Letters to the Editor

Dr. Smaller has had numerous letters to the editor published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times and Saugatuck-Douglas Local Observer.

Here is a sample of letters:

Is Quick Therapy the Best Therapy?

Published: April 23, 2012, NYT

To the Editor:

Like Jonathan Alpert, I am sometimes active with patients, give advice and share an opinion if it moves patients forward in their lives and through difficulties with symptoms, relationships, family and work. But such techniques depend on careful understanding of the person: what brings him or her for help, and how the past — childhood experiences — might or might not be a part of what is creating problems in the present.

The unconscious is timeless, and the past remains very much alive in the present for better or worse. Because it affects the therapeutic relationship, it’s essential to understand.

Could my patients and I do this work in 1 session or 10? Maybe. But when considering a person’s life, history, goals, values and current or past trauma, I proceed carefully. The stakes of another human being’s life are just too high.

Chicago, April 22, 2012

The writer is president-elect of the American Psychoanalytic Association.


LETTERS to the ediotor, New York Times

Corporate Influences on Children

Published: August 25, 2011

To the Editor:

As a father of six and a psychoanalyst, I share Joel Bakan’s concern about protecting our children from being “targets” of corporate interests. When it comes to healthy minds, diets, educations and souls, children are historically last on societies’ list of priorities. Add that to the impossible profession of parenting these days, and things look bleak.

Having returned from a driving and camping vacation with my younger children, a 10-year-old and 6-year-old twins, I was reminded of one powerful antidote to the poisons of our modern world. We did a lot of talking — in the car, around a campfire, hiking and staring at stars in the magnificent Michigan sky.

As an analyst, I should know that talking protects and connects us in meaningful ways. But even I forget that this might be the most powerful tool to help our children grow in healthy ways.

Chicago, Aug. 22, 2011
View online in NYT


Should Schools Police Cyberbullying?

Published: July 2, 2010

7/2/10 NYT

To the Editor:

What we have learned in our psychoanalytic treatment and research program is that school often becomes the only reliable place where our plague of bullying can be solved. More often than not the bully at school, either in person or online, is being bullied, abused or seriously neglected at home or on the street.

The bullying behavior has meaning, and is often an indirect communication that the student is trying to make others feel the way that he or she is feeling. Passive witnesses to such behavior — other students, teachers or parents — who do nothing are co-conspirators in the bullying behavior.

Whether anything can be done by the school legally is not as important as the school’s addressing the issue with students — the bully and the victim — and parents immediately as a significant first step.

Mark D. Smaller
Chicago, June 28, 2010

The writer, a psychoanalyst, is founding director of the Analytic Service to Adolescents Program, Morton Alternative School.


Published in NYT letters, 11/19/09:

Recession Exacts an Emotional Toll on Children

To the Editor:
Re “Job Woes Exacting a Heavy Toll on Family Life” (front page, Nov. 12):

As an adult and child psychoanalyst, I was relieved to finally see an article about the recession’s impact on children. I see this impact daily in my office.

In addition, in the Analytic Service to Adolescents Program, a psychoanalytic treatment and research project at an alternative high school near Chicago, of which I am founding director, we have witnessed an increase in depression and aggression in our students. We believe that it is related to the higher levels of unemployment in the neighborhood.

Our treatment gives voice to students’ difficulties at home related to parents who have lost their jobs. We also work with parents, encouraging them to speak about their children’s concerns, interfering with the fantasy that this crisis is “all my fault.”
Defusing that concern reduces levels of depression and stress while increasing a connection to parents, facilitating learning and graduating from high school.
Your article finally gives our kids yet another voice for their concerns.

Thank you. Mark D. Smaller
Chicago, Nov. 12, 2009

The Impossible Profession

Published: May 19, 2009
To the Editor:

Re ”Mayor as Nervous Father: ‘You Just Hold Your Breath’ ” (news
article, May 11):

I thought that having three daughters allowed me to dodge the bullet
regarding whether or not to let a son play high school tackle
football. My plan was spoiled when one of my daughters began riding
when she was 9, and was jumping soon after.

At 25 she is still riding and teaching riding. Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg was playing down concern when he said, ”It is worrisome.”

Watching your child go over a five-foot jump sitting on top of a
thousand-pound trained animal makes our respective professions look
easy. I believe the mayor would agree that parenting is one of those
impossible professions like, in Sigmund Freud’s view, politics and

Now I have three more children, one of whom is a son. I’m in big trouble!

Mark D. Smaller

Chicago, May 11, 2009

The writer is a psychoanalyst.

Time to Do Your Homework, Dad
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2002

To the Editor:

Re ”Am I Dad, or a Tutor?,” by William Sorensen (Op-Ed, Sept. 19):

The complaint about the ”tyranny of parental involvement” in
schoolwork echoes a concern of many parents of my child patients —
they also feel overwhelmed by schools’ demands of their children.

However, parents need to balance their own anxiety about the
”success” of their children and keep it from fueling their
children’s anxiety. The child’s use of working with parents is often a
means to ”connect” with us each evening.

I must admit that when my oldest daughter faxed me her first law
school paper, I knew I had to draw the line!


Wine Appreciation, Really
Published: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

Re ”10 Years Past Apartheid, Wine Industry Thrives” (May 12): I
always serve South African wine, not only because it is excellent (I
especially love pinotage), but as a symbol of change that has occurred
in my South African wife’s beloved country. That change emerged
because of two ideas of Nelson Mandela’s: that a terrible wrong could
never be righted by another wrong; and that truth and reconciliation
were essential to move forward. South Africans deserve our toasting
them with their best wine for what they’ve accomplished in only 10
years. We in the United States have much to learn from them.



Chicago, Sept. 19, 2002

The writer is a psychoanalyst.

Lessons From a ‘Good’ Death
Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2002

To the Editor:

Re ”In the Death of a Doctor, a Lesson” (July 23): Having cared for
my terminally ill wife for 10 months taught me similar invaluable
lessons as a husband, father and psychoanalyst.

A ”good” death means remaining connected to others and to one’s work
up to the last moments and celebrating the dying person’s humanity and
life. Those surviving also become more human, amid sadness and loss.

”Tragic” deaths involve isolation — the lack of acknowledgment of
the illness, a turning away by friends and colleagues, and the
inevitable loss of humanity.

The last days of my wife’s life involved family (all three of our
daughters) and friends at the hospice, having time alone with her,
saying goodbye or whatever needed to be said.

We learned that such a connection allowed her to live on more fully in
our lives. That was the most important lesson.



For the Young, Scars of Sept. 11
Published: Monday, May 6, 2002

To the Editor:

Re ”Post-9/11 Pain Found to Linger in Young Minds” (front page, May 2):

I have adult and child patients who still refuse to fly and have
nightmares and anxiety related to Sept. 11 — and that is with
continuing psychotherapy or analysis. It is unfortunate and
shortsighted that health care insurers imagine that such symptoms can
be resolved in 5 or 10 visits.

Incomplete therapeutic work on symptoms related to childhood trauma
creates longstanding problems in learning, relationships and work.
Today’s traumatized child is tomorrow’s depressed, phobic or isolated


Chicago, May 2, 2002

The writer is co-chairman, Committee on Public Information, American
Psychoanalytic Association.

To Douse the Fire in the Mind
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2001

To the Editor:

Re ”Parity for Mental Health” (editorial, Dec. 10):

Our political leaders can acknowledge the impact of trauma and its
depressive and overwhelming effect on all of us since Sept. 11. Have
we resolved that trauma in 10 sessions, as insurance companies often
demand? The psychology, even amid biological factors, of depression
and other mental disorders always involves the working through of
childhood traumatic events, or chronic helplessness from unresponsive
caretaking environments.

That demands time, compassion and financial support to which all are
entitled, and listening by our political leaders.


Chicago, Dec. 10, 2001

The writer is a faculty member, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Let’s Turn Off the TV and Talk
Published: Saturday, August 7, 1999

To the Editor:

Re ”Pediatricians Suggest Limits on TV Viewing by Children” (front
page, Aug. 4): Children under 2 years old are not the only ones to
need ”close-up interaction” with parents and other caregivers for
healthy brain growth. Children of all ages, especially adolescents,
have the same need to insure emotional growth and development.

As a parent and a psychoanalyst, I am often amazed at how difficult it
is for us to sit down and have meaningful and honest conversations
with our children. Television is but one means to protect ourselves
from the discomfort that such conversations may create. Parents and
children feeling isolated from each other can have serious
consequences later on. We do our children a disservice if we don’t
figure out what makes us so afraid of those close-up interactions.


Chicago, Aug. 4, 1999

Showtime’ Isn’t Sport; Cagers on the Couch
Published: Tuesday, May 5, 1998

To the Editor:

Re ”Suspensions, Again, Hit Knicks and Heat after N.B.A. Melee”
(front page, May 2): Athletic competition may be the sublimation of
aggressive impulses, but psychological injuries to the self create the
kind of rage that even the most violent of sports cannot transform.

To become a psychoanalyst, one is required to go through a personal
analysis so that one’s personal difficulties or limitations do not
interfere with providing the best therapeutic work.

I wonder why such a requirement is not made of athletes who cannot
control their aggression.

When children behave this way, it is often a cry for help. Fines and
suspensions do nothing to curb such behavior. They barely touch the
symptom. Only through some arduous, sometimes lengthy and painful
process of sorting out the past can one hope to create new aspects of
the self that create productive lives and behavior.


Chicago, May 2, 1998

The writer is a psychoanalyst, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

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