A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my daughter and several of her millennial friends at a trendy New York restaurant. One young woman proudly told me that she was the longest-serving employee at her start-up company—she’d been there five whole years, a virtual lifetime in her worldview. When I told her that I’d been employed at the same outfit in the same position for 40 years, she looked a bit alarmed, as if the incarnation of some Old Testament figure had suddenly appeared beside her. How was it possible to spend that much time doing, more or less, the same job?
In truth, I sometimes wonder the same thing. Have we at the Networker really been doing the same thing for scarily close to half a century? Maybe we’re still so fully engaged in what we do because, even after all this time, we’re still seeking the ingredients to the elusive magic formula (or formulae) that will dependably resolve more of the complex issues clients bring to us.
But if the story of therapy remains basically unfinished, unresolved, unperfected, so does human nature itself. After all, aren’t we all imperfect beings in an extended process of becoming? Far from being a mark of dishonor, this is actually a great thing for us. Our calling as therapists is based on the idea that people can and do change—it may not come easily, but we grow and learn throughout life, and in ways that are often unexpected, even baffling. This therapeutic uncertainty principle is of profound value to the society at large, especially now, at a time of dizzying uncertainty, when our collective path ahead seems unsure, to say the least.
In the therapy room, we don’t know what will happen, but we’re willing to explore alternative possible stories, asking probing questions and listening with open minds to unexpected answers. This comfort with uncertainty, this faith in the process and trust in the power of relationship, enables us to believe that ultimately, if we can fully put our heart and soul and savvy and embodied wisdom into it, something good will come of the process—what and how we don’t really know.
Every Networker issue begins with an incipient idea, often vague and hardly formed, that may come from any one of a hundred sources—a note from a reader or one of our writers, an article we’ve seen, a conference we’ve attended, a news story. Once the thought is embedded in our collective brain, we call around to different members of our extended professional tribe to develop this fragile, sometimes fleeting, bit of inspiration. And at the end of the intense and unpredictable process, as we’re holding an alluringly bright and shiny new issue in our hands, we feel once again, as we have for the past 240 issues, a sense of giddy astonishment. And perhaps with unwarranted pride, we feel that we’ve produced something that matters, not only to our profession, but to the wider world—because every issue is, in its own way, a celebration of the human capacity to make new discoveries and add further contributions to this vast, perpetually unfinished story that connects us all.
With that, we think this look back at the last 40 years of this magazine and our profession comes at a time when we could all use perspective on what we’ve learned from the challenges of the past—both within and outside the consulting room—and how to best face the difficult trials and out-of-the-blue twists and turns of the next 40.
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.