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After being graduated from Amherst College, the usual stuff happened. I broke up with a girl and felt lost. A friend offered powerful guidance: “In a situation like this, you could just do something, or you could talk about it first.” The value of psychotherapy was as clear 40 years ago as it is today. We all get into messes, sometimes because we got dealt a strange hand, sometimes because we played the hand strangely. Wisdom lies in talking it over before acting. Look before you leap. Choosing psychotherapy is strength, not weakness or illness. Like most of us in this field, my treatment was the start of my training and profession.


I finished Yale Divinity School in 1971 and began training as a hospital chaplain which included four quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education. I relished talking to living beings in real-life situations. No more talking about ideals in the sky disconnected from what actually happens. Chaplaincy training showed me my clinical errors and flaws, but it didn’t know how to help me fix them. So I went on to my Ph.D. at Fordham during the day and a 3-year psychotherapy program at night at Washington Square Institute. The Ph.D. program leading to my license in 1978 as a NYS Psychologist was fun. It taught me a lot about research and statistics, but not much about helping people. A 3-year psychotherapy program isn’t long enough to prepare for clinical practice, yet it gave me a chance to study under 2 clinical giants: Richard Mulliken and Irv Shuren. Since it turned out that they trained at the same place, the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP), I knew this is where I should train next. It took 11 years and it was worth every minute. My Certificate in Psychoanalysis from NPAP actually dealt with bona fide human problems and trained me in real-life strategies for helping.


Therapists go into this field to cure themselves. Some are more successful than others. A degree in Psychology, Social Work, or Psychiatry is the least promising method of self-cure, because these degrees don’t require personal psychotherapy. Personal therapy is the main tool in learning to hear what patients are saying, and learning how to be helpful in response. Any therapist you pick must have post-degree certification. Since my training at NPAP required me to choose a personal analyst, I deliberately picked someone in direct succession toSigmund Freud via Theodor Reik, who founded NPAP. The American mental health field misconstrued psychoanalysis and turned it into mechanistic formulas that seem wrongheaded to me. I wanted no part of America’s mistaken versions of therapy. I wanted to experienceFreud’s original approach. So I chose Edwin Lawrence Antinoph for my analyst, someone analyzed by someone analyzed by Freud. This places me in the aposolic succession from Freud to the present day. Whenever colleagues trained in America’s mistaken methods look at me strangely for my way of working, then I know I made the right choice and redouble my thanks to Freud, Reik, and Antinoph.


While I make my living in my private office in midtown NYC, my commitment to training the next generation is known nationally. For nearly 30 years I have been on the faculty of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. I directed NPAP’S Theodor Reik Consultation Center and later served as the President of the NPAP Training Institute. Simultaneously I taught in the Department of Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary. While serving as the Director of the Pastoral Counseling Training Program at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, I co-designed and co- directed the Doctoral Program in Pastoral Counseling at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion. It was a lot of work but worth every minute. It’s difficult to design solid useful clinical training, compared with third-rank psychobabble that’s all around. When I was approached by International Universities Press to make solid clinical education available to a more international audience, I edited the textbook called The Guide to Pastoral Counseling and Care. It was used at Harvard until it went out of print. Every now and then someone lucky finds a copy on the Internet.

What Else?

I used to smoke cigarettes. Boy, did I smoke. I smoked 3 packs a day for over 20 years and failed at all the usual methods of quitting. Then one day I wandered into a hypnotist’s office, her name was Carolyn Smith. I left an hour later free of the urge to smoke. It was easy. It woke me up to the power of hypnosis and led me to Levels 1 and 2 certification under Steven Leeds and Rachel Hott at the NLP Center of NY. Then I studied at the Hypnotherapy Training Program of Northern California to receive certification as a Master Hypnotist. Further advanced training doesn’t follow the university model. It usually means traveling here and there to train with special teachers on special topics. I count myself fortunate to have trained and consulted with the late Ormond McGill, possibly the most famous hypnotist in America. I have specialized in topics like smoking cessation, alcoholism, weight loss, fear of flying, insomnia, nail biting, headaches and pain management. Mentors along this path include Marleen Mulder, Gerry Kein, and Don Mottin, names well- known to anyone familiar with contemporary hypnosis in America.

+Gary Ahlskog