By Ellen Edwards, Board of The Counseling Center
Last July, The Counseling Center of Bronxville received difficult news: Clinical Director Dr. Jane Benjamin was facing a serious illness which would require extensive treatment and care. She went on indefinite leave that summer; as of November 1st she has formally stepped down. Virgil Roberson, Executive Director, announces the appointment of widely admired, longtime staff member Dr. Jennifer Naparstek Klein as Clinical Director.
The Counseling Center is fortunate to have Dr. Benjamin’s help in navigating this transition, and the chance to honor her wishes and needs, while continuing its important work to provide an essential service to the Bronxville community and beyond.
Dr. Benjamin asked to share these words with the community: “After a second brain surgery for brain cancer in September of this year, it became clear to me that I have to figure out how I need to spend my time. I am blessed to have a colleague like Dr. Jen Klein to step in for me and to be the Clinical Director that TCC deserves to have moving forward.”
Dr. Benjamin has been a valued staff member at The Counseling Center since 1996, providing psychotherapy to countless individuals—teens, young adults and older adults. She is cherished by her colleagues at The Counseling Center, past and present board chairs and members, and, of course, by her many clients over the years. Whether in board meetings or counseling sessions, Dr. Benjamin brought a calmness and clarity to each situation, contributing to wiser decisions and more positive outcomes.
A skilled writer, Dr. Benjamin is known for her many articles published in My Hometown Bronxville, including “Quarantine: Challenges and Silver Linings,” and “Is It the Holiday Blues or Something More?”. Many of these are available at counselingcenter.org.
Dr. Benjamin was particularly thrilled to work with her niece Mary Gatta, Ph.D., Sociology Professor at the City University of New York, on a blog post called, “Masks in the Covid-19 Era,” which appeared in Psychology Today. She was also cited in “How to Refeather Your Empty Nest,” by Kaya Laterman, in the December 15, 2019 issue of The New York Times.
In a moving, heartfelt Retirement Tribute for Dr. Benjamin held by The Counseling Center via Zoom on November 18, 2020, and attended by 46 people, Dr. Benjamin’s colleagues praised her superlative skills as a clinician as well as her intelligence, warmth, compassion, sharp wit, and occasional off-color comments. Said Dr. Jennifer Klein, “That combination is disarming, and it gives the space to be vulnerable and to be heard and understood, and to laugh or cry with Jane, whatever is needed at that moment.”
Current chair of the board of The Counseling Center, Carol Godfrey, mentioned Dr. Benjamin’s “uncanny ability to cut to the core of an issue” and her “unparalleled communications skills,” as well as her city-chic wardrobe, passion for SoulCycle, and the joy she found in being a mother. She added, “[Jane’s] care for the staff, her dedication to her patients, have been instrumental in making The Counseling Center a special place.”
Past board chairs Richard Pink and Rosanne Welshimer both spoke. Richard Pink called Dr. Benjamin “one of the brightest, the warmest, most energetic, most loyal, and most professional people that I have ever known or worked with.” He added, “Jane, you personify everything The Counseling Center has stood for, over your 25 years. We will carry on…with your example and inspiration.”
Rosanne Welshimer has long been impressed by Dr. Benjamin’s listening skills. “Your listening makes one feel like they’re wrapped in a warm, cozy blanket, incredibly safe, held tight in confidence, never about to be judged, and so, welcome to verbally unleash whatever one needs to upon you. And when the talking is over and the blanket is removed, your next words confirm the comfort, and also enable the speaker to go forward…always unburdened.”
Past Executive Director Jim Walkup noted her compassion and dedication to her patients, what he called her “careful delineation of the dynamics” of her relationship with each patient, and her openness to brainstorming for ideas on what would most benefit that individual.
Catherine Nicholas, past Clinical Director, also mentioned grateful clients who found a success with Jane that had eluded them in previous clinical relationships. She said, “You listen without rushing to fix or advise, therefore people can find their way.” She ended with, “My life is enriched by your presence in it.”
Richard Shoup, former Executive Director, elicited chuckles by describing a therapist who might be more interested in Jungian metaphors and intellectual theories, whereas, he said, “Jane actually wanted to help people! She engages with people right where they are, challenging them when necessary, and also inspiring them to do better.” He called her a magnificent human being.
Dr. Dina Nunziato, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Sarah Lawrence College, described the many clinical referrals she made to Dr. Benjamin over the years. “I’d say, ‘Call Dr. Jane Benjamin, she’s the best there is. Jane will help.’ And she did.” She is confident that the relationship Dr. Benjamin fostered between The Counseling Center and Sarah Lawrence College will remain strong.
Dr. Joyce Vastola, School Psychologist at the Bronxville Schools, praised Dr. Benjamin’s courage in taking on challenging clinical cases among young adults and added, “We honor the light in you, and we honor your divine grace.”
Staff members of The Counseling Center then read excerpts from Dr. Benjamin’s writing on a variety of subjects.
Finally, current Executive Director Virgil Roberson described the close relationship he and Dr. Benjamin have shared, joking that they were a “professional marriage.” “We’d banter, we would riff, we would make fun, we would kid, we had each other’s back. Even so, when I got remarried a couple of years ago, I asked Jane, even though it was not a traditional marriage, I said ‘Jane, will you be my best woman and sit beside me at my reception?’ and she did; she made that work.”
He went on, “She is the leader we love, the incredible clinician, spouse, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, colleague. Every which way, Jane Benjamin has helped us to be better people and I feel grateful and honored that all of these years I was able to work with her and know her in such a clear way.”
Newly appointed Clinical Director Jennifer Naparstek Klein joined The Counseling Center in 2001. She specializes in child and adolescent psychology, family systems, and young adult and adult psychotherapy. Like Dr. Benjamin and all of the staff at The Counseling Center, Dr. Klein has built strong relationships within the community, having worked with organizations such as the Bronxville Schools, Fordham Preparatory School, Sarah Lawrence College, other academic institutions, and many medical and psychiatric practitioners in the area. Dr. Klein has also written numerous articles, such as “Coronavirus Anxiety: Facing the Unprecedented,” which are available at counselingcenter.org.
Everyone at The Counseling Center, and many in the surrounding community, wish to express our overflowing gratitude to Dr. Jane Benjamin for her many vital contributions and years of outstanding service. She is much in our thoughts and hearts. We also feel incredibly fortunate, and thankful, for Dr. Jennifer Klein as she begins to fill the role of Clinical Director at The Counseling Center.