In the Tradition of Freud’s and Adler’s Free Clinics

Executive Director Michael Connolly’s welcome to our 2010 Holiday tribute

I would like to welcome you all here tonight to celebrate the Holidays, to celebrate Hanukkah, which is now fully upon us, and the coming of Christmas, just three weeks away. But I would also like to celebrate all of you who help support the Harlem Family Institute in its unique, vital and noble mission:

And that is offering free, long-term supervised therapeutic care to young children in underserved communities and in places like Harlem schools, and training those who want to do this work with the help of our training programs. This work is vital and can help repopularize psychoanalysis, which often has been the preserve of people who are wealthier.

We’re able to do all this only because of the work of a dedicated group of professional analysts from a number of New York analytic institutes who pitch in for low fees to help our institute train them – teaching them, supervising their work and offering them training analysis.

Right now, however, we’re preparing to face a new challenge: New York State requires that in mid-2012, just 18 months away, all institutes must meet stringent new requirements. As a result, we are stepping up to meet the challenge, seeking to rapidly reinvigorate and restructure the institute to try to ensure we not only remain in operation, but expand to train more people and offer supervised therapy to more children than ever.

We’re reaching out, seeking to draw in more of New York’s psychoanalytic community with the aim of turning ourselves into a showcase – a model of how a city’s analysts can come together to help provide services to underserved communities, a model that can then be applied elsewhere.

In this work, we draw inspiration from some powerful roots in the seminal psychoanalytic years in Germany and Austria around 1920. For drawing my attention to this in recent days I’m grateful to the wonderful NPAP analyst Merle Molofsky. And for helping me research it, I’m indebted to analyst Marianne Mosbach, an Adlerian who studied with Adler’s son and daughter.

For we are operating in the same tradition as some other famous free institutes and clinics established as long ago as 1919 at the behest of none other than those two fathers of psychoanalysis Freud and Adler – to offer emotional help to adults and children who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

In Vienna, Alfred Adler established in 1919 the first of 27 free child-guidance clinics, all connected to schools located in impoverished areas in or near Vienna.

That same year, Freud too expressed the hope that free psychoanalytic clinics could be established for this purpose, and in 1920 analysts Max Eintigen and Ernst Simmel created the so called Berlin Poli-klinik, or Berlin Institute, and later its companion Schloss Tegel Sanatorium.

Even before it opened its doors, the Berlin clinic was mobbed, with treatment requests from 350 people, forcing it initially to limit admission, though soon people of all ages, ranging from the unemployed to professionals, were seen and treated free.

The institute initiated decades of original clinical theory, practice and education, and its early participants included some other luminary names in the early analytic world: Franz Alexander, Karl Abraham, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Helene Deutsch, Wilhelm Reich and Melanie Klein.

The institute, which now operates as the Abraham Institute, claims that the close association of theory and application, training and research realized in its early work “served as a model in Europe and the U.S.”

Now, just as the Berlin institute sees itself as a model for what followed, we are aiming to create a model of working with children that can be applied elsewhere.

We have a group of analysts beginning to look broadly at how well we are achieving our mission and to recommend how we might transform ourselves into an institute that can become a showcase – a model for serving underserved communities everywhere.

To you and all who are helping us with our transformation project from across the city’s institutes, I offer my thanks.