Letter from the Director

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Dear Faculty, Board Members, Clinical Associates, Psychotherapy Program students, Associate and Community Members:

The beginning of the academic year is always an exciting time as we welcome new students to SPSI and classes begin again. But this year we also experienced the loss of one of SPSI’s earliest members, Charlie Mangham. Charlie helped build an important foundation in child and adult analytic thinking at SPSI and its predecessor institute. His thinking about child and adult development, the entire lifespan, was seamless. We will miss him and his thinking greatly. Charlie inspired us to look beneath the surface of our patient’s communications. He understood the power of deep understanding. As we begin our new academic year, we can still benefit from this approach.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of my thinking. I spent time during my year as Director-elect studying how SPSI, a non-profit corporation, functions. I focused carefully on how we operate, and our history, so that I could see deeply into what allows us to survive and thrive. We have built structures, policies and procedures that we must apply with wisdom, and humanity because they have a powerful impact on us as an organization and as individuals. We are healthiest when we can evolve, and when we remain humane and respectful towards each other in how we apply our policies.

Some of our most important struggles involve how we understand and teach psychoanalytic knowledge and how we treat students. We must be able to receive feedback, comments, and critique because this tells us what to update and change. In our modern educational environment, it’s our obligation to ensure that students are educated up to the current state of knowledge in our field. We must also involve students in forming curriculum and policy. We should allow change to enter our thinking and work with ease and grace. When we battle against essential change we pull ourselves apart and then experience a break down in our relationships.

We have structures and connections that help us navigate. We are connected to each other by deep bonds of honor, decency, and friendship, but we also have legal commitments. Included in these are acting in SPSI’s best interest, cooperating, fulfilling what we advertise on our website and pamphlets, and recognizing that we’re a private institute of post-secondary education in Washington State. We are so serious about being dedicated volunteer professionals, that we even sign a contract with SPSI when we apply for reappointment.

Working together is the healthiest direction for all of us. We want everyone involved, in person, so that each member has a voice and is knowledgeable about decisions and changes made at SPSI. I wish for all of you to be a vital part of our work. SPSI needs everyone involved in serving or chairing committees, teaching, attending faculty meetings, and volunteering to advance SPSI in creative and far reaching endeavors. I am reminded of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous speech about the value of the person in the arena:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I envision classes where we forge ahead with our commitment to understanding how the mind works, where we build a child analytic, developmental viewpoint that stems from all of the major psychoanalytic theories, where we see patients embedded in their families, and our students learn about how to work with families in all their diversity. We can learn so much about where our patients have come from, where their lives are going, and how to best help them when we see them through all of the theoretical lenses we have available.

Our greatest strength lies in our working together wisely. We give our time to provide an excellent psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic education to our students. We listen to them as they develop and become our colleagues. We think and care about our evolving structures and always, always keep in mind that no part of our structure is somehow more important than the impact it is having on our members. We’re a non-profit organization with many moving, interacting parts. We’re a group of people who must always keep in mind that policies, procedures and structures are to serve us and serve our needs. That’s the way to stay together. We need to keep building our bonds of wisdom, humanity, and a commitment to evolve as an institute.

Our direction is together.

Sheri A. Butler, MD