapists at New York University/Bellevue Medical Center, where he was the Chief of the Group Psychotherapy Program from 1982 to 1996 and a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry for 30 years. He also offered countless courses and presentations at professional conferences of the APA, AGPA, and Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society and held prestigious university posts, including assignments at the University of Rochester and Harvard Medical School. In addition to his impact as an outstanding trainer, he also contributed to the clinical and empirical psychotherapy literature with six books, 14 chapters, and nearly 50 articles and commentaries while also serving on editorial boards of prominent group and psychotherapy journals, e.g., Psychotherapy, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy & Group.

Personally, Harold was simply delightful. He had an insatiable desire to serve his profession, coupled with a twinkle in his eye and a charisma that made working with him a true pleasure. He loved to listen to or tell a good joke, engage in lively conversations about sports, and dance into the night at the annual AGPA Gala. His charm and interpersonal skill was an asset as he advanced the cause of group treatment in a variety of venues. He seemed to have endless energy and was always willing to listen to a new idea that might advance our common professional interest in providing excellent group treatment. His infl uence, energy, and connections will be sorely missed. We offer sincere and heartfelt condolences to his wife Bonnie Bernard, his daughter Nicole, and son Bradley.