We’re closing in on a relationship of some thirty years. In those three decades, Rick has touched just about every aspect of my life — personal and professional. Our relationship has seen us both weather the trials of institutional employment, skating painfully close to the downsizing blade — remembered cryptically as ‘the day they called a Code Fuchsia’. In the days of doubt and disorganization that followed, Rick Graff and Associates was hatched — at the time numbering Rick Graff and one associate — me.
Obviously things have changed greatly since 1991. Tenants, residential and professional have come and gone — or stayed, as some of the faces in the room bear witness. Five years in saw the need to expand three offices to six. And ultimately, making the leap across the driveway — and some very stubborn, concrete barrier blocks — to add 157 to the ‘association’.
But the constant has been Rick. His therapeutic interests and style, unconventional by those of Ontario’s somewhat rigid and mechanistic psychological community, have remained steadfast — and served to inform and shape my own approach for the last three decades. The opportunity to explore Gestalt, men’s psychology, Human Potential, meditation, and body work, largely thru’ the unpredictable and fluid paths of extended residential retreats — legacies from Rick’s time in California and Florida — became figural, annual rites that have served to balance and ground ever since. This stodgy, Ontario-educated behaviourist was gently invited ‘out of his head’ and into the lower centres of heart and belly, moving from content to process. His mentor became mine — and I’m all the better for it.
Road trips to the psychological edge, geographically and experientially, were chances to share and explore — the most unusual of ‘business meetings’ and a far cry from the dry routine of the institutional practices where we’d met. South Beach, the mountains above Mendocino, Big Sur, and regular pilgrimages to the ‘heart land’ of Kansas, improbable venues for ‘the education of David’, supplemented and, truth be told, supplanted the stuffy tedium of ‘team meetings’ on W2S; personal growth in place of CQI — ‘continuous quality improvement’.
Our shared teacher and go-to guru, John Heider, would invite us to ‘speak our truth — or as much of it as we could comfortably share’ — and then open the group floor. Co-participants could be counted on to be an eclectic mix of seasoned ‘vets’ from hippy dentists to postal clerks; ‘newbies’ with the terrified, deer-in-the-headlights look that I’m sure described me in those early days; and all stripes in between. Many of whom would become lifelong friends — all on a shared journey. John’s ‘Church of the Seven C’s’ and his Sunday morning ‘homily’ would indelibly connect Taoist wisdom to that of it’s much younger cousin. Beyond all was the privilege of watching Rick ‘do his work’, as he stepped out of the professional self and willingly enter the ambiguous world of his own struggles — a model that more than once has set me back on a path from which I’d wandered.
Testament to the substance that must have formed the core of RGA is it’s 25 year presence. In a profession that sees practices and practitioners come and go, the psychological equivalent of ‘two guys pumping gas’ has endured, attracting, absent any initiative or agenda, a broad-based, loyal, and sizeable cast — without a hint of hubris, the ‘bar to be at’ for private practice treatment in Stratford.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, in ‘A Late Quartet’, refers to the subtle relationship between first and second violin — exploring the dynamics and dialogue that flow, unheard, behind and below the music itself. First chair typically plays the defining melody, the uppermost ‘line’ in the score; and is the last musician to take the stage before a performance. Second violin adds colour, texture, transitions — supporting harmonically and rhythmically. Without both — there’s no quartet.
Such is the relationship that has defined and sustained this partnership, this friendship of a quarter century. It’s been quite the trip!