Harry Aponte

Director of the Philadelphia Child Clinic in the late 70’s.

Director of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic in the clinic’s golden age in the late ‘70’s,  when Minuchin and Haley worked there and Hoffman, Madaness and Whitaker would pass by. Social worker very involved with social issues, he is teaching at the Drexel University.

Deisy Amorin-Woods: Interviewing Harry at the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic was both easy yet difficult, easy because we could do it effortlessly without leaving our respective offices in Philadelphia and Perth, yet difficult given the air of collective sadness and isolation in our reciprocal worlds. This atmosphere became so palpable through our computers,it reverberated over the miles.  Ironically, I felt an immediate and profound sense of connection to him, as I felt the rawness of his sadness in his voice, as he may have possibly felt mine…it was almost as if we were engaging in an ‘tango dance across the airwaves’, filled with melancholy, and mindfulness in motion.
In discussing the personal and professional impact of the pandemic, among other things, he shared regretfully that his frequent casual encounters and fruitful personal exchange with his colleagues in the hallway (at the Drexel university where he taught), had been replaced by a phonebook filled with telephone numbers, the prospect of which was not as appealing as they were neither naturally emerging nor nourishing.
The person of the therapist certainly took a new dimension as we discussed the need to construct a new ‘reality’, both personally and professionally, while pondering what using our whole selves may look like in these forward encounters….All while living and connecting with our own pandemic emerging personal vulnerabilities and struggles in their rawest format.

Umberta Telfener: I arrived at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic in 1976, invited by Harry Aponte of whom I had been the translator in a Congress organized by Andolfi and Saccu, at the time together with also Paolo Menghi and Anna Maria Niccolò. I spent two months there just finding my space, then there was an exam to see if I could join the interns and be trained with them. I would exchange labor for training. The exam consisted of seeing a family; many big shots of the Clinic were behind the one way mirror at the south branch of the Institution. I go into the waiting room and there is a black single mother family with what seemed to me one hundred children. One with a loud radio, one with a yoyo that was squeaking, one jumping everywhere, another hiding behind mother’s jacket. I take them to the therapy room and tears start falling down my eyes: I imagine my big suitcase sent back to Italy because I failed my exam. I feel desperate, I don’t understand them and feel helpless. When mother sees me in trouble, she takes control over the session and in a short time each kid is seated, radio and yoyo set apart, and patting me with confort she tells me not to worry. I remember I went behind the one way mirror and received a thumbs up: my good strategy had made me pass the exam. I always wondered if they had been only kind, giving me a second option to learn systemic thinking or if – I doubt it – they really believed I was on top of what had happened.

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