Dr. Seinfeld passed away on Tuesday afternoon, unexpectedly, of a heart attack. I would like to speak about this man who has meant so much to the field of social work, and so much to me personally.
I met Jeff during the first year of my PhD program at New York University. Completely unaware of who he was or of the magnitude of his professional reputation, I naively approached him one day after class and asked if he’d provide me with weekly supervision; a service that usually commands a significant fee but one which Jeff insisted on providing to me pro bono.
Over the next year I met with Jeff weekly for supervision. He listened with a patient ear as I nervously updated him on each of my clients, regaling him with unnecessary details, leaving him just a few minutes at the end of each one-hour session in which to give me feedback. In years to come, Jeff would laugh, pointing out my unconscious desire to limit the time he had to critique me. Significant critique or not, Jeff helped me to decide who I wanted to be as a professional and he guided me to use my talent to serve people.
Our relationship continued through the years, well beyond the one year that Jeff had initially committed to providing me with supervision. He was my ‘lifeline’ of sorts. The person who I turned to when I was at a loss with a client. The person I vented to. The person I shared my fears with. Jeff was my clinical guru, someone who always had the answer, even if just to reassure me that what I was doing was ok.
Since he came into my life, I’ve capitalized on opportunities to honor him and to underscore the dear place he held in my heart. When I defended my dissertation, he was the first to call me Dr. Smith. When I was awarded my PhD, I asked Jeff to perform my hooding ceremony. When I was married last year, Jeff was among the first guests to participate in our candle lighting ceremony (pictured).
I last saw Jeff on New Years Eve. He came to my office in Soho to update me on his work at NYU, which he was so deeply proud of. He spoke of struggles that he had overcome, both personally and professionally. That was the thing about Jeff: He never pretended to be perfect. His own life was a great example of resilience, of lessons learned and of the courage to push on.
It is difficult to comprehend that I must now continue my journey without him. Though I will miss him in more ways then I can bear to contemplate today, I am so grateful for the years I had with my mentor, my friend, Dr. Jeff Seinfeld.
You can read more about Dr. Seinfeld by clicking the link below: Tribute to Dr. Seinfeld