Philip Lichtenberg was a social work professor at Bryn Mawr College and one of the founders of the Gestalt Training Institute of Philadelphia. Philip believed in the importance and usefulness of attending to the intersection of social change and clinical social work in his research and writing.
He said, “We are all responsible for what exists now, and we will all be responsible for deciding whether we will change the institutions in which we live and work.” (From his book: Getting Even: The Equalizing Law of Relationships)
This commitment and fundamental belief system was a unifying thread that ran through his career and even into his retirement in 2014. In his work with students, whether training at GTIP, in group supervision or in his long-running study group, he inevitably brought in social justice, always inviting and encouraging others to attend to the personal as political. Gestalt therapists from all over the world reported that he influenced them and supported them as they worked in their communities and in their countries.
Philip’s work was also deeply relational. All students at GTIP are introduced early on to his concept of what he called the Four Corners of Contacting. Here he outlined a schematic that facilitates both speakers and listeners to define themselves vividly and relationally. This way of understanding contact has often proved fruitful at GTIP, especially when difference needs to be acknowledged and/or conflict needs to be attended to. (For those interested in knowing more about this we refer you to his paper Creating a Distinct “I” and a Distinct “You” in Contacting published in the Gestalt Journal 23(2). In the video “The Four Corners and the Incomplete I: How differentiated individuals merge into communities,” Philip lectures and demonstrates his theory.
The Philip Lichtenberg Social Justice Fund was created after Philip’s death in 2020 and supports diversity, equity and Inclusion work. This includes: Change Team facilitation, scholarships, faculty education facilitation and other related endeavors to support GTIP’s social justice priorities.