Why I FoundedWell Baby Center
Deborah Groening-Rother, PsyD
As a social entrepreneur and philanthropist, I wanted to make a positive difference in the world. As an infant-parent mental health specialist, I wanted to work with new parents. Well Baby Center is the culmination of these two passions. My goals for the center were, and remain, threefold: to include all socio-economic groups, to provide a menu of services, and to de-stigmatize the therapeutic process.
During the center’s planning process the connection between my personal struggles and the philanthropic and clinical work that I had chosen became clear. This, along with the profound benefit of my own psychoanalytic treatment, led me to my commitment to put my hard-won lessons to good use. Aware that most people would not have the time or money to enter psychoanalytic treatment, I designed Well Baby Center’s model using psychoanalytic theory applied to short-term and affordable services. Only those clinicians and clinical associates with a special interest in understanding early life and unconscious processes would be selected to join our small clinical team.
My childhood story is the origin of Well Baby Center’s mission. Despite all indications that I should have had a happy childhood, I did not. I was miserable and I believed this was because I was a “difficult” child. Although I was loved, lived in middle class comfort, and had an intact family, something was fundamentally missing within my core sense of self. After many years of analysis it became clear that I had been emotionally and physically abused — and that this was the source of my troubles. I was not abused in the ways you might hear about in the news. It was subtle yet insidious and it resulted in an anxious and ambivalent attachment to my mother. She may not have known better since this occurred back in the 1950s, nevertheless, those beatings and harsh words harmed me to my core. I also struggled with undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, which led me to talk out of turn in class and, along with my emotional stressors, made it exceedingly difficult for me to learn. Unfortunately, with no support systems in place for me at the time, I developed low self-esteem and a general anxiety disorder that followed me into adulthood. These early life struggles, along with my subsequent successful treatment, resulted in my passion for working with parents-to-be, parents and babies, and young children. Once WBC was up and running, I endeavored to include high quality, specialized training in infant and maternal mental health within our yearlong clinical training program.
We are all wounded warriors in one sense or another, but in this profession our personal experiences can provide us with the empathy and compassion necessary to be good clinicians – otherwise, our stories and struggles may be for naught. A mentor once said to me: “when you speak it, it gets lighter”. That phrase has spurred me to want to help others “speak their truth” as I have spoken mine. This is not an indulgence or a dwelling on the past. Rather, it’s an exploration into one’s early life that is always in the service of setting oneself (and future generations) free from the shackles of one’s past that may otherwise hold a person back. I created Well Baby Center in 2008 to do just that. We continue to successfully treat several hundreds of families every year.