If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.
At the annual ICSA conference held this past July in Montreal, Steve K. D. Eichel, PhD, ABPP, was named the new president of ICSA. In spite of his normally busy schedule and new responsibilities as president, Dr. Eichel graciously made himself available for interview. And in spite of what must be a very intense period for him, he gave his full attention to the conversation and follow-up emails.
Dr. Eichel earned both his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. His doctoral dissertation was translated into several languages; and it is in recognition of this work that he was, in 1990, a corecipient of the John G. Clark Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Cultic Studies.
In 1983, together with Roberta Eisenberg and Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall, he founded RETIRN (Re-Entry Therapy, Information and Referral Network). RETIRN is one of the oldest continuing private providers of psychological services to families and individuals harmed by cultic situations. It has offices in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and England.
In addition to his private practice, Dr. Eichel, a licensed and board-certified counseling psychologist, offers his services as comoderator of the Philadelphia ICSA meeting each month and is involved with a number of other professional associations. He is a past president of the American Academy of Counseling Psychology and the Greater Philadelphia Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
Charming and forthcoming, he spoke with deep feeling, in a voice that can only be described as mellifluous. He commented about the important women in his life in a way that would thrill the heart of Gloria Steinem, and about subjects from his childhood, to his “gut-level dislike for totalism,” to his love for his pets Bud and Zoe, now both deceased. Here is a bit of what he had to say concerning his family:
I am married to Terri Cheek, a brilliant and fascinating woman who keeps me on my toes (and humble). She is one of the most caring and loving people I have ever been honored to meet… I have one biological daughter, Dr. Jennifer Dubrow, who is married to Dr. Jameel Ahmad. I also have two stepsons, Nathan and Tristan. My parents, both survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, are deceased. My legacy as a child of Holocaust survivors greatly influenced my involvement in the field of cultic studies.
…his hobbies: “I spend my leisure time reading, trying to stay in touch with many friends and acquaintances, traveling, hiking, and watching (usually) great movies.”
…his mentor/role model: “I have had many mentors in this field. My advisor, Art Dole, was instrumental in helping me to develop my thinking about cultic relationships. However, my former and current clients have taught me more than anyone else.”
…Mrs. Lorna Goldberg, the outgoing president of ICSA: “She was a marvelous president, and I will rely on her counsel quite extensively… Lorna brought a level of trust and class that is going to be difficult to match, let alone exceed… She is a deeply empathic and sincere person.”
…those who have left a cultic situation: “My best advice … is to find a few deeply understanding and nonjudgmental people and connect, connect, connect. Isolation is the enemy; connection is the solution.”
…his hopes for ICSA:
I think research [should continue to be] a strong priority, and it is vital to continue support of a range of recovery groups and people who are working in the field. I would like to see better communication between people in ICSA with competing viewpoints … continuing dialogue, appreciation and respect for differences.
…and finally, one of his favorite quotations: “Less judgment, more curiosity.”