There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
-Zora Neale Hurston
What does being part of the Manhattan Institute mean to me? How has being in the institute benefited me? Contemplating these questions, I thought my answer would be simple, but as I began to write, I realized that it’s actually quite multi-layered and complex. The fact that many, if not most, of my referrals come through my contacts in the institute is of course a very practical benefit, but the intangible gifts of my MIP affiliation are far more significant and personal.
I come from a very small family: my father was an only child; my mother had only one sibling; I am an only child; and I had an only child. So, corny as it sounds, the institute is the closest thing I have to a large extended family, and I cherish it, warts and all.
When I started my psychoanalytic training at MIP, I was working full-time at an outpatient clinic at the Jewish Board and had only two private patients in an office in midtown that I rented by the hour. As my practice grew and I progressed at the institute, I gradually decreased my time at the clinic and expanded my private practice, but I was still overworked and stressed. I commuted between Riverdale and Manhattan, and worked late every night. I was exhausted, with barely enough time for my family, let alone for reading assigned articles for classes. Clinic work became less and less gratifying, but I agonized about quitting my job and going into private practice full-time, largely because I feared losing the sense of community and support I felt among my colleagues at the clinic. I remember vividly a moment in my analysis, obsessively going back and forth about whether to quit my job, when my analyst finally said dryly, “Perhaps being able to see your friends every day isn’t a good enough reason to stay in a job that gives you so little else.” Lightbulb moment! So, in my third year of analytic training I took the plunge, rented an office, and left my salaried job. The institute became my professional center, and it remains so to this day.
Psychoanalysis and private practice can be lonely endeavors. Or perhaps, as Irwin Hirsch astutely observes in his recent post, depriving ones. We analysts are with people all day long, but have limited opportunities to talk about our experiences: the emotional pulls, the depth of feelings, the anxieties, and yes, the joys. Having a community in which to do that gives me a sense of balance that would be almost impossible to generate elsewhere.
About 14 years ago my husband was offered a very tempting job in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I thought seriously about what it would mean for me to move away from New York City and MIP. I couldn’t imagine starting over and recreating for myself what I had at the institute, or continuing to do my work without it. Luckily, my husband felt the same way about his job here, and I was spared having to confront that challenge head-on.
Because MIP offers its members unique and varied opportunities to participate in the community, encouraging professional advancement at every turn, my involvement takes many forms. I teach, supervise, serve on committees, develop programs, and more – a range of professional activities that diversifies my days in a way that sitting in the consulting room with patients from dawn to dusk would not. Different intellectual and emotional muscles get exercised, which helps me maintain my focus and stamina for the difficult work analysts do. I’ve even had the honor of being a co-director and of being able to give something back to the institute that has nurtured me for so long. I have gotten to know people whom I never would have met otherwise, and I’ve made friends who have sustained me through some very difficult times.
I’ve learned a great deal about myself, not just through my analytic training, but by being part of this community and by navigating the relationships, conflicts, and growing pains that are inevitable in any group of strong-minded, smart, committed people. Each new role I have taken on has stretched and altered me in ways that have been life-changing both in and out of the consulting room, and the institute has provided the arena in which all of this important work could take place.
Debora M. Worth, LCSW, is a graduate of the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. She is teaching and supervising faculty at MIP, and served as co-director of the institute from 2007 – 2012. In addition, she is teaching and supervising faculty in the Child and Adolescent Training Program at the William Alanson White Institute. She is in private practice in New York City, working with adults, couples, children and adolescents.