Profile of a Renegade
Dr. Al Shire was the first director and one of the founding members of the Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of NJ (IPPNJ), now the Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of NJ, after a merger with the Contemporary Center for Advanced Psychoanalytic Study. Dr. Shire has seen the field of psychoanalysis change from the early days when choices for studying psychotherapy included only Freud, Sullivan, Horney or Fromm. Which one he chose has yet to be determined. Dr. Shire was drawn to the field of psychoanalysis after having read Wasteland by Jo Sinclair, a story of how a psychoanalyst helped a deeply traumatized man. The depiction of psychoanalysis resonated with his desire for self-searching and the need to do something that would satisfy his need to help people. Instead of pursuing a degree in medicine, Dr. Shire took an undergraduate degree in psychology from City College in NY and went on to complete a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1953. His interest in psychoanalysis grew after having collaborated with colleagues at the Cornell University Child Development program. “The ways in which my thinking was enhanced by working with the director of the Cornell program inspired me to get more training and become a psychoanalyst.” Dr. Shire went on to post-graduate training at NYU Post-doc from 1964-1968.
Dr. Shire came to New Jersey soon after and took a position as director of the Child Guidance Clinic of Orange/Millburn. At the time NYCTP (the New York Center for Training in Psychoanalysis) had a New Jersey division that would eventually become IPPNJ. He was asked by the then-director of the New Jersey division of NYCPT, Sam Kutash, to be associate director. Soon after, Dr. Kutash died, and Dr. Shire then became director, with Peter Richman as associate director. At this point, the institute name was changed to IPPNJ, and was incorporated as a separate educational institute. Along with Peter Richmond, Joe Braun, Natalie Brown, Carol Heydt, Ruth Karr, Larry Kutash, Judith Logue, David McIsaac, Nancy McWilliams, Stan Moldowsky and Harvey Schrier he helped form the new institute, IPPNJ.
As the IPPNJ began to grow, faculty members felt increasingly restricted by the parameters of NYCTP. As a voting member of NYCTP, Dr. Shire attended board meetings, and told them that IPPNJ was contemplating leaving if certain practices didn’t change. He attended his last board meeting on a day that ended with IPPNJ leaving NYCTP, unbeknownst to its members. Herbert Strean, who had just succeeded Ruben Fine as director of NYCTP, was surprised by IPPNJ’s departure and termed Dr. Shire “the renegade.” Dr. Shire and his group of colleagues continued to develop a program that became one of the premier training institutes in New Jersey. Bringing his experiences from NYU Post-doc he remembers, “I wanted to be part of creating an institute that would encourage candidates to risk learning about themselves and others in a safe, respectful, accepting and flexible environment.”
Teaching became one of his most energizing and delightful activities. Dr. Shire liked lecturing, but mostly enjoyed the interchange of ideas with people just learning psychoanalytic theory and practice. Early on, he agreed to teach for the Graduate School of Applied Psychology at Rutgers with the stipulation that he be permitted to hold classes in his home where he could serve wine and cheese. Faculty meetings were also held in his home on Sunday mornings and that same casual, collegial spirit drew in many candidates and faculty who taught and promulgated (a word he’s never actually verbalized until this interview) psychoanalysis in their offices from Princeton to Teaneck. Outreach was a large part of Dr. Shire’s contribution to the growth of IPPNJ. He not only thought of it as a way to increase membership, but he was truly interested in knowing the experiences of candidates and faculty in an effort to respond to their changing needs.
Dr. Shire has seen the practice of psychoanalysis move from that of a one-person psychology to that of a two-person dialogue. He remembers the basic tenet of neutrality when analysts were encouraged to refrain from apologizing too soon so as to prevent a reaction such as anger from emerging in the treatment. “This too has its benefits, but it’s also important as a person to apologize if and when you make a mistake.” “In general taking a stance as another person, being less rigidly neutral in the treatment has encouraged even more transference material than remaining simply a blank screen.” As is true with almost everything in life, he wishes he knew then what he knows now, but in retrospect, he believes that what he didn’t know then was compensated for by his love and passion for the work that ultimately enabled him to help people. As for the future of psychoanalysis, Dr. Shire believes it is too valuable a resource for it to ever vanish.
Dr. Shire maintains a thriving private practice in South Orange NJ where he works with adults and couples. He continues to be an active faculty member and supervisor of CPPNJ, and of the New Jersey Couples Therapy Training Program, CPPNJ’s couples therapy training division.