Gisela Peiper Konopka ignored conventional wisdom and focused on what troubled teens had to say, a process that led to her becoming a pioneer of group therapy, rebuilding shattered German psyches after WWII. Konopka joined a socialist youth group in Germany and, after graduating from the University of Hamburg in 1933, joined a resistance group to fight the Nazis. She was arrested in 1936, escaped, and eventually fled to America in 1941. She worked briefly at the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Clinic before taking a teaching job at the University of Minnesota, earning her PhD there in 1957. Building on her own experiences of discrimination, she focused on listening to troubled youths instead of assuming their problems were race- or poverty-based and unsolvable. She took this further by running group sessions so patients could share their experiences and realize they weren’t alone. In 1950 she returned to Germany to rebuild social services and education, setting up child guidance clinics and helping the staff grapple with their actions during the war. Hailed as a founding member and pioneer of the National Association of Social Work, Konopka wrote major books on group work and founded an institute for adolescent health at the University of Minnesota.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Gisela Peiper Konopka ." (Viewed on June 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/konopka-gisela>.