For almost nine years—before the pandemic hit and I started working from a desk in my guest bedroom—the Networker office was very much my home. In fact, the office itself was a home—with bedrooms converted to offices and a kitchen reworked into a conference room, where the staff would gather to celebrate birthdays and have raucous editorial meetings over a pan-Asian smorgasbord from the restaurant on the corner. As managing editor, I had a sunny office on the second floor, and Rich Simon, our founder and editor, occupied the crow’s nest on the third floor. In this intimate office-home, even as the team changed and grew, we always felt like a cozy, quirky family.
As you’ll read in “Covering the Field,” which is part of this issue’s compilation of Rich’s reflections on psychotherapy, the magazine also changed and grew over the years. But what remained the same— throughout its 44-year history—was that we staffers loved Rich, not only as a guiding light, but as a family member: a favorite goofy uncle, a wise grandparent full of insight and experience, and sometimes even an impish younger brother.
I was a bit like Rich’s doting work-sister, always making sure there was enough coffee for him in the mornings, and that no one sat in his favorite chair for meetings—not that he was possessive, just that it was a long-standing tradition. Perhaps I was like a nagging mother as well, making sure our bills were paid, our editorial calendar thoroughly thought out, our deadlines met.
Part of our routine each morning was to go through my never-ending list of tasks for the day. But more often than not, before we’d even scratch the surface, Rich would get a smile on his face and want to tell me all about some movie or musical he’d recently seen. (You must read Fred Wistow’s “The Great Appreciator” in this issue to really understand what it was like to be awash in Rich’s wide-ranging enthusiasm.) He always kept things fun!
I was never able to get on board with his love of musicals, but our shared passion, what we spent hours chewing over every day, with unparalleled delight, were the stories we edited for the pages of this magazine. And we worked hard at it, tossing revisions back and forth, sometimes for months at a time. I’d leave my version on the top of the stairs leading to his office (Rich preferred to edit on paper), and I’d find it back on my desk the next morning, covered in hieroglyphics.
Transferring those markings to a Word doc was something I looked forward to. It might take me a few minutes to figure out what his scribbles meant—with arrows and carets pointing every which way—but when I did, it was always a revelation. Ah, yes! Why hadn’t I thought of that? As Rich asked me to take on more of the editing in the last few years, he’d still leave drafts on my desk with encouraging scribbles: Go, girl! Nice work! And no matter what troubles inevitably surfaced from time to time—annoyed authors, angry letters from outraged readers—he always had my back. Rich took the hard calls for me.
Then, in November of last year, well into the pandemic, I took the hardest call of all. Late one evening, my cell phone rang, and I learned that Rich had died by suicide. My heart shattered—as did the hearts of so many others who would soon hear the news.
His family members, close friends, and many of the staff were aware of his long-term struggle with bipolar disorder and severe depression. They knew that for decades he’d courageously, heroically, sought treatment in many forms and from all corners of our field. In the opening article of this issue, Dan Siegel describes with love the enormity of the pain Rich suffered, the support he received from this community, and how, in the end, his illness overtook him.
But I want to be clear that how Rich died in no way detracts from how he lived—and how he lived was extraordinary. His enduring impact on our field, in spite of his struggles, are what we’re celebrating in this issue—and there’s so much to celebrate it could easily fill a bookcase of issues.
This special edition of the Networker came together because of the great love so many people feel for Rich. Most of them don’t have bylines here, and some of them had never even met him in person. As soon as we put out word of his death, the messages poured in from people wanting to celebrate his inimitable “Rich-ness” and convey how deeply he influenced their work. We couldn’t possibly include them all here, but, in a very real way, everyone who cared for Rich and the community he created has inspired this issue. It’s one we never dreamed we’d have to put together, but we hope it captures his buoyant spirit, his quiet bravery, and his enormous heart.
Editor in Chief
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.