OUR INSPIRATIONAL FOUNDER
Dr. Hedda Bolgar, our beloved founder, was an internationally known psychologist, psychoanalyst, educator and institutional builder. When she died on May 13, 2013 at the age of 103 she ended a career that spanned almost 80 years. Hedda was a creative, innovative thinker who was instrumental in the founding of three institutions, WILA, LAISPS, CSPP, a postdoctoral training program and numerous other enterprises. Her last large project, embarked upon at the age of 95, was called “The Uprooted Mind: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Living in an Unsafe World” (see video clip below). It was just one of many of Hedda’s efforts to engage psychoanalysis in the quest for social justice. She was also an extraordinary and brilliant clinician who mentored and taught countless mental health professionals. Hedda was a loved presence in our community. She was wise, warm, incredibly engaging, and gracious. She maintained a progressive, socially-conscious outlook throughout her life. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of psychoanalysis, psychology, history, and political science, and an undiminished astonishing memory. Hedda was a true primary source and a great treasure to the innumerable people whose lives she touched.
Written with love by Allen M. Yasser, Ph.D. and Alan P. Spivak, Ph.D.
WILA was founded in 1974. It grew out of discussions in the early 1970’s amongst Dr. Hedda Bolgar and three of her former postdoctoral students Drs. Elizabeth Cooley, Nancy Wood and Allen M. Yasser. The four were disenchanted with the curriculum and clinical training possibilities then available to psychologists and with the nature of the institutions in which education and training typically took place.
Dr. Bolgar consulted extensively with Nevitt Sanford, who was then the president of Wright Institute in Berkeley California, and was a pioneer in the study and integration of social issues and clinical and social psychology. He encouraged Dr. Bolgar to develop a postgraduate center which would compliment and affiliate with Wright Institute Berkeley. A decision was made amongst Dr. Bolgar’s collaborators to broaden the proposed institution and develop both a new graduate school and a postgraduate center. The outlines of WILA’s new institution were now rapidly developing.
In late 1974, supported by a grant from the Norton Simon Foundation, Drs. Bolgar, Cooley, Wood and Yasser formed Wright Institute Los Angeles. WILA consisted of The Graduate School of Social-Clinical Psychology, The Postgraduate Center, a psychotherapy clinic and a research division. WILA was built on a foundation of ideas and perspectives drawn largely from psychoanalysis as well as clinical psychology, literature and the social sciences. We wanted to educate and train mental health professionals who were well versed in the theories, insights and clinical approaches developed within the psychoanalytic community. We envisioned graduates of both our graduate school and our postgraduate training programs as solidly educated clinicians conversant with the deep understanding of human nature conveyed by psychoanalysis as well as clinical psychology and sensitive to the social, political and cultural contexts in which our patient’s lives unfold.
46 years later, WILA has changed significantly in structure but not philosophy.
WILA has developed a national reputation for excellent clinical training at the internship and postgraduate levels. The influence of psychoanalytic theoretical and clinical approaches is still strongly felt, as are perspectives drawn from contemporary clinical psychology and progressive social thought.
The program presents both the enduring traditional psychoanalytic perspectives on theory and treatment as well as contemporary points of view, which have profoundly affected our understanding of the human psyche and the practice of psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy.