A Therapy for Everyone!


by Lois Holzman

The East Side Institute's roots go back to the 1960s, when so many people were creating alternatives to how psychology, education, culture and politics were done. When all that activity died down, among the people who kept on were the founders of the Institute. In the late 1970s, they set out to create a new kind of learning community, not so much a "think tank" as a "do tank," a community experiment in human beings creating new ways of being and living together.

Psych Out was a "coming out" party for the Institute, a joyous celebration of the Institute's work and community. Among the celebrants were social therapy clients, graduates of the Institute's therapist training program, participants and supporters of programs inspired by the Institute's approach to human development and learning (the All Stars Talent Show Network, the Development School for Youth, the Chelton Loft, and others); clients of Performance of a Lifetime, the consulting firm that utilizes performance and improvisation to help businesses; participants in Institute seminars, trainings, retreats and conferences; professionals from theatre, politics and social policy whose work the Institute has influenced; and other families, friends and colleagues of the honorees.

Perhaps most of all, the evening was an affirmation of the Institute's commitment to therapeutics as a way of life, to transforming the inward focus of psychology and psychotherapy. As founder Fred Newman told the audience, "We are part of a network of people - many who are here tonight, many others around the world - who bring psychology out of the darkness in which it has lived for so long, because that darkness tends to stigmatize the people who are involved. And that is sad. It's the people who are frightened of coming into therapy - frightened off by psychology itself - who we have to reach out to. Psychology has to be a way of life, a way of growing."

In honoring three social therapy clients, Psych Out pointed to the "bottom up" feature of social therapy - the people who come to social therapy are the builders and creators of it. Accepting his award, Ira Kemp said, "When I first heard I was getting the award, I thought, 'why me?' Then I realized that in accepting it, we're all getting it. Who's this 'we?' We're all the people giving and getting this powerful therapy. A therapy that does not see men or women, gay or straight, rich or poor, or people of color or white people. It's a therapy for everybody that we can share. So on behalf of the thousands of people who have benefited from what we've created, I want to thank you."