The Child Development Program: Honoring Era A. Loewenstein, PhD
by Catherine Mallouh, MD
Era A. Loewenstein PhD stepped down in March, 2014 from her role as co-chair of the Child Development Program (CDP) after serving as a chair and then as co-chair for 2½ years with Greg Villalba, LCSW Era also stepped down from co-chairing the Preschool Consultation Project (PCP), which she found, chaired and later co-chaired for the past 10 years. The Preschool Consultation Project was conceived by Era Loewenstein with Leslie Banta, the director of the Eureka Learning Center Preschool, in 2004. This year marks Era’s 15 years involvement as a member of the CDP serving in numerous roles including co-chair of the child psychotherapy seminar for two years.
First, a brief history of the CDP of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis: The CDP was founded about 22 years ago by Shahla Chehrazi MD and Phyllis Cath MD They began with consultation to preschools in the area. Over the years, they have provided a wide array of programs and services, drawing upon their psychoanalytic expertise in working with children, including an accredited class for early childhood educators, workshops for educators and preschool consultation.
Dr. Chehrazi and the CDP were awarded a million dollar grant from the Haas foundation to develop a therapeutic preschool at the Burnett Child Development Center in Bayview/Hunter’s Point. Dr. Chehrazi oversaw the services, including training and development for staff as well as treatment for children from 1994 to 1999. This grant and program led to the founding of the Early Childhood Mental Health Program, led from 1999 to 2010 by L. Eileen Keller, PhD.
Dr. Loewenstein and Dr. Cath organized workshops for preschool directors beginning in 2007 as part of the Preschool Consultation Project. At that time Era won three grants from the American Psychoanalytic Foundation to support the pre-school work that she did with Marilyn Gradeck. Dr. Loewenstein also received yearly grants since 2003 from The Sophia Mirviss Memorial Fund to develop workshops for early childhood educators and psychoanalytically oriented consultants. Under the Sophia Mirviss Fund, Drs. Cath and Loewenstein offered three to five workshops a year to the directors of the preschools who were part of their ongoing group. The workshops addressed issues of separation and emotional growth in the young and demonstrated collaboration between early childhood educators and psychotherapists.
During the same time Dr. Loewenstein began to train psychoanalytically oriented preschool consultants in a two-year program. In 2009, Era began offering a monthly consultation group for CDP consultants, psychoanalysts and other mental health professionals who wanted to become preschool consultants. They work in a model of monthly case presentations and discussion of issues that arise in preschool consultations.
The CDP has also organized conferences, which have included Anne Alvarez and Peter Fonagy as speakers. It also sponsored a joint event with the child colloquium in February of this year with David Rosenfeld.
Era Loewenstein has been instrumental in planning six annual events for the CDP. They have covered a wide range of topics and brought important people in the field such as Jack and Kerry Novick and Alicia Lieberman. The CDP sponsored a joint program on Maurice Sendak with the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco in 2010.
On behalf of the CDP, Dr. Lowenstein received the Children and Family Community Service Award of APsaA at the winter meetings in 2008. This award was presented by Kerry Kelly Novick.
Dr. Loewenstein will now focus on developing, with the members of Reflective Parenting Pilot Study Group (RPPG), Reflective Parenting Groups for parents of young children. She has been developing the project at Children’s Council of San Francisco and at Portrero Hill Preschool in San Francisco. The goal of these groups is to increase parents’ tolerance of their own states of mind and their children’s, facilitating secure attachment, mentalization and emotional growth of families.
In recognition of all of the creative energy, work and program development she has brought to SFCP, Dr. Loewenstein will be honored at our annual business meeting on June 17. Era Loewenstein leaves a rich legacy of teaching, learning and service. She and the CDP have created a successful model of bringing psychoanalytic ideas and thinking to the wider mental health community as well as the public. SFCP and psychoanalysis have benefitted greatly from all the work of CDP members.