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Dr. Stephen L. Post obituary: Developed advanced psychotherapy program

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 8, 2011 - Dr. Stephen Post, who developed and directed a program in advanced psychodynamic psychotherapy, which became a model for training thousands of psychotherapy professionals throughout the country, died at Mari de Villa Retirement Community on Wednesday (April 6) following a long illness. He was 83 and had lived in Clayton for several decades.

Dr. Post developed the program in 1981 at St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute and directed it for two years. The program, which provides advanced training for psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers and other professionals, has become a core institute offering.

A memorial service for Dr. Post will be Saturday (April 16) at First Congregational Church of St. Louis.

"The core principals continue to guide us," said Catherine Krane, executive director of the Psychoanalytic Institute. "As a leader, teacher, supervisor, mentor and friend, Dr. Post contributed much to the Institute and each of us as individuals. We benefit daily from his tireless efforts on our behalf."

An Exquisite Clinician

The Psychoanalytic Institute is an educational center that provides training and continuing education through graduate, post-graduate and community education courses. Dr. Post began as a faculty member at the institute in 1973. He developed the two-year advanced psychodynamic psychotherapy program to deal with "seemingly unexplainable behavior patterns, symptoms, or thought processes that turn out to have identifiable motivational meanings, frequently beyond the awareness of the individual."

"It's an inside-oriented therapy," said one of Dr. Post's former students, Evelyn Witten, now a psychotherapist in private practice in St. Louis. The program, she said, gave her the tools and insights to be a better clinician.

"Stephen Post was a true gentleman, scholar and exquisite clinician," Witten said. "He impacted a generation of students and we are all better for it. His program allowed us to understand how an individual's history and early experiences will color experiences later in life.

"Dr. Post didn't go for quick solutions; he helped us look within so we could help people see their situations in a different way, so they don't respond impulsively. He was really a unique man, the most gentle man," Witten added.

Heart of Caring and Counseling

"Gentle" and "sensitive" were the recurring words as condolences arrived at the institute from former students. They are the words echoed by Dale Kuhn, executive director of Care and Counseling, a nonprofit, faith-based counseling center. Kuhn received on-site training from Dr. Post, who was a clinical supervisor for Care and Counseling.

"Steve was gentle in the way he worked as a psychiatrist with his patients," Kuhn said, "and he taught me how to access my own gentleness so that as I worked with my clients they felt safe in discussing their personal problems with me. I learned to be empathetic to the needs of people who are struggling with emotional problems. That's just one of the characteristics we will miss the most."

Dr. Post, who was the first medical director at Care and Counseling, began his affiliation with the organization shortly after its founding in 1967. Over the years, he served as medical director, psychiatric consultant, clinical supervisor and board member.

In 2005, he received the Heart of Care and Counseling award, which noted that: "He had a part in the integration of the best of psychiatry with the best of pastoral care. As such, he has been instrumental in increasing the quality of mental health and emotional care in the St. Louis community."

His desire for a healthier community extended to the political realm.

In 1991, Dr. Post joined with four other doctors to lobby their fellow physicians for support of Ben Uchitelle for mayor of Clayton. They endorsed Uchitelle because he introduced the first ordinance in St. Louis County to limit smoking in public places; Uchitelle's opponent had opposed the measure several times before voting for final passage. Uchitelle won.

Physician and Teacher

Stephen Lightner Post was born in St. Louis on May 4, 1927, and graduated from what was then St. Louis Country Day School. After graduating from Princeton University in 1950, he entered the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of LtJG (lieutenant junior grade). Following his discharge in 1953, he entered Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and received his medical degree in 1957. His post-graduate work included completing psychoanalytic training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Dr. Post's medical career spanned many areas.

In addition to his work at the Psychoanalytic Institute, he held faculty positions at Washington University Medical School, St. Louis University Medical School and the St. Louis Clinical Association for Religious and Educational Counseling. Dr. Post previously served on the staffs of the old Renard Hospital at Washington University, St. Vincent's Hospital and Jewish Hospital. From 1965 to 2001, he was on staff at Saint Louis University Hospital.

Dr. Post maintained a private practice, first in psychiatry then psychoanalysis, from 1961 until several years ago. Over the years, he counted numerous seminars among his professional activities, including many for laypersons through the Psychoanalytic Institute and for psychiatry residents at St. Louis State Hospital.

Robin Turner, now president of the Psychoanalytic Institute, recalled the residents' seminar where she first met Dr. Post. It was 1968.

"I think of Steve coming into the Saint Louis University Department of Psychiatry at Wohl on Grand Avenue to conduct a psychiatry residents' conference," Turner said, "filled with enthusiasm and yet, he took that minute or two to chat.

"Steve had a spirit and generosity of self that will be deeply missed. He was witty with a sense of humor that brought into balance the depth and intensity of the analytic work that we do. As a colleague and friend, he was always right there. Always."

Just Connect

But he wasn't especially big on chitchat, said a longtime friend, Caroline Sant, whose husband William "Bill" Sant had attended Country Day with Dr. Post.

"I didn't like large parties, but I could count on Steve to rescue me with an interesting topic of discussion," Sant said. "He was always gracious and friendly."

Perhaps, it was just part of his philosophy.

"He would say 'just connect'," said his wife Ellen Eisendrath Post, whom he married in 1975. "He meant that you had to have close connections with other human beings. He was a very compassionate doctor, loving husband, father and friend.

"And a maniac tennis player and sailor," she added.

Dr. Post, who was previously widowed and divorced, was preceded in death by his brother, Dr. Lawrence Post, (survived by Rosemary of Steamboat Springs, Colo.).

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children, Nancy (Campbell) Post Hunter of Walnut Creek, Calif., Kenneth (Pauline) Post of Chicago, Louise (Tony) Post Parks of Los Angeles and Eric (Nicole) Post of St. Louis; three step-children, William (Birgitte) Steinert of Berlin, Germany; Sylvia (Todd) Steinert Brewster of Ridgefield, Conn., and Eric (Heidi) Steinert of Belmont, Mass.; a brother, Robert (Rebecca) Post, M.D., of Portland, Ore., and 10 grandchildren. He is also survived by a sister- and brother-in-law, Ann (John) Eisendrath Chafee of Denver, Colo. and Charles (Julia) Eisendrath of Ann Arbor, Mich.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at First Congregational Church of St. Louis, 6501 Wydown Blvd. at University Lane in Clayton.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute, 8820 Ladue Rd., #3, St. Louis, Mo. 63124, or Care and Counseling, 12141 Ladue Rd., Creve Coeur, Mo. 63141.

Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service. 

Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.

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