Retreat Reunion Held on April 28, 2012
Marina Nikhinson, MD
On April 28th, The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt held a reunion event for our alumni residents. The event was particularly special to us this year, as we proudly mark 10 years of patient care on The Retreat. The reunion was an all day event held at the Conference Center and was well attended by many of our alumni, some having been with us several years back and others having left us very recently.
As the staff and alumni came together for a day of heartfelt reunions and reflection on past experiences at The Retreat, we were also excited to share with our alumni and their families our plans for expanding the range of clinical services. In May we opened Ruxton House, a step down residential program focused on rehabilitation and helping patients develop a balance of continued treatment and building a life worth living beyond treatment. We were pleased to offer reunion attendees the opportunity to tour the house (located in a nearby neighborhood) prior to its opening and described firsthand services to be offered through this program. As an organization, we are extremely proud of our continued efforts to provide innovative state-of-the-art care. This most recent project is spearheaded by Dr. Tom Franklin, who spoke at the reunion about The Retreat’s ongoing development of a continuum of services.
The reunion program also included talks by many of our staff, including updates on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) treatment at The Retreat by Dr. Maria Mouratidis and cutting edge developments in diagnosis and treatment of depression by Dr. Scott Aaronson, including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Dr. Miles Quaytman and art therapist Christy Bergland led an important and personal discussion about the role of the holding environment in psychotherapeutic treatment. Family therapists Holly Slapinski and Janet Leibowitz offered valuable insight into family function with the help of a former resident who bravely offered her family dynamic as an example for a family sculpting exercise. Everyone in attendance had the opportunity to catch up and share memories over lunch.
The leadership of The Retreat spoke about what these past 10 years have meant to patient care at Sheppard Pratt. CEO of Sheppard Pratt Dr. Steve Sharfstein reviewed the role of The Retreat in the greater Sheppard Pratt Health System, including its innovative integration of pharmacotherapy, DBT, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and Eastern approaches to mindfulness. The Retreat brings people from all over the country to get help they haven’t been able to get elsewhere. Our medical director, Dr. Don Ross, shared his personal thoughts on the important work we do at The Retreat. He reflected: “When you see the impact of untreated mental illness and addiction on the life of a person and a family, you never forget it. Helping these individuals and their families heal is a cause that is worth dedicating one’s life to. The Retreat provides an opportunity to help folks heal that is unmatched anywhere in this country, and we have a staff that has dedicated itself to this cause and live out their dedication every day.”
As has become the reunion tradition, the day concluded with wellness coordinator Heidi Waltos giving a voice to many former residents who did not have the opportunity to attend the reunion by sharing some of their testimonials. Several of our alumni in attendance spoke in front of the group about what The Retreat has meant to them. Their reflections were incredibly personal and touching. They expressed their gratitude for the learning and growth they’ve experienced in their treatment; we, the staff, were very grateful to them for their strength and courage as they embarked on and shared their journey with us.
One former resident of The Retreat wrote Dr. Ross a letter the week following the reunion. In it, she said: “As someone who had isolated for so long, resisted opening up to people, got so wrapped up in my own head that I couldn’t recognize other people’s struggles and allowed so many friendships to dissolve, I cherish the people I met at the Retreat. Just interacting with them was enlightening. I instinctively felt compassion towards everyone and eventually recognized it was mutual and I was worthy of that compassion. . . . The camaraderie was undeniable. . . . The fact that we were able to share our deepest, darkest secrets one minute and laugh the next was immeasurable. . . . Thank you for guiding me through this phase of my life and helping me see it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been.”
For all of us who work at The Retreat, this reunion reminded us that it is a great honor and privilege to be part of people’s lives in such an intimate and meaningful way. Our alumni reunions allow us the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate this role in many ways and to feel more connected as The Retreat family.