A review of Rachman, A. W. & Kooden, H. (Eds., 2021). Different Paths Toward Becoming a Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist. Personal Passions, Subjective Experiences and Unusual Journeys. Routledge, 294 pages. $38.95 (Paperback), $160.00 (Hardcover), $35.05 (eBook).
Different Paths … is an intriguing collection of twelve essays portraying psychological professionals traveling unique paths to become the successful people they are today. They disclose their life experiences in an open, honest manner, some quite distressing to read. Yet, they vividly illustrate how post-traumatic growth and resilience enabled them to strive for and reach their personal and professional ambitions.
I love Alan Entin’s opening lines: “All families have secrets. I discovered mine at a young age… I knew even then it was a secret, an important secret. I was too young to read the letters and did not know who was in the pictures.”
The secret in Alan’s family was his Uncle Bernie, the union organizer, the activist that nobody in the family would speak about. Like all secrets, Bernie’s tale developed a mystique which Alan, being the high-spirited adventurer he is, wouldn’t set to rest until he discovered that Bernie fought and died in the Spanish Civil War, a prelude to World War II. Not content to know just that, he traveled several times to Madrid to find his uncle’s best friend and attend the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Spanish Civil War.
Alan’s journey was guided by the support and encouragement of his Uncle Jay, who believed that his nephew’s interest in photography would lead to bigger things. Boy, was he right! Bolstered by his uncle’s confidence, he entered his photographs in exhibitions and juried competitions, achieving much success. One of his greatest thrills was having his photo, Le Penseur Rouge appear on the cover of the January 2006 American Psychologist.
Alan’s innovative use of photographs to enrich and expand the understanding of family dynamics has attracted much media attention, including Jane Brody’s article in the New York Times. He was Division 42’s first Historian and has enjoyed photographing at every APA meeting to document events, including the ground-breaking ceremony of the new APA building.
Fergal Brady begins his essay with “Everybody remembers where they were on 9/11. That’s an easy one for me. I was a patient in a hospital,” a psychiatric hospital in Ireland, where he learned his first lessons about mental health and healing. Yes, the external world was falling apart but, more significantly for Fergal, his inner world was too. He referred to it as “a complete nervous breakdown; a deep treatment-resistant depression.”
Once discharged from the hospital, he enrolled in college. His first course was the history of psychoanalysis. After reading Freud, he was hooked. Not only did the couch have a transformative power for him, but so did connecting with the right therapist and with a vibrant reading group that helped him comprehend complex psychoanalytic concepts. Poetry, music, and classical literature also enhanced his inner life.
Fergal describes the key aspects of his struggles and growth with sincerity and candor. His battle begins with being a patient in a mental hospital and ends with his elevated position as a highly regarded psychoanalyst and President of the Irish Psycho-Analytical Association. An amazing journey! You’ll enjoy learning about the curved roads he navigated to get to where he is today.
Harold Kooden’s chapter opens by telling us that when he was only 14 years old, he was arrested for being openly gay. What a devastating experience! Though it led to a severe suicide attempt, the positive part, he says, was that it paved the way for him to leave home when he was 18, no longer a ward of the court.
For those too young to know how gays were looked upon in the 20th century, Harold sums it up as “For practically every gay child, there was the constant feeling that there was a basic and bad part of themselves that had to be hidden from the family – hence the adage that all gay children are orphans.” Add to his journey, the pain of having a schizophrenic mother, an absent divorced father, and a Marine sergeant homophobic older brother. So much pain, so much confusion, so much turmoil, with but one saving grace – a loving older sister.
With Harold’s background, is it any wonder he was plagued with doubts, insecurities, and feelings that he wasn’t smart or good enough? Yet, he dared to come out as an openly gay man when there was a massive cost to doing so – damage to his reputation and career opportunities. In a flash, any hope of working at the United Nations or enrolling in the postdoc program at the William Allison White Institute disappeared.
Harold was one of the first openly gay psychologists to speak at the American Psychological Council of Representatives when APA was under pressure to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Following the Stonewall Uprising, the Gay Academic Union was formed, bringing together gay professionals from diverse academic disciplines. Harold joined immediately. After an all-day conference, he describes an impactful moment of growth when he realized that for the entire day, he felt like a whole person, not an outsider, not “less than.” His ongoing growth experiences include psychoanalysis, travel, reading, writing, activism, and long-term relationships that made him the confident man he is today. It’s a fascinating transformative journey of personal growth and activism.
I’ve just highlighted three of the journeys in this book. Nine more engaging stories give readers an intimate look at the sprouting, blossoming, flourishing, and integrating odysseys these brave people took to become accomplished professionals. What follows is a small spotlight shining on each of their journeys.
Arnold Rachman describes how his cousin became emotionally unraveled after receiving his draft notice to report for duty. No one could calm him down. A few days later, Arnold’s Granny did just that, introducing him to the therapeutic presence of a healing person. Years later, he had a similar reaction, when he became acquainted with Sandor Ferenczi’s work which introduced emotional interaction and expression to the analytic process.
Dan Gilhooley’s story begins with a traumatic childhood triggered by a father returning home from war with a traumatic brain injury and an eventual suicide. His journey hones in on the joy and power of creating art while in a meditative state, allowing one to be transformed by imagining the impossible. His creativity in art and therapy has been enhanced with dissociation.
Henry Kellerman’s 1st patient was himself, though he was only 2 years old. His 2nd patient was a customer in his parents’ luncheonette who was gassed during combat in war. Though he was only 6 years old, he became cognizant of the man being overly fearful and paranoid. His 3rd patient was his bubba, who seemed normal in her thinking except for a delusion that he, a 14-year-old, would sneak into her room, open her trunk and slice the threads from the hems of her dresses. And his fascinating journey moves on from there!
Robert J. Marshall began his journey as a jazz pianist who prided himself on his sense of rhythm and timing. Jazz is about improvisations, creating a musical dialogue with other musicians, going back and forth, elaborating on an idea that becomes a composition. He brought that skill to his psychoanalytic work, viewing the patient as the one who calls the tune, states the theme. The therapist listens. When invited, he joins in mostly as an accompanist.
Simone V. Marshall’s story is lovingly written in the first person by her husband Robert, as Simone’s health is failing. He describes her engaging journey of adaptation from Parisian to American culture and depicts her growth journey with references to marriage, motherhood, women’s movement, career success, and pride and fulfillment in the realization of her dreams.
Clara Mucci discovered Freud and free association when she was a teen. Shortly thereafter, when introduced to Shakespeare, she was immediately attracted to the intriguing layers of meaning and references lurking beneath the surface. This opened up a new world for her leading to an inspiring and powerful psychoanalysis and a meaningful fellowship at the Institute of Personality Disorders.
Benito Perri, one of 10 children, born in Italy, was ordained a Catholic Priest, with an emphasis on celibacy. He soon came to recognize his difficulties relating to women, leading him to study psychoanalysis, which reaped him many rewards for his inner life and relationships. It’s a fascinating journey from priest to psychoanalyst – a journey of peace and love.
Joseph Scalia III’s journey begins with fleeing the city to live in the wilderness of Montana, “a place to stand, a place to make a stand.” His journey brought him an acute awareness of his vulnerabilities and weaknesses to develop a greater sense of humanity and humility.
Frank Yeomans studied French literature which he viewed as a window into the heart and mind of the human experience, society, and history. Learning about Lacan’s ideas on language was a major influence. Over time, he developed a belief that a major goal of psychoanalysis is to help patients develop a coherent personal narrative.
Melvin Bornstein writes the concluding chapter by summarizing the 12 stories and describing his growth experiences. After practicing psychoanalysis for almost 60 years, he views its core as simply being human, loving life, and being creative. It required courage and guts for these big-league therapists to open up and reveal their inner turmoil and traumas. Read their stories. Respect their struggles. Revere their resilience. Recognize how becoming a better you, will make you a better psychotherapist. Get this book now!