I met Bert in January 2000 while an undergrad at Michigan State University. I enrolled in his Psychoanalytic Perspectives of Personality class. After about 2 weeks of classes, I went to Bert’s office hours to ask questions I had about his class concepts. Bert asked me why I showed up for office hours because nobody ever shows for office hours! “Get in here and sit down!” At the end of Bert’s class, I asked him if he would be my mentor. I was realizing the benefit of his experience and knowledge. Bert was always behind me and in my corner. After many trips to office hours, Bert said to me “I think you would benefit from a group of people who think weirdly, and want to continue learning like you do. It is called Michigan Psychoanalytic Council.” This was first experience attending a scientific paper and hearing someone talk about treating clients in a humane way. That was 21 years ago and I am still a member of that group. I asked Bert and his wife Mary to attend my induction ceremony to Psi Chi (National Honor Society in Psychology). Bert showed up and several people in the Department of Psychology asked me how I got him to show up? My response was I just asked him, why? Their response was “He never attends anything here in this department!” I asked Bert about this and he said I came because I give a damn about you and your interest in psychoanalytic therapy”! In my office I have the picture, which a friend took at the ceremony, of Bert shaking my hand. Since moving into private practice, the picture sits behind me. He wrote letters of recommendation for both of my Master’s Degree Programs (MA in Clinical Psychology and Masters in Social Work). Another example of Bert and Mary’s love, caring and support was when Mary took dictation from Bert, while he was in rehab in Ann Arbor, for a letter of recommendation to the MSW program at Michigan State University.
I was introduced to coffee as a part of finals week at Michigan State University. The president bought coffee for students at different locations on campus. I began drinking coffee as an undergraduate. I was introduced to Starbucks and Biggby while I was staying with Mary Karon. I learned from Mary that Bert drinks coffee with each client he sees. I have taken on that tradition since I began private practice. Bert always had coffee close even when he was reading books and articles. One thing which is known by most is that almost everyone of Bert’s books has a coffee spill somewhere! He loved his expresso! Bert was a hard core coffeeholic because he would say “I want a triple expresso and do not put anything in it, just the espresso, don’t water it down!” I was impressed that about one year ago, I took Bert a triple expresso and he asked his aide to give him the expresso and he downed it in one swallow! I hope that he is now enjoying all the espresso he can in heaven!!
I went to hear Bert present his work any time I was able to. I wanted to learn as much as I could from him. Bert supervised me when I began treatment with a woman who had symptoms of schizophrenia. He encouraged me to be patient with the disorganized thoughts and with hearing parts and pieces, because eventually they will all make sense. Bert’s idea of Chronic Extreme Terror being as close to a concept of the symptoms which these extremely traumatized and vulnerable client’s life- long experience has been like.
Bert told me about a group of people who I might be interested in getting to know better, ISEPP. He told me this group believes like he does that intensive psychotherapy without medication does work. I was pleased when I began to hear papers being presented at the ISEPP conference in Boston, MA, and the presenters were not sounding though they were being funded by the pharmaceutical companies. Bert had gotten me connected to a group of people who definitely thought like I did!
Bert was kind, compassionate and caring with a touch of “grumpy” at times. Bert always liked to talk with students and answer questions. I never hear him raise his voice with them or say he did not have time to answer their questions. He had a genuine passion to teach others about empathic treatment of clients. I have been touched by the compassion Bert showed for his clients and colleagues. I will always hold on to the love and support he had for me. I wrote a letter to Bert just before his death, letting him know the impact he had on my work as a psychodynamic psychotherapist.
I miss him very much!