I Believethat parents instinctively understand the language their children are speaking
About Melanie McGrath
I suppose in a certain way life "destined" me to become a family therapist. I was four years old in 1962 when my parents divorced. My mom went to work as a public school teacher and said to me: "Melanie, you're in charge of your younger sister." What?!! My mom was the only single working parent in our neighborhood at that time. In the early years as a single parent, my mom was stressed pretty much most of the time. My sister and I spent a lot of our time playing outside in the neighborhood and hanging with other kids' families.
When I was with the other kids' families, I would observe the interactions in their families and I would feel how it felt being in their homes. From the beginning, by nature and by nurture, I paid attention to how people treat each other and to what feels good and what doesn't. I paid a lot of attention to how it feels to belong.
During my teen years I developed a passion about becoming a physician. I imagined that as a physician I could make a difference in people's health---their physical and their emotional well-being.
When I got to college, after taking biology my freshman year, though I did well in biology, I realized I didn't enjoy it much. Ultimately I majored in Religion and minored in Sociology because both of these departments at my college were dynamically exploring how and why human beings interact with each other the way they do.
I ended up at Columbia University pursuing a Masters' of Science in Social Work after I spent a year in living and working in a slum of NYC, sponsored by a VISTA-type program. I lived and worked in a small Presbyterian church housed in a tenement that first year out of college. I was put in charge of running all the groups that the church sponsored: senior citizens' group, the summer day camp for kids, the church's liaison to the other church's in the neighborhood. I learned that I loved working with groups of all types.
When I headed to Columbia for my Masters', it was with the intention of becoming a Community Organizer.
I began my own therapy my first year of graduate school to try to understand my own repetitive patterns in relationships. Dr. Sidney Love was a pioneer in the field of Analytic Psychotherapy with couples and families---and coming from my childhood of divorce, I really wanted to understand myself and what it meant to be in a couple. From the get go, I loved the therapy and had a transformative experience in it. I knew that I'd found a person and an experience that would help weave together all the strands of my life: my early family experience of divorce, my intense interest in how people interact with each other and how it feels to belong in groups, a huge intellectual curiosity, and a passion to know how to help people have real well-being. So, I changed my direction at Columbia and began to focus on clinical work with families, groups and individuals of all ages.
I am a mom of three daughters and the grandmom of two year old Fiona Isabella! Being a mother and grandmother has filled my life with riches and given me a deep compassion in my work as a family therapist. I was also married for 29 years and then divorced. Both my experiences of marriage and divorce have profoundly developed me as both a human being and a therapist. My life as a family person and my vocation of psychoanalysis and clinical social work continue to inspire me every day! Best, Melanie