STEVE MITCHELL graduated from the William Alanson White Institute in 1977, a year before I did. We had met some six years before that, when we were members of a psychotherapy supervision group in graduate school at New York University.
From the beginning, Steve and I shared a passionate interest in psychoanalysis that was a central part of what quickly became a deep friendship. In addition to family get-togethers, we would meet frequently in the same Chinese restaurant (we had to switch every several years as our favorites went out of business) and, after lengthy deliberation and without really noticing, always order the same dishes. Our conversations wound through the expectable topics but always, eventually, circled back to psychoanalysis. Interested in theory as well as clinical practice, and sharing the training experiences at New York University and White with their inclusive, pluralistic approaches, we were both trying to figure out for ourselves how different conceptual approaches fit together—how they overlapped and where they diverged from each other.
In retrospect, I realize that the conversations Steve and I were having were unusual for the time. For one thing, in keeping with what we had learned in the course of our training, when we talked about “psychoanalysis” we spoke in the same breath of Freud and the ego psychologists and Sullivan and Fairbairn. For another, we assumed that we were psychoanalysts, despite being psychologists and despite not having been trained at an institute of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Of course, we were aware—with a mixture of self-doubt and pride that I remember mostly as a wordless experience—that our claims to professional status wouldn't be accepted by the most orthodox analysts. But those analysts seemed so distant to us that what they thought didn't seem to matter much. For the most part, we were untouched by our exclusion.
Even for me, having lived the history with Steve, it is difficult to grasp how much has changed in what, despite evidence to the contrary, seems like a very short time. Two stories capture what things were like at the beginning of our professional lives.
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