In 1972, seismic changes were underway in the mental health field. More and more women, once the primary recipients of psychiatric care, have become practicing women. Masters & Johnson’s groundbreaking work on human sexuality opened up the fledgling field of sex therapy. Community mental health programs began and traditional therapies were challenged in favor of more egalitarian approaches. In Berkeley, too, the free speech movement had an impact, inspiring people to discover their own authority and voice, not only politically but psychologically as well.
In such a dynamic environment, two Berkeley institutions were formed: the Berkeley Therapy Institute and the Psychotherapy Institute. Both are now celebrating 50 years in the field of providing mental health services to the public and continuing education and study for practitioners.
The Berkeley Therapy Institute
The Berkeley Therapy Institute was founded by psychiatrist Charlie Pollack, clinical psychologists Danny and Hilary Goldstine, and social worker Shirley Zuckerman, who had worked at a Contra Costa mental health program in Martinez. While they were there, a research project Danny Goldstine was working on lost its funding, which became a motivation to start his own nonprofit institute that was not dependent on state and federal funding.
“We wanted it to be more under our control, more flexible, and more in tune with what was going on at the time, which was a departure from institutionalizing, breaking norms and doing things differently,” Pollack said. “We wanted to have more control over our future.”
BTI is made up of “psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and marriage and family therapists who work with psychiatric groups and psychological therapy groups,” said executive director Joe Chernick. “We help people both medically and psychologically, which is very unusual.”
BTI is known for its pioneering work in sex therapy and forensic assessments of cults and brainwashing, based on the work of the late forensic psychologist Margaret Singer, a BTI training director. Singer is best known for judging Patty Hearst and Charles Manson. Her expertise was also in demand after the 1978 mass suicides of the People’s Temple in Guyana, the forced conversion of young people to the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, which had branches in Berkeley and elsewhere in the Bay Area in the 1980s, and the Davidian and Heaven’s Gate cult deaths in the 1990s. But it was Singer’s work on schizophrenia and sufferers’ distinctive disordered speech patterns that led to her being twice nominated for a Nobel Prize.
Initially operating in a former residence at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Delaware Street, the institute now occupies three buildings on that corner. About 100,000 customers have walked through its doors throughout its history.
Berkeley Therapy Institute, 1748, 1749 and 1801 Martin Luther King Jr Way. Hours: Daily, 8:30am-5:30pm 510-841-8484.
The Institute for Psychotherapy
The idea for the Psychotherapy Institute came about in 1970 when seven women—six UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare graduates and their Berkeley Mental Health supervisor—began discussing the idea of a public clinic and interdisciplinary center for continuing education.
“We were founded in response to the climate of the time that said only people qualified in mental health were psychiatrists,” said K. Sue Duncan, executive director of the Psychotherapy Institute and a licensed marriage and family therapist. “They resisted the traditional hierarchies.”
At later meetings, including one in a Kensington living room, the women set the framework for the organization. One of its hallmarks was that TPI is non-hierarchical and that major decisions are made by consensus.
When it opened in a space rented from the Children’s Home Society on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, TPA described itself as a clinic “for the practice of group, individual, family, community and child therapy.” TPI is a low-to-mid fee clinic that ranges from $30 to $150 per hour.
“We are committed to keeping our prices low to help a population that otherwise could not afford therapy,” Duncan said.
The institute does this by having postgraduate clinicians offer therapies in exchange for training in psychodynamic psychotherapy, an in-depth technique popular in the 1970s that requires a commitment of a year or more. The Institute has only three paid employees.
For psychotherapists, the Institute is also a membership-based organization for continuing education.
TPI now operates from a six sided building on Carleton Street which it purchased in 1994. From 2000 to 2020, the Institute trained 175 clinicians and has approximately 300 Bay Area therapists. The institute registers between 6,000 and 7,000 customer hours per year.
The Institute of Psychotherapy, 2232 Carleton St., Berkeley. phone: 510-548-2250. Opening times: by appointment only. Connect via Facebook.