Dr. Arlene “Lu” Steinberg on Her Service to the Profession

Arlene SteinbergOn Thursday, March 28, 2019, 160 alumni, faculty and friends of Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology came together to honor Dr. Arlene “Lu” Steinberg for her contributions to both the profession and the school at the annual Distinguished Alumni Event, which took place at Lincoln Square Synagogue.

In Dr. Steinberg’s keynote address, “More than Meets the Eye: Progress in the Trauma Field as Reflected in a Personal/Professional Journey,” she covered her trajectory as the child of Holocaust survivors with a unique perspective on trauma to a successful psychologist/psychoanalyst and expert in the trauma field. She dedicated the lecture to her parents, Milton and Lillie Steinberg. (Lillie passed away in 2018, and Milton died in January 2021.)

In July 2019, Dr. Arlene “Lu”  Steinberg ’86F took over the chairmanship of the Ferkauf Board of Overseers from Dr. Carol Bravmann, who had served as chair for ten years.

In addition to her successful private practice and her chairmanship of the Board, Dr. Steinberg serves as an adjunct professor and supervisor at the school, where she oversees students in the child clinical program. She also teaches in the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS)-Ferkauf pastoral counseling program, a joint initiative designed for RIETS students who plan to pursue a career in Jewish communal work, and is an educational consultant at Mount Sinai Hospital supervising psychiatry residents.

YU News had a chance speak with Dr. Steinberg about her recent re-election to the Council of Representatives for the America Psychological Association (APA).


Congratulations on your recent re-election. Why is this an important role for you to play?

The APA Council consists of representatives from all 56 divisions of APA as well as state psychological associations. The Council is the national legislative body of APA, reviewing and setting psychological policy not only for the organization but for the profession (sort-of the Congress for psychology).

I am one of the representatives for the psychoanalytic division, one of APA’s largest divisions. We not only deliberate regarding issues pertaining to the practice of psychology, including practice guidelines, but also regarding policies of the organization, which include position and policy statements used in governmental advocacy. These include, most recently, statements on immigration, racism and hate (on the roster for the upcoming meeting), the impact of media violence on children and many other areas. It’s has been a huge privilege to serve in this role.

 

How does your work with the APA intersect with your work at Ferkauf?

My service as council representative (and former treasurer of the psychoanalytic division) has been incredibly helpful as both a Ferkauf board member and board chair since it keeps me abreast of issues and concerns in the field as well as new developments, which I can then share with the Dean “hot off the press,” so to speak.

In addition, it has made me further value the incredible education and training our Ferkauf students receive. Our programs, by offering both psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral training, provide students with training that is both very enriching and uncommon among many similar programs.

In addition, through my national involvement, I have increased awareness of the wonderful reputation of the Ferkauf graduate program throughout the country.

 

COVID-19 clearly has the world in its grip at the moment. What would you say is the greatest challenge the virus presents to organizations like the APA and schools like Ferkauf?

I wouldn’t use the singular word “challenge”—definitely “challenges.”

 

What would be first for you?

Families are undergoing greater stress since the beginning of the pandemic; this has affected the lives of our patients, students and educators . We are all experiencing shared trauma, and yet as psychologists or psychologists-in-training, we have needed to be there for our patients, helping them navigate the increased stresses and the many losses in their lives, even as we experience our own.

This past month my father (Milton Steinberg z”l) passed away from COVID-19. I experienced firsthand a different kind of loss and mourning (who would have ever imagined a year ago such a thing as “Zoom shiva”?) than I experienced three years prior when my mother passed.

This informs my understanding and work with so many patients who, too, have experienced loss during this time. I know I’m not the only one. So many Ferkauf faculty and students are also parents trying to navigate home schooling or taking care of their young children while simultaneously fulfilling all of their academic duties. This has presented new challenges for them personally and professionally.

 

Another challenge?

One of the other concrete challenges for both graduate training and the APA more generally has been the move to remote platforms, for training, treatment and organizational gatherings, including meetings and conventions.

On a positive note, we have all been so surprised at the speed with which educators, psychologists and students have not only adjusted but in some ways been more productive. Our patients, too. have for the most part adjusted. For example, the other night I taught a pastoral counseling class to 12 rabbinic students in the joint Ferkauf RIETS pastoral counseling program while simultaneously running an APA divisions for social justice meeting.

Truth be told, there were guest lecturers, and I only joined at the beginning and end of the pastoral counseling class. But being able to connect simultaneously on an iPad and laptop enabled this feat, which would have been impossible in a non-virtual real life format.

Given the increased move to virtual, much legislative advocacy work within APA has been geared to enabling this transition. While we all look forward to the days when we can meet our patients, students and colleagues in person, some of these changes are here to stay, such as telehealth and remote instruction that enables those who are homebound to receive care as well as expanding the geographic boundaries of teaching and healing.

 

Any final words?

Ferkauf is an amazing school that really rose to the challenge during a most challenging time. As both a parent (my daughter is now in her fourth year at Ferkauf) and a supervisor in the program, I’ve had the opportunity to witness this “up close and personal.” This is a tribute to the students’ flexibility, the dedication of Ferkauf faculty and program directors, and our wonderful new dean, Dr. Leslie Halpern, who recently joined our Ferkauf family.