Earn strictly private therapy through community volunteering

People Helping People Helping People

Letters of Support for Volunteers in Psychotherapy, Inc.

– Professor of Psychology & University of Connecticut Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology Director of Clinical Training, Dr. George J. Allen

- Past President of the American Psychological Association Division of Psychoanalysis and Michigan State Professor of Psychology, Dr. Bertram P. Karon

- Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University and Director Emeritus, New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training, Dr. Herbert S. Strean

- National Empowerment Center Director, Laurie Ahern

- Greenwoods Counseling Services Executive Director, Reverend W. David Dobbins, Jr.

- Trauma Research, Education and Training Institute President, Dr. Laurie Anne Pearlman

- Regional School District #10 Superintendent Dr. Evan Pitkoff

On behalf of the students and faculty in the Clinical Psychology Program at the University of Connecticut, I thank you for the very informative presentation you made about Volunteers in Psychotherapy (VIP). After hearing your presentation, we wish to provide our collective support to VIP. This innovative program provides a unique and vitally necessary service for those members of our society who otherwise would be denied access to psychotherapeutic services.

Psychotherapy is not a well understood process. It is viewed by many as providing an opportunity for others not like themselves (e.g., the “mentally ill,” the insane,” “crazy people,” etc) to talk about their problems. This tendency to maximize differences between “us” and “them” creates a sense of shame and stigma about the process and leads many troubled individuals to not seek the help they desperately need.

From a larger perspective, however, entry into psychotherapy represents an admission by individuals, couples, or families that their usual ways of dealing with problems no longer are effective. Within psychotherapeutic contexts, such life issues are explored in environments marked by concern, support, and privacy.

The expectation of privacy makes it easier for troubled individuals to fully share the extent of their pain and difficulties; it is only out of this, at times, brutally honest sharing that effective resolutions can be forged. The importance of privacy within psychotherapy has been upheld by multiple legal rulings and administrative statutes that protect patients or clients from having personal information disclosed without their consent and by ethical codes that demand confidentiality from practitioners. It is also clear from a variety of professional and media sources that psychotherapy is effective in promoting the greater public good and in improving the human condition.

Unfortunately, privacy and confidentiality rights within psychotherapeutic contexts have been breached, slowly, but inexorably. One primary culprit has been for-profit managed care companies, who demand summaries about clients to “ensure the medical necessity” of treatment. Despite assurances that such communications were “personal and confidential,” such information leaks out all too easily. Over the past decade, I had occasion to see in psychotherapy six individuals who worked in rather high-level administrative positions within the insurance industry. Without exception, all declined using their own insurance benefits to pay for services; one noted “I have no business seeing the personal information that comes across my desk. If my name was on those forms, I would most certainly lose my job.” Ironically, these individuals all had the financial resources to ensure their own privacy yet worked in contexts that denied the same basic rights to those who were less economically advantaged.

VIP combines two fundamentally basic human virtues in a manner that promotes human welfare. The system you developed permits exploration of personal issues in a context of total privacy while setting the expectation that those who receive help will themselves engage in charitable activities. The ability and willingness to “give back” to less fortunate others is incredibly healing in its own right. VIP provides privacy to those who cannot afford to purchase it outright while promoting in its clientele the values of charity, compassion, and service to the greater public good…

I, the clinical faculty, and our students wish you well in your future endeavors on behalf of VIP.

Best Wishes,

George J. Allen, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Director of Clinical Training

“Volunteers in Psychotherapy (VIP) is a unique nonprofit organization in West Hartford, Connecticut, which provides a much needed relief for people in need of psychotherapy who cannot afford to pay the fees out of their own pocket.

 As a Professor of Clinical Psychology and a former President of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association, who has spent more than 35 years teaching clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, and doing research on psychotherapy and the delivery of mental health services, I am impressed with Volunteers in Psychotherapy.  I have known two of the principal founders of VIP (Drs. Shulman and Burrell) for years, through ongoing consultations, through mutual professional interests and review of each others’ publications, and through our joint symposium presented to the national conference of the American Psychological Association.  I have firsthand knowledge of the seriousness and ethical integrity of their perspectives and their work….

 Volunteers in Psychotherapy (VIP) is unique in providing first rate help that is confidential and affordable.  It is able to do so because of the altruism of a number of psychotherapists who are willing to accept low fees if the patient is willing to “earn” their treatment by doing voluntary community service for the charity of their choice…

 Volunteers in Psychotherapy is a nonprofit public service, which hopefully will establish a model in Hartford which can be imitated in other communities.  It certainly deserves all of our support.”


Bertram P. Karon, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Past President of the American Psychological Association Division of Psychoanalysis

“I truly believe that your organization is the best alternative to managed care that I have seen.  Not only do you insure that the patient’s therapy is completely confidential, but by arranging for clients to work for charities, you are concomitantly enriching the patient’s therapy and enhancing a part of the community that needs help desperately… [Y]our clientele is getting very superior treatment in this day and age of third party payments.

You and your colleagues are to be congratulated on your very creative project. I am most admiring of your genuine professionalism and am very confident Volunteers in Psychotherapy will grow by leaps and bounds.”


Herbert S. Strean, D.S.W., Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University and Director Emeritus, New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training

“It is with great pleasure and honor and respect for your work that the National Empowerment Center, Inc. endorses and supports the mission and vision that is Volunteers in Psychotherapy, Inc.

As you are aware, the NEC is a national center founded by former psychiatric patients who have recovered…

Volunteers in Psychotherapy, Inc. is truly a unique alternative which embodies all of the elements needed to allow people to recover and return to happy and secure lives.

With the advent of managed care and the rationing of psychotherapy – coupled with the requirement to pathologize and medicalize problems in living in order to secure reimbursements, the ability to build a trusting and empowering relationship is elusive at best, if not impossible.  VIP’s model of offering totally confidential, client-controlled therapy in return for volunteer work of the client’s choice, allows true healing to take place.

We at the NEC only wish that VIP was available to us when we were in our most severe, emotional states.  We cannot express enough our deep commitment and support of the work you are doing and that of Volunteers in Psychotherapy, Inc.”

Warmest regards,

Laurie Ahern, Director, National Empowerment Center, Inc.

“Your plan to offer those in financial need the opportunity to afford their mental health care through community service impresses me as both creative and responsible:  it offers the patient the respect which comes from investing in oneself and the community, while assuring that the privacy of the patient-therapist relationship is preserved.

 You well know that with the changes in the mental health industry promoted by insurance companies, it is increasingly difficult for people to find therapy as both affordable and confidential.  It is refreshing and encouraging to know that an effort such as yours is offering an option which allows both therapists and patients a process free from the intrusion of third-party payers.

I applaud your commitment to the people of your area, and wish you every success in your endeavor!”

Yours Sincerely,

[Reverend] W. David Dobbins, Jr., Pastoral Counselor, Executive Director of Greenwoods Counseling Services, Litchfield, Connecticut

“I am writing to convey my support for Richard Shulman, Ph.D. and his organization, Volunteers in Psychotherapy.  I have known Rich since 1983, when we were psychology interns at the Greater Hartford Clinical Psychology Internship Consortium…

Rich Shulman is a man of the greatest professional and personal integrity.  He is a sensitive and talented psychologist who is unwavering to his commitment to the best possible treatment of psychotherapy clients.  He has made important personal sacrifices in order to meet his high ethical and professional standards of care, refusing to participate in systems that he thought did not have the clients’ best interest as a top priority…

I have become acquainted with many therapists and many therapy organizations.  I believe that VIP is unique, based in a deep commitment to serving the underserved, and likely to succeed.  VIP will be able to provide psychotherapy to some of the neediest people who would otherwise be excluded from top-notch treatment in Connecticut.  I strongly support his efforts and believe that his program will be successful…”


Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and President, Trauma Research, Education and Training Institute, South Windsor, Connecticut, and co-author of  “Psychological Trauma and the Adult Survivor”.

“As an educational leader, with a background in special education and a degree in psychology, I have always tried to instill in students the values of providing community service and the need to know when and where to get help.  I applaud Dr. Shulman on the development of his nonprofit organization, Volunteers in Psychotherapy (V.I.P.) as this organization will allow people who are uninsured or who lack financial resources to obtain quality and confidential psychotherapy.  By the design of the concept, it will also instill in clients the importance of providing community service.  The rewards of community service, especially as it relates to the improvement of one’s self-esteem should serve as reinforcement to successful outcomes of therapy.

Furthermore, I have often seen the need for children and families to first address personal and emotional issues via therapy in order for the children to fully maximize their potential in the academic school setting.  Often, these same people are hesitant to speak to a school psychologist or social worker, or any therapist for that matter, about family problems under conditions that they may feel are not absolutely confidential.  This is where a program such as Volunteers in Psychotherapy can serve as a valuable resource to schools.

The creation of this program is a reflection of the altruistic nature of Dr. Richard Shulman in his belief that everyone who wants psychotherapy should receive quality therapy in a confidential manner regardless of ability to pay.  I support this program and believe that Dr. Shulman is on the cutting edge in his field in this endeavor.


Evan Pitkoff, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, Regional School District #10, Harwinton and Burlington, Connecticut