With the exception of one other, 2017 was the hardest year of my life. In January my uncle, with whom I was the closest of any member of my family, died. Five weeks later my father also died. With their deaths, seismic shifts occurred in my family of both an emotional and financial nature. My mourning process has been protracted due to numerous loose ends, not the least of which is a contested will that has at times threatened to fracture my remaining family. The year 2017 felt like it delivered one blow after another.
The past year’s events have reawakened some of the emotional upheaval that I experienced as a child. In my family of origin, I was not able to provide nor receive what I needed emotionally. Like many therapists, I entered the mental health field in search of a corrective experience. For me, this has not only been my work with patients, but also with colleagues. We all hunger for a community in which we feel we belong and can be ourselves, and I have found this at TI.
After I graduated from TI’s psychoanalytic training program, I set off in private practice. After several years, I realized that this experience was too solitary and I became more involved with TI. Acting as first the Assistant Clinical Director, and then the Clinical Director, collaborating with colleagues and supervising students provided me with a collegial and supportive environment that private practice alone could not.
Since I first set foot on TI’s premises in 2001, the TI community has become my surrogate family. During these years I have settled into a community where I felt at home with my colleagues and myself. In Winnicottian terms, I am able to show my “true self”.
During the past months, there were days when I was felled by the enormity of my grief and unable to function. I would attempt to push myself only to be encouraged by colleagues to be authentic and vulnerable. I was reminded time and time again that they, and the community, could tolerate my grief. They assured me that no matter what needed to be done someone would step in to help.
The support I received from my fellow directors and from TI’s students has been profound. During my absences to attend to family matters, I was never made to feel guilty, only missed. On the days, of which there were many, when I pushed myself to come to work, I was rewarded with genuine feelings of caring and concern. All this has reaffirmed my belief in TI as an extraordinary community, one that I am exceedingly grateful to be a member.
Christine Grounds has a private practice in psychodynamic psychotherapy and is the Director of Clinical services at The Training Institute for Mental Health, a position she has held since 2009. She graduated from TI’s 2 year program in supervisory practice in 2005, and the 4-year program in psychoanalysis in 2006. Prior to entering social work school, she was an Assistant Vice President at the auction house Christie’s, where she worked since graduating college.