News


Therapists to lose home at landmark Mental Research Institute

Palo Alto institution to become an endowment; building on the market

Tension is building between therapists and the board of directors at a world-renowned Palo Alto mental health research institution after the organization announced it will sell its building -- the home of the institution for 61 years -- and become an endowment foundation.

Mental Research Institute (MRI), located at 535-555 Middlefield Road, said in a Feb. 7 press release that it is selling its building and using the proceeds to fund the endowment because the organization has a new mission: to support advancing approaches to human problems "through innovative research, education and practice by focusing on support for organizations and individuals.

"The momentum behind mental health in the 21st century requires breakthrough thinking about how to increase systemic support and understanding of the processes that promote mental health and positive change in individuals, families and organizations," the organization stated.

With the sale of the building, which is being marketed with an asking price of $12 million, an estimated 30 psychologists and therapists who rent space will be evicted. In addition, two long-standing mental health centers at MRI -- the Brief Therapy Center and Strategic Family Therapy, which have been part of the institution for decades -- will likewise need to find new homes and obtain nonprofit status either on their own or through another organization.

The therapists and the two mental health centers were given notice last October by the MRI board of directors to leave by this coming Sept. 30, according to a letter obtained by the Weekly. But it’s likely that therapists of at least one of the affiliated centers, the Brief Therapy Center, will not go quietly.

Karin Schlanger, director of the Brief Therapy Center since 2008 and a senior research fellow starting in 1994, said that MRI has not planned to guarantee the continuance of the two centers that form its core mission, which she said the board should have done. She also questioned the board’s claim of needing to reorganize in order to fund research, since she alleges MRI did little fundraising to further research in recent years.

The institute has provided little opportunity for input from the centers, she claims. Under the board’s plan, the Brief Therapy Center will not receive any of the money from the sale. Schlanger said she has asked for some of the building sale proceeds to be shared with the Brief Therapy Center so it can operate on its own. Schlanger also wants to MRI to transfer one of its two tax IDs for its nonprofit status to the center, which would allow the center to continue to run continuously without having to go through the time and expenses of establishing a new nonprofit status.

But in a letter to Schlanger, board member Mary Ann Norfleet said the Brief Therapy Center would not automatically be supported with any funding from the sale. The foundation would utilize about 5 percent of its funds annually to issue grants to other organizations. The Brief Therapy Center could apply for those grants, Norfleet said.

Schlanger alleges the board could also have averted a shutdown of its core programs by entering into a potential agreement with Momentum for Mental Health, another Palo Alto nonprofit organization, which is looking for additional space.

Paul Taylor, retired CEO at Momentum for Mental Health, confirmed he helped write a letter to MRI inquiring about the building, but Momentum received a polite letter back that the building was only for sale at the fair-market value. Momentum cannot pay the $12 million price tag, he said.

"Obviously, it's a loss of resources. It's a huge loss for the community and more broadly for the mental health field. Not many places have this type of training and therapy," he said. Brief therapy, which seeks to help a person heal in a short span of time rather than through traditional psychotherapy, which can take years, is the perfect service for Momentum to add to its existing programs, he said.

In a Dec. 5, 2018, email, Norfleet wrote that MRI’s board voted against any kind of merger with another organization (such as Momentum). Norfleet noted in a Jan. 12, 2019, email that the board was planning to turn the organization into the MRI Foundation.

Therapist Esther Krohner said losing MRI is tragic on at least two levels. The Brief Therapy Center, where she has also trained, is "magical" for graduate students seeking a mentor. It's rare these days for young therapists to find places offering an oral tradition and apprenticeships, which add much to a therapist's development, she said.

Secondly, Krohner worked with the center to help struggling children in East Palo Alto and Redwood City, and if the center closes, those needy students would lose access to a low-cost resource, she said.

"I was able to work in multiple communities in settings with marginalized kids. We offer them support for low fees when they wouldn't have gotten therapy. From a community standpoint, it offers services for people who had no place else to go and services for people who don't speak English," she said.

More personally, she also has a private practice and rents a space once a week at MRI for $150 a month. That arrangement and low rent allowed her to grow her practice and while also being a mother of two small children.

"I'm very worried about the future. ... I'm scrambling. I recently started considering other avenues, such as virtual therapy, but that's not adequate for the patient from my perspective.” She might use a virtual setup as a transition until she can find another space, she added.

MRI has long played an important role in psychology and psychiatry and the development of both. The institute was established by a group of therapists in 1958 and conducted research and offered therapy. It also developed a large training program that has taught thousands of therapists throughout the world.It spawned more than 700 papers and books, according to the organization, particularly regarding schizophrenia and family therapy.

Its best-known contributors included psychiatrist Don D. Jackson, known for landmark research on schizophrenia; Virginia Satir, who developed the first training program for family therapy, and John Weakland, Jay Haley, Paul Watzlawick, and Richard Fisch, founders of brief therapy and family psychotherapy approaches. (Strategic family therapy focuses on the social situation or family structure rather than an individual and seeks to change behaviors holistically.)

Board members and the institute’s executive director declined multiple requests from the Weekly over the past two weeks to discuss the plans. Upon releasing the press release, Executive Director Sophie Suberville said in an email to the Weekly: "The board has just finished a very thoughtful yearlong planning process to reach these key decisions outlined in the press release. Details about exactly how everything gets implemented is part of the Board’s next phase of planning.

But an Oct. 1, 2018, letter to tenants and other documents obtained by the Weekly shed light on the institute's plans and thinking. Then-board president Thomas Nagy wrote that the aged building was too expensive to repair and needs upgrades, including to its electrical, plumbing and air conditioning systems. He also noted in an email that there were financial considerations not related to the building, such as the sustainability of some of its programs. Nagy, who resigned from the board in December, told the Weekly that he was not authorized to speak on its behalf. (His wife, Karen Nagy, is also involved in the transition, according to one of the emails.)

A 2016 Form 990 filing to the Internal Revenue Service, a requirement for all nonprofit groups, shows MRI had total revenue of $459,991 for the calendar year ending March 31, 2017, compared to $875,596 for the prior year, and revenue less expenses of $103,775 for 2016 compared to $437,584 the previous year. It listed its net assets as $1,310,310 for 2016.

Its total support for its sister nonprofit, Mental Health Institute Trainings, Inc., is listed as $33,614 coming from more that 99 percent public contributions in 2016 compared to $130,020 in 2015.

According to the online commercial real estate website LoopNet, MRI is selling its building through commercial real estate brokers Marcus and Millichap, The approximately 8,222-square-foot building sits atop about 0.36 acres, according to the real estate listing. The property is being marketed for RM-30, medium-density multifamily housing, or for a possible investment as office rental space, according to the Marcus and Millichap offering memorandum.

Crescent Park neighbors who did not know about the proposed sale are concerned about parking and traffic issues or any other attempted uses to which a new owner might try to convert the property. They said the building would have restricted uses under its existing zoning, which limits uses to multi-family residential, day care, a day care home for adults or for families, a garden or an accessory unit among uses in RM-30-zones. The building is grandfathered for medical use and any other sort of office use is not permitted, Crescent Park Neighborhood Association President Norman Beamer said in an email.

John Guislin, who was instrumental in getting the city to institute changes to Middlefield Road because of dangerous traffic, said in an email: "As you know, this is already a congested block. Here is a case where higher density of any kind will cause immediate worsening of traffic problem."

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 9, 2019 at 11:26 am


MRI cofounder Paul Watzlawick was an amazing thinker. Check out his book “How Real Is Real?” Written in the mid 1970s, this book still has valuable lessons for us today — especially in how to reframe problems and find alternative solutions.


3 people like this
Posted by wotta great guy back in the day
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 9, 2019 at 12:41 pm

How come ol' Ben isn't listed on the website or history/about section?


21 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm

If the seller or the broker are marketing the property as anything other than residential or continuing the medical grandfathered use they are deceiving potential buyers.


12 people like this
Posted by insurance?
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Do the therapists accept insurance? (Almost none in Palo Alto do, to the detriment of middle class Palo Alto residents.) Although losing that many therapists would be a loss for Palo Alto, if the therapists do not accept insurance, their affluent clients can undoubtedly find replacements if the therapists cannot find new offices in a nearby community.


31 people like this
Posted by jimfruchterman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2019 at 6:04 pm

jimfruchterman is a registered user.

Seems like quite a diversion of charitable assets from one area of activity (promoting mental health in the community) to a different one with much less impact here in the area (Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and the surrounding area). Has the California Attorney General approved this major change? And telling the associated nonprofit groups that actually provide the services to go away seems pretty callous.


17 people like this
Posted by Bernie
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 9:36 am

Very sad to see that in the name of progress, MRI is giving up current ongoing desperately needed community mental health services. Everyone understands the "long game" view, but not at the expense of severely compromising existing activities. Shame on you. MRI should see it as their responsibility to make sure current programming remains in place, and with the sale of the building they have the means to do so. Step up and do the right thing!


27 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2019 at 10:11 am

The work that has been done in the East Palo Alto Community goes beyond any price-tag. We live in an area of such extreme excess and affluence and the answer of so many in this group of affluence is to just throw money at the problems of East Palo Alto. This is not the type of support we need. It's high time we start placing value in mental health services, not just after we read about gun violence and any other traumatic bi-products of a failed mental health state. Here, a group in the community that is providing the services we need and they're folding to become an institution that dolls out money?? We have enough money in the area already! what we don't have are experienced mental health care providers willing to go out and make a difference in our community. This is a sad day for Palo Alto... and what the board of MRI is doing seems criminal.


30 people like this
Posted by Janet Hughes
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 10, 2019 at 10:25 am

Many individuals and families benefit from the MRI and the therapists who rigorously apply well founded ideas locally, world-wide and to diverse clients. I ask: would we want Stanford Clinics, or our Community Clinics to close their doors and the CEO's allocate grants for "breakthrough thinking about how to increase systemic support and understanding of the processes that promote health and positive change in individuals, families and organizations"; would we close and sell schools for Principals to dole out grants to "increase systemic support (etc) for education"? Our Mental Health needs will not be met by a Foundation doling out grants. How can we hold onto this vital mental health resource?


17 people like this
Posted by daniel G
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 11:01 am

It troubles me that the two active arms of the organization that were filling a large gap in services and training will be shutting down. The MRI is making a decision that will have far reaching negative effects. The amount of kids and families that have benefited from FREE counseling through the Brief Therapy Center , would astonish anyone and would make anyone question the ethics of the MRI and their board.


The organization providing grants will divert funds from the people who know best how to continue the MRI mission by providing training, free and low fee services as well as continuing to publicize the empowering approach to mental health.


How in the world are they getting away with cutting off the clinics which do the work in the name of giving funds elsewhere? The funds belong with the people continuing the interpersonally oriented model of therapy- IN OUR COMMUNITIES!!


22 people like this
Posted by Janet Hughes
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 10, 2019 at 11:31 am

Well said Bernie and Daniel G.
Why hold Mental Health needs at arms length; wait for "breakthrough thinking"? We do not do that for a person with cancer, ingrown toenail, or hypertension. Mental health care is given person to person, day by day, in and out of home and work. Therapists, trainers and directors at MRI consistently and diligently care for individuals and families in our communities. Therapists who train at MRI apply the same careful therapy wherever they practice.
The MRI Board is proposing "fiddling while Rome burns": not progress.
The funds belong with the people who do the work to continue the work.


16 people like this
Posted by Beth Wahl
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 10, 2019 at 12:02 pm

I have known Karin Schlanger for many years and supported the Brief Therapy efforts that have made such a difference in the community, particularly in the East Palo Alto school system. These are not mental health professionals for the affluent but a true community resource that serves those who have no other options. It is a terrible shame to shut out this group that has done so much for mental health in the area over so many years. I hope that the community will rally behind Karin Schlanger and her organization to support a much-needed mental health practice.


7 people like this
Posted by Psychology is BS & Not Even a True Science
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2019 at 12:20 pm

[Post removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by Callous
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2019 at 2:33 pm

I had a serious bout of depression some years ago and sought counseling and medication instead of killing myself. I had considered it multiple times.

It took a lot of courage, my family doctor said, to come forward and take care of myself. The stigma attached to mental illness still makes it difficult for people to seek help.

The anti-depressants helped, but the real healing came with the multiple paths of therapy I received including at MRI. Each one helped heal a different part of my trauma, which included sexual and physical abuse. It helped me unlearn the patterns stamped on my life by other people's behavior and I was able to create my own patterns that are healthier.

Psychology is not BS. There are good therapists and bad ones, just as in every other profession. Since much of mental illness also can have a biological or chemical underpinning, sometimes medication is needed and can really help. If you have high blood pressure or an ulcer you take medicines for those without thinking of any stigma because society hasn't placed it on those medical conditions.

Mental illness is a medical condition. The therapist who killed himself was a human being trying to help others. It isn't a matter of needing to "get his act together" before treating others. Perhaps he wasn't experiencing a mental illness for much of his career. Maybe he was a good therapist because he understood his patients' pain. It's tragic that he became ill and took his life. Human beings are complex.

Sometimes, too, we have expectations that professionals are supposed to be without our same human frailties. Cops, firefighters, doctors, lawyers and therapists, etc. get into the same difficulties we all do. Some have expectations of themselves also that they aren't supposed to have these problems so they don't seek help. These are hard jobs requiring listening to people's sad stories or dealing with violence or loss of lives. Let's please show some compassion for others regardless of our "expectations."

Thank you, therapists, for being there.


13 people like this
Posted by Gloria, Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 2:44 pm



I am impressed by the importance of this tragic announcement to close the MRI. If they aren't managing the funds well enough to maintain the building, perhaps they can sell it and find a new home for the clinics and the other work that they do. It seems the BTC has been fulfilling the needs of the surrounding community in training and services. Perhaps the MRI should guarantee that 20% or more of the profits from the sale of the building can be donated to the BTC and Strategic family therapy clinic. Abandoning a plan that works would be a tragic loss to people in need of their expertise.


21 people like this
Posted by Misla Barco
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2019 at 3:06 pm

This is a tragedy for East Palo Alto, for 17 years, The Brief Therapy Center has provided FREE mental health services for our teens. These services are highly needed and I don't see any other place where teens could go in the community neither can they afford it! The MRI might want to consider giving a portion of the 12 million dollar to help house the continuation of the Brief Therapy Center. The BTC can't close its doors to the most vulnerable members of the community: Teens.


11 people like this
Posted by Tim Burke
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2019 at 7:34 pm

I have known Karin for many years and have worked alongside her supporting students and families in East Palo Alto. Through her work at the Brief Therapy Center, Karin not only counseled a variety of problems including depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts/actions, runaway children, high school dropouts, among others, BUT she also taught them the skills to confront and resolve problems themselves. Her support to East Palo Alto students and families over the past 15+ years has been invaluable. Please find a way to support this much-needed mental health practice so that countless future families can thrive as a result of her care!


23 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2019 at 9:56 pm

We need more mental health services in our community, not fewer.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2019 at 11:59 am

This appears to be a terrible, misguided decision. MRI is a well-known -place- where -people- can go for vitally-needed services. So often, people speculate on discussion boards such as these regarding whey such-and-such a person did not receive mental health care, prior to some public crisis. And yet, this place will no longer be providing these vital services. Why?


15 people like this
Posted by Laura
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2019 at 1:04 pm

I have also personally benefited from MRI. I received essential therapy there in the early 90's, and again a couple of years ago. My parents saw Dick Fisch, one of the founder/therapists in the early 70's for family therapy.

I think a creative solution can be found if both parties are open-minded.

What can we as community members do to help? To whom can we write a letter?

Thanks.

(By the way, insurance WAS accepted both times I went there.)


Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2019 at 3:22 pm

pearl is a registered user.

@ Jane Gill:

Just checked out “How Real Is Real?” by Paul Watzlawick on Amazon.com. Unfortunately they don't provide a "Look Inside" so we can see whether we want to buy the book or not, nor do they offer the book in electronic (e-book) format. Sounds like it might be interesting.

pearl


16 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 8:39 am

The Brief Therapy Center has a global reputation and impact. Silicon Valley does NOT need another foundation, it needs people doing the work, and that is exactly what the brief therapy center does. How can the board claim they want to advance mental health through grants and then effectively destroy an organization doing that. If the board does not agree to give at least a portion of the income to the brief therapy center then I can't see how they will have any reputation or mandate going forward. Shame on them.


16 people like this
Posted by Raul Rojas
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 12, 2019 at 9:30 am

I am in shock to learn about the closing of the Mental Research Institute (MRI), an internationally well-known research institute. The MRI has a long history of providing high-quality psychotherapy services to our community since 1959. From the 1994-97, I had the amazing privilege of being part of the Brief Therapy Center, along with Karin Schlanger, Paul Watzlawick and Richard Fish, and a large group of committed mental health professionals, we provided needed psychotherapy services at low-cost families both in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

I am saddened by MRI’s uncertain future and concerned that once again, bright, talented professionals are being forced to move out of our city because of the skyrocketing costs or renting or purchasing property. It is particularly disheartening that this is occurring when we are facing a mental health crisis in our region that necessitates more, not fewer, mental health services for families in Palo Alto.

I hope that our leaders in Palo Alto come together to find a feasible solution that allow to this great, iconic, and internationally well-regarded institution to continue providing such essential services to our community.


22 people like this
Posted by David Winsberg
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2019 at 2:22 pm

To liquidate the single largest asset and become another virtual foundation rather than a brick and mortar institute is easy for the board. Suddenly the director has a guaranteed salary and no funding problems., It shutters the community clinics, the low cost therapy, the national and international internship programs, and destroys the 80 year accumulated intangible value of the MRI.
Though Trump would say take the money. I say"SAD!"


14 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Beyond being one of the most famous training clinics in the world, MRI has had a great local impact because

1) it offers services for the un/under insured and
2) it trains therapists to specialize in the needs of the underserved.

As the article above notes, the board has been choking off money for these services, including proposed service to help East Palo Alto. That's a clue as to how dedicated this board is to actually helping the local community. I feel sorry for the therapists who are losing support for treating poor people, but I feel worse for those in need who have been getting services increasingly denied in recent years and will have them cut off in the near future.


2 people like this
Posted by Wes
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 4:44 pm


I visited from Europe and visited MRI and met the current Director, Sophie Suberville. Let me state some simple truths.

1) Palo Alto has no poor people. MRI has to import them from the other communities! It does not serve Palo Alto.

2) Sophie has very sophisticated plans for online therapy that will help millions. I know some of her colleagues from her corporate life in France, and they say she is wonderful and can bring her ideas to completion.

Who benefits more, a few people that must enter from other communities or millions that will be helped through her foundation!


12 people like this
Posted by Trained there
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 5:06 pm


I would just like to say that I very much appreciated my time at MRI as a trainee psychotherapist. I treated several who had attempted suicide before being referred. The therapy was better than one can get at most clinics in my country.

I had to study ethics of therapy. I think people mentioned in the article like Maryanne are violating professional ethics with their board activities, as they are doing the things they have to do to make their nonprofit thrive, as indicated by their not funding the mission and kicking out therapists. Perhaps visiting an ethics board would get them rededicated to MRI's mission, or at least see that they don't profit from MRI's sale. Wouldn't it be a problem if they intend to get big salaries from this new foundation?


11 people like this
Posted by Donna
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Hey Wes,

What you said about no poor people is simply not attending to the fact that this article is commenting on the greater Palo Alto world. Not just the affluent areas- there are also needs for systemic oriented therapy for the wealthy which is sparse .

Second, you voiced your approval of “Sophie’s foundation”. See that is part of the problem, Sophie is furthering her personal mission at the expense of a much grander view. As you said, she is European and invested in a corporate life in France. While
This may benefit her beliefs/ values and a corporate view of “necessity”. From what David said and what other LOCAL people suggest, she is operating against the core values of an institution that goes far beyond what she can see and her personal gains. sure , she will gain privelage to control money that she has had a short relationship with compared to the clinics and the communities they serve.

Thank you for painting the picture of the “business” diversion of assets to Sophie’s foundation.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2019 at 5:29 pm

I think a follow-up article is in order. This issue is a bigger deal that it might appear. Closing MRI will force therapists who work from there to relocate to other, very expensive offices, or move out of the community altogether. And, contrary to what someone posted above, there are plenty of people in Palo Alto at all income levels who need therapy. Many are probably going to be driving to San Jose for their services -- if that is an option.

How did Executive Director Sophie Suberville get control of the MRI board of directors, and, is there anything that can be done at this point? Probably not...

I think we all would like to understand more in the paragraph about the sale:

>> MRI is selling its building through commercial real estate brokers Marcus and Millichap, The approximately 8,222-square-foot building [...] 0.36 acres, [...] property is being marketed for RM-30, medium-density multifamily housing, or for a possible investment as office rental space,

How is this property zoned today? Can health-services-related buildings just be re-purposed as "office rental space"-- the last thing that Palo Alto needs is more engineers/programmers commuting to the office from outer Contra Costa County.


33 people like this
Posted by Joan Weakland
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 14, 2019 at 7:53 am

I feel sure that my father, John H. Weakland, a pioneer in modern psychology and the development of family therapy and brief therapy, is roiling in his grave with the news that his lifelong place of work, the MRI, plans to sell its building to fund a grant-giving foundation, and will cease to exist as a center of psychology research and practice. I'm fairly sure that his longtime colleagues, Paul Watzlawick and Dick Fisch, the other founders of the Brief Therapy Center, would feel the same.

Their legacy was an institute with an international reach and reputation. I remember my father working with visiting therapists from Turkey, Italy, Japan, South America, Mexico, and many more.

What greatly concerns me is that the article reviews the decline in revenues of the MRI for the past several years, yet that time frame is just parallel to the tenure of the current executive director. Ms. Suberville came on board in January 2016 and developed the plan to utterly change the MRI by selling its sole financial asset, to become the head of a new grant-giving foundation. Ms. Suberville describes herself on her LinkedIn web page as a “social entrepreneur” and her background prior to managing the MRI was as the executive director of the French-American Cultural Society. It is hard to believe that she knows enough about the field of psychology to make these significant changes or head up the new foundation in the spirit of MRI’s historic past.

I remember well that management of the MRI was always the weakest link in my father’s mind, but to so utterly change an institution and reduce it to a business entity that doles out its invested capital truly appalls me.

Karin Schlanger, a former student and friend of both my father and Dick Fisch since the late ’80’s or early 90’s, has dedicated her life’s work to the Brief Therapy Center. She and the Brief Therapy Center will be displaced from the sale of the Institute’s building. As one of the fundamental legacies of the MRI and its core therapists, the continuation of the Brief Therapy Center should be a primary concern, and should be VERY WELL CARED FOR by this “new MRI”. If not, Ms. Suberville’s vision is truly faulty.


13 people like this
Posted by zoning
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

zoning is a registered user.

"property is being marketed for RM-30, medium-density multifamily housing, or for a possible investment as office rental space, As mentioned earlier"

It is likely that the way this property is zoned may exclude non-health related services. The therapists who work there might do well to look into the zoning, and if this is the case bring it to the attention of the board.


2 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

It is interesting how many people here feel that they understand how the foundation can make an impact better than the folks who run the foundation.

It certainly creates a hole in our local mental health infrastructure. But it is also possible that the foundation has a better plan for using their limited resources for their ultimate goals. I can make the case either way (just as an exercise in rhetoric), but I really am not an expert.

We have to respect the folks who control resources and are responsible for the results (in this case, to their funding agents) to know what they are doing.


15 people like this
Posted by Janet Hughes
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 14, 2019 at 9:28 pm

I live in Palo Alto. I am a Nurse Practitioner. I worked at MayView Community Health Clinic in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale and now I work at Indian Health Clinics in San Jose.
I lived in other countries before immigrating to the USA.
I do not live a "corporate life" and I am worried by the comments made by Wes, in this forum.

1) There are poor people in Palo Alto. I know them. Individuals and families who I respect. People who are in our midst and not imported. Maybe invisible to some of us.

2) Sophisticated plans sound good. But think: would we close Stanford clinics and hand over to a foundation to treat "millions"? Would we close community clinics and care for "millions" of clients at a distance, on-line? Why single out mental health care and therapy to be delivered on-line to "millions"?

3) I ask Ms.Suberville and the MRI Board, and all of us in our community and beyond to think about how we would like to receive our health care - including our mental health care. I mostly want person to person care with the option for some services on-line or from a distance. And I doubt that I am one in a million.

4) I ask the MRI Board to support person-to-person; person-to-family therapy in our community; to sustain research and to train therapists here and abroad; to uphold the renowned reputation and the mission of the MRI. Apply to foundations or corporations for funds for this work.

Sincerely.


4 people like this
Posted by Ali D
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2019 at 2:29 pm

As a psychology major and strong advocate for the Brief Therapy Center, I think MRI should consider giving a portion - such as 20% - to help house the continuation of the Brief Therapy Center. With so many social and economic pressures facing our community, this is an easy solution with wide-ranging and powerful benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:39 pm

What is happening to MRI is a shame, but, unfortunately, there is no legal remedy that I know of.


15 people like this
Posted by Tessa Moore
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2019 at 12:08 pm

MRI and the Brief Therapy and Family Centers are gems in the Palo Alto Community. Besides being world-renowned they provide much needed low cost, and free, services to countless people in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities. I hope Palo Alto leaders do everything in their power to see that the mission and day-to-day workings of these institutions survive.


2 people like this
Posted by Do It Online
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Would it be possible to conduct mental health assistance & therapy online?

Everything seems available on the internet now + there's always the telephone.

This would cut down on overhead expenses and require less office space.

Besides, nearly everyone has a smartphone with internet access.

The personal approach is highly over-rated. Sometimes a straight, no nonsense answer is more effective.


10 people like this
Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2019 at 3:35 pm

I am disappointed to learn that MRI and the Brief Therapy Center will be loosing their home after decades of serving the greater Palo Alto community.
As we have learned from other reporting, there is a dangerous scarcity of mental health services in our area , especially for those with limited income and those for whom English is not their first language. MRI has provided quality care for our diverse community.
We also know that it is becoming almost impossible for NGO's and therapist to find office space that they can afford.
Given these problems , any time a service site is closed, our community suffers. MRI's closure is no exception.


9 people like this
Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2019 at 3:41 pm

PST is a registered user.

I have worked for, consulted with and served on nonprofit Boards for many years. Sadly even when you have good people with good intentions it is not uncommon for poor decisions to get made. Understandably Board members have limited time to give and do not necessarily possess the complex skill sets necessary in the changing healthcare climate to actively support and represent an organization while assuring the mission is implemented.

It appears the MRI Board hired someone to lead the organization two years ago that has failed in virtually every aspect of the job description. It is essential to engage in and periodically review strategic plans as they have rightfully done. The best strategic plans are transparent and include major stakeholders. All points of view are respected and considered. Unfortunately this does not describe the process that happened at MRI. Former board members, key community stakeholders and current involved staff were barely considered. I hate to think how much money has been spent on consultants and lawyers that could have been spent helping people. Their effort included too few and has resulted in creating a new charitable trust yet to be mapped out that will have expenses, require a Board and staff and actually give away very little of the funds gained from the sale of the building.


Transparent? Not so much. It seems the press releases and more public disclosure only began after an inquiry from the Palo Alto Weekly. I

Inclusive? Not so much. Who did they include? Not enough points of view or they likely would not have landed on this decision. The fact they refused to even meet to discuss their plans with a credible local nonprofit that was considering continuing the MRI mission and purpose seems especially faulty. The current Brief Therapy and Family Therapy training and service activities have been evicted with no guarantee of immediate unconditional financial support. The Executive Director that was ineffectual will lead the new organization. This does not seem to honor and help continue the MRI mission at all to me.

So what can be done? I repsectfully suggest the current Board put the building sale on hold and initiate an immediate, transparent and inclusive process in order to determine how best to continue the world famous offerngs of MRI going forward. All voices should be heard and respected. It may be that after a better process they will reach the same conclusions. While I doubt it, at least all will know it has been a comprehensive and fair process.

The good news is that it is not too late for the current Board members to make a better effort to fulfill their duties. I hope they will do just that.


11 people like this
Posted by Janet Hughes
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 19, 2019 at 4:26 pm

I am responding to "Do it online":

Yes, it is possible to find an answer to a "straightforward, no nonsense" health care question on a smartphone with internet access. It is equally possible to be gravely misinformed by this method. There is also the matter of health literacy.
The answers we can trust on-line, are there because of the day to day, generation by generation, work of therapists, professionals, and the people they treat and who live with ill-health.

Yes, we do and we must harness the internet to augment the giving and taking of health care, but that cannot replace a spectrum of human to human services.

MRI and the Brief Therapy and Family Centers are vital mental health resources.
We need them to be a "live" example of what it really takes to practice, research, and teach the art and science of therapy.
Just as we need institutions like Stanford Medical Center, Community Clinics, Mayo Clinic running day by day.

Please do not reduce mental health care or any medical care to getting answers to questions by clicking a smartphone, especially as that is not an option for so many.
Clicks on a smartphone will not cure or take care of the full spectrum of our illness - neither personal nor societal.

And can someone please tell me:
When is the next MRI Board Meeting and is it open to everyone?


10 people like this
Posted by Dieter Wellmann
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2019 at 12:25 am

In times like these when everything is changing so quickly it is important to know what new path to follow and what old paths you have to leave. Some old stuff is useless, so we can get rid of it AND some stuff is still useful or even gets more worthwhile. The MRI - always being a precious gem in the field of psychotherapy - gets more and more important these times. All over the world but specially in a community like Palo Alto, in which cold money often rules over people hearts, institutions like the MRI are getting more important.

I am from Austria, Europe. At the MRI, 1995, I learned how to help people in challenging situations, in particular at the Brief Therapy Center. In the following years I often came back to meet the „popes“ Richard Fisch and Paul Watzlawick, to learn their „art“ of helping people. Just 2017 I was back again in Palo Alto and will be at the MRI this summer again. I write this because I noticed some of the changes in the community over 25 years and I feel it’s getting cleaner, colder and a little bit more soullessly - sorry dear Palo Alto people.

MY POINT: If you close the MRI you rip the heart (one of the few beating ones) out of the community. When my inner eye sees an office rental space @ 555 Middlefield Road with another bunch of start-ups which the community doesn’t need anymore, I see a community which commits slow suicide.
In 2017 it was the last time I saw the building and yes, it maybe needs some investment and renovation, but: Do you cut out the heart of an elder relative, if her or his heart just needs some fresh air and exercise? No, I guess nobody would. So please - if somehow possible - keep this „even old“ precious gem in your community. In future years the people of Palo Alto will need it more than you can guess today, and the MRI will serve the community maybe even better that it did the last 60 years.


12 people like this
Posted by Joan Weakland
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 2, 2019 at 7:54 am

I concur with D. Wellmann’s point, above: ASIDE FROM the fundamental issue of MRI’s Board and Executive “going rogue” with MRI’s mission, Palo Alto needs to keep a historic mental health research and practice organization far more than it needs another granting organization, office building or corporation with big plans for MRI’s lot at the intersection of MIddlefield x University Avenues!

Palo Alto has lost a lot of its warmth as a place to live, with the vast increase in wealth since Silicon Valley boomed in the 80’s. MRI’s and the Brief Therapy Center’s core work is a vital part of keeping a community human and humane.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2019 at 11:50 am

Posted by Joan Weakland, a resident of Esther Clark Park

>> I concur with D. Wellmann’s point, above: ASIDE FROM the fundamental issue of MRI’s Board and Executive “going rogue” with MRI’s mission,

We can only hope that the State Attorney General's office takes a close look at this action. Sigh.

>> Palo Alto needs to keep a historic mental health research and practice organization

Unfortunately, people not familiar with therapy can easily be duped into believing that a website can take the place of a live person. Therapy is much more than an information transfer.


9 people like this
Posted by James Keim
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2019 at 9:29 am

Please support our community and the therapists trying not to lose their home by signing the petition in the link below. Even more helpful is sharing this with others.

My late father-in-law from a previous marriage, Jay Haley, was an important member of the MRI team. I was the Resident Archivist at MRI over 10 years ago as well as a trainer and project director. I remember reading the fundraising letters sent by the founder Don Jackson to raise the money to purchase 555 Middlefield Rd. Don noted the importance of having space to do live suprvision training and research with one-way mirrors as well as a place where people could come together face to face to innovate. I'm no lawyer, but in my humble opinion the promised uses of the money raised to buy this building are being violated by what the current Board is doing.

I spoke to the only surviving founder of MRI, and he said that no one from the board had even contacted him to check on the legality of selling the building and using its funds for anything other than what was proposed in the fundraising documents! I hope the Board members slow down, realize the jeopardy of the situation, and put a hold on the sale and conversion of MRI.

Web Link



7 people like this
Posted by Edwin Goei
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2019 at 5:27 pm

I'm sad to hear that MRI will be ending it's community clinics and it's world famous training programs. I wish the reasons were more transparent. For example, it's unclear who exactly is on the board or what happened. I understand there have been multiple changes on the board. I've only heard the two clinics and training programs will end because the building will be sold. Why no concrete plans to use the proceeds to relocate and fund existing programs?

The two years of training (ending summer 2018) at the MRI Family Therapy Center was excellent. It has greatly influenced my work as a therapist.

I'm glad that Palo Alto Weekly chose to investigate this story. It's a mystery and I wish to know more.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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