Memories from John Steinhelber

Although still alive, in memories and dreams, and as shapers of life’s path, the clinical psychology training years of 1974-82 also seem long ago.  When we began that period President Nixon had just resigned, and American combat troops had left Vietnam the year before.  On the technological front, “multiple copies” meant stacks of paper interspersed with carbon paper in Helen Turney’s electric typewriter, and “computers” were those giants off in a room somewhere, approached by pilgrims bearing boxes of IBM cards.  Those were passionate and perilous times, filling our endeavors with a vibrant energy, and survived by most, but not all, trainees and faculty.  Our very longstanding NIMH training grant was in its planned phase-out period, yet we chose to conserve and continue our nationally recognized training program, maintaining its excellent and evolving resources and content.

Our one-year predoctoral internship program continued to attract well over 100 highly qualified applicants annually for our 8 positions.  Our prestigious reputation allowed us to select from the top of that list, and we were able, by focusing attention on diversity, to have substantial inclusion of ethnic minorities, as well as gender balance.  In the second of those eight years we began offering one, then soon two, postdoctoral positions, with advanced, specialized clinical training in areas such as psychotherapy, family therapy, and neuropsychology.

As soon as predoctoral interns (“fellows”) arrived they found themselves experiencing life’s abundance and limitations.  Their rotations were determined during an orientation week in which they visited our rich resources including the adult psychotherapy clinic, adult inpatient units with different orientations, children’s service (inpatient and outpatient), psychological and neuropsychological evaluative consultations, community settings, and so on, all with a wealth of group training and individual supervision.  But any given fellow could only do so much (which was usually a lot!), and some units could only accommodate a few fellows.  So the orientation week ended with the agony and ecstasy of all fellows and faculty gathered in front of a chalkboard, working out together the collective “best fit.”

In addition to “creative financing” that allowed the training program to thrive during the waning years of the NIMH grant, we accomplished a few other noteworthy housekeeping details.  The training year was moved back from a September to a July start date, to coordinate with the calendars of the training sites and of psychiatry rotations.  And individual offices were secured for our fellows, who previously had been all housed together in one large room.

One training component I remember most fondly is the weekly Clinical Psychology Seminar, in which we opened ourselves and expanded our visions, more often than not exploring relevant topics with heart.

As the 1974-82 period drew to a close, we had lived the time fully, conserving and continuing the evolving excellence of the Clinical Psychology Training Program.  San Francisco’s “Summer of Love” was a decade and a half in the past, and Ronald Reagan had replaced Jimmy Carter as President.  Our NIMH funding had ended, and the host Department of Psychiatry was committed to its vision for the future.  It was time for something new.


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