Human being, seeker, explorer
It all began in nursery school. It was an unusual place. Normal kids were mixed with other kids who had emotional, mental and physical challenges. Eric was one of the so-called “normal” kids. He loved it there. It was a warm, loving, creative place. Then tragedy fell. He went to a normal kindergarten. All white and all normal. He was never comfortable there. It seemed alien to him. It lacked color, texture and depth. It was a sanitized version of reality that felt very unreal. It would not be until he was 16 that this would change.
He had been a second generation martial arts student and had become a student of tai chi. His tai chi teacher had lung cancer and passed away. He was heartbroken. He was living in upstate New York and was walking home in a very secluded area. It was pitch black at the time. You could touch the stars it was so clear and the air was so fresh. He was surrounded by nature, listening to Pachelbel’s Cannon in D on his favorite device, a Sony Walkman (remember those?). As he looked up at the sky, he no longer existed. All at once, he was the sky, the stars, the trees, the music and tears rolled down his face. In that moment, all was right with the universe. In that moment, all conditioning fell away, but this experience would not integrate itself until many, many years later.
He continued his martial arts practices and attempted his work in school. School was very difficult for him as a consequence of some severe learning disabilities. Public school just didn’t make sense to him. It was even more conditioning and despite this, he somehow muddled through. He was teaching tai chi but did not consider it as a way to make a living and had only a vague idea about being of service. But then a calling emerged.
It was the height of the AIDS crisis here in New York. He felt a deep calling to do something but was unclear as to what. Finally, opportunities presented themselves. There were two clear contexts that showed up. One was ACT UP, a political organization, marshaling anger for social change, and the other was the Manhattan Center for living (MCFL). Marianne Williamson, Cynthia O’Neal and Mike Nichols started the MCFL. It was a space for emotional and spiritual support for life threatening illness, grief and loss. It was a place of light during a very dark time.
Without any education, fortified by his own spiritual experience and exploration of East Asian philosophy and psychology, Eric volunteered. He was made a crisis counselor and then, within two months, Kay Prothro, the clinical director, made him the assistant clinical director. While his background proved quite adequate, he believed that he needed a more formal or informal education.
His ideal school experience did not exist at that time. Interdisciplinary studies were only a thought in the university context. He studied pastoral counseling and concurrently joined the New York Institute of Gestalt Therapy. It was a group of therapists whose backgrounds were far from what would be traditionally expected in a psycho-therapeutic institute. Some were actors, singers, performers, and scholars in other disciplines and there were some psychologists as well. Gestalt Theory dovetailed beautifully with Eastern perspectives in many ways and he had found a home. Here he would study with Fellows of the Institute. That would be the beginning of more formal training and it would evolve from there, eventually taking him away from the Gestalt Institute to seek other perspectives (see CV below).
All would not remain well at the Manhattan Center for Living. Everyone was fired! He was devastated. He had worked so hard and created so much in the clinical program there. While he had a small private practice, he still felt this deep call and was grieving the loss of this context.
During that year, away from the Manhattan Center for Living, Cy and Mike (Nichols) would open Friends In Deed. It was a beautiful and welcoming place. They contacted Eric and asked him to be the clinical director. Of course he said yes. He would remain there for the next 18 years.
The evolution of personal and professional identity
Eric has explored, examined, studied and still continues to do so, most of the major therapeutic schools/modalities, theories and perspectives. He is a life long learner. His ex-partner once remarked, you love school don’t you? His reply, “I love learning, sometimes school and learning are aligned!” He studied with some of the most incredible therapeutic minds of our time (see CV below) and was always interested in how to make the therapeutic process as short and as effective as possible. He has been loyal to his curiosity and interest.
A focus on relationships
As his private practiced flourished and time went on, cultural changes were taking place. Medications for HIV and AIDS were becoming more effective and people began living out their life expectancies. He found that more and more people came to see him about relationship issues. They struggled with all sorts of issues; some struggled sexually, some struggled with intimacy and some with both. The common denominator was some kind of struggle, frustration and/or disappointment. Another issue was also emergent. More and more, single people were struggling to find someone that they could have a relationship with. Technology would play a role in changing the New York City gayborhoods and making sexual contacts more accessible. Even his own 17-year relationship was impacted by this and ended as a consequence of the cultural shifts that were taking place. These cultural shifts and their greater visibility would also impact the way relationships were transforming and continue to do so, impacting everyone, not just gay people.
Back to school
New York State laws changed and he wanted to keep doing his work. Coaching was in its infancy and really did not have the gravitas or perspectives that therapy and counseling have. Even in our current times, anyone can become a coach and sell their services without any professional body regulating them.
So Eric went back to school. This would be an incredible healing experience for him. He entered graduate school again for the second time at the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of the oldest grad students in the mental health-counseling program. They were concerned about what they could offer him because of his existing background. What he got was his first school experience that would heal a great deal of school anxiety as a consequence of going to school with some serious learning disabilities. It would be here that he would meet some of the most supportive and encouraging professors he had ever encountered. This would spur him on to pursue a Ph.D. in human sexuality.
What are you going to study?
His mother asked him, “What are you going to study?” “Human sexuality,” he replied. And she said, “Why are you doing that?”
Traditionally, the focus of couples work is on emotional intimacy and sex therapy was held separately and focused on dysfunction. But this did not really make sense. The world of sexuality is quite deep and includes various forms of relationships and relating. Eric wanted a context and container for his thinking. He wanted access to more than just the clinical box. He started at Widener University but found that it was not a good fit and learned that the California Institute of Integral Studies was starting a program. He was/is a member of the inaugural cohort and is currently a Ph.D. candidate, working on his dissertation.
There he would have access to cultural anthropologists, linguistic anthropologists and a wide variety of other disciplines to expand his view and deepen his perspective. These perspectives fed and broadened his own which helped him evolve in his work.
Sex, love and gender
At first Eric’s focus was on the love lives of gay men. This evolved as he examined gay men in the context of the ever-changing landscape of the socialization of men in our culture in general. This expanded his work and expanded his focus on men (regardless of their sexual orientation or identity) and their relationships. He also found that therapists often had their own bias when it came to men and women. Often therapists would view men as the “problem” to be solved or fixed in these relationships. This frequently made therapy for men a space that would perpetuate the inadequacy that men repeatedly experience in their relationships making therapy, or any kind of help, something to be avoided. This has led Eric to really work towards making therapy and the helping context more men/man/male friendly.
The current incarnation
As Eric evolves, so does the work. This includes his own personal life as well. You see, over the past 6 years, Eric has experienced what would be considered a great deal of personal loss; His mother’s decline and eventual passing, the passing of three very close friends and a fourth who committed suicide, the passing of two of his main mentors, he changed graduate schools, found out he had cancer, moved his home and his office and the ending of a 17-year relationship.
With all of these changes and losses, he realized that there was something unchanging and unaffected by the transforming landscape of his life. This realization mirrored his early awakening. This has also impacted his perspective on his meeting with clients and helping them realize and recognize that which is unchanging in their lives. This ground of being is an essential feature of his work.
Work is a funny word because he would never describe it as such. He views his encounters with clients as incredible, privileged, sacred time spent with his brothers and sisters. His main concern is supporting an exploration and inquiry into what is. He honors the true nature of being while helping people discover ways of navigating and negotiating relative reality in a way that decreases suffering. Of course the story continues, but this seems like enough for right now.
To schedule an appointment with Eric, click here.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor: New York State
Teaching Positions Held
Pre and Post Doctoral Studies
Professional Affiliations, Fellowships Memberships and Certifications