Stillpoint Engage: A Year of Celebration

Stillpoint Engage is a non-profit of PrairieCare that celebrated it’s one year anniversary in December 2019. A night of celebration was had, complete with a silent auction, food, moving stories and an elders drum circle. A sense of gratitude to their supporters was felt in the air that evening, with a look at their past, current, and future work being done because of the generous support from the community.

Stillpoint Engage builds initiatives of intention and integrity to achieve the most far-reaching, lasting results possible. Alleviating human suffering through application of depth psychology principles. Serving post-conflict communities, promoting psychological and social support activities, whether inside or outside a formal mental-health context. With the backing of PrairieCare’s hospital and clinic system, its researchers and analysts at the PrairieCare Institute, and its affiliation with the University of Minnesota, maintaining their grounding in the sciences is only natural.

At the same time, they privilege the relevance of the arts and humanities—especially philosophy, critical theory, the social sciences and history—in order to include ethics and beauty in the evaluation of results. Through the Stillpoint Spaces sites across Europe, their network of clinicians, scholars, artists and professionals of all stripes continues to grow. At Stillpoint Engage they weave all these threads together, creating opportunities for individuals and communities to align their core ethical values with their professional, creative, and intellectual interests, to serve and heal us all.

At Stillpoint Engage, they believe that suffering can only be alleviated when human beings truly connect across the many boundaries that too often separate us. Their engagement process is based on respect, collaboration, shared vision, and reflection.

A note from Stillpoint Engage founder, Dr. Stephen Setterberg on the evening of their one year anniversary:

Greetings to All at the Stillpoint Engage One Year Anniversary

Unfortunately I had already planned to be in the Ukraine at this time, so I am unable to be there in person. First of all, I want to thank and Congratulate Jane and her team for a remarkable first year – multiple grant applications submitted and a clear refinement of programmatic objectives.

By the way, for the record, I am NOT in Ukraine as a psychological tactics advisor for Rudy Giuliani’s recently announced documentary film project, which is intended to defend President Trump’s delusional fabrications. But seriously, and ironically, concerns with such florid sociocultural symptoms are part of what gave birth to the original Stillpoint project, out of which Stillpoint Engage eventually emerged. The original Stillpoint impulse was to make spaces for genuine personal truths to emerge, in the psychoanalytic tradition, but without giving short shrift to the impinging realities of the outer world. This attempt at reckoning with socio-historical influences led in a very particular way to the research on psychological demoralization in Kosovo that I imagine may be discussed further tonight.

Since I am also the Founder of PrairieCare, which has provided the initial funding for Stillpoint Engage, I just want to say a few sentences about why PrairieCare – a psychiatric hospital and clinic system – would end up fostering a non-profit focusing on a variety of projects in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and internationally, that relate more to social and historical dynamics than to psychopathology as such.

An unfortunate side-effect of the remarkable progress made in understanding the biological roots of severe mental illnesses has been a constriction of what it means to understand human suffering – at least among many psychiatrists and psychologists. At PrairieCare, we have consistently tried to keep a wider aperture open to the social situations and unconscious dynamics in the patients and families we are privileged to treat. One clear example is our Partnership with the Minnesota Psychoanalytic Society and Institute to give our therapists more advanced training than can be found in most hospital systems, anywhere – and a legacy of Jane Reilly’s time at PraireCare itself.

We also founded a few years ago the PrairieCare Child & Family Fund, a non-profit, which has it’s focus on early identification and intervention with youth at risk. You could think of this as an investment in preventive psychiatry.

Stillpoint Engage takes this wider view to another level by, yes, engaging, with the larger scale forces that impact individuals profoundly in our world. If you go to the Emergency Room with a gunshot wound, they don’t turn you away because you don’t have a “disease.” They treat you for your injury. Think of Stillpoint Engage along these lines. While it is not focused on the well-defined psychiatric illnesses in which PrairieCare specializes, it does represent our fuller understanding of the nature of psychological suffering. Millions of humans are traumatized every year in a multitude of ways that can leave lifelong crippling effects. Hundreds of thousands of workers try to stabilize these wounds, putting themselves directly in harms way, and risking vicarious trauma. With Jane’s wisdom we have focused on the thousands, not the millions, where we think we can have the most impact, and through them, the widest effect.

I wish you a delightful time together and look forward to another day to be with you in person.”

A note from Hal Steiger, PhD, LP – founder of Minnesota Psychoanalytic Society & Institute:

“I want to share something I find extraordinary about Dr. Setterberg’s work in the community. I recently attended a gathering in support of an organization he founded called Stillpoint Engage and was so moved by what I learned I decided to make a donation. I encourage you to look at their website and learn about projects they have undertaken in Kosovo, Pine Ridge and with Humanitarian Aid Workers.

In Kosovo Stillpoint Engage found levels of demoralization comparable to that of cancer patients in palliative care. Stillpoint Engage is now conducting a pilot study with clinicians in Kosovo trained in a version of the talking cure – Reparative Narrative – to see if individuals and communities in acute states of demoralization can find psychological healing by sharing their life stories.

At Pine Ridge Reservation, Stillpoint Engage is working with community leaders and Elders as well as various agencies to address the unprecedented suicide and substance abuse rates among the community’s youth. Emphasizing healing modalities rooted in Oglala Sioux traditions and what is known about trauma, recovery and depth psychology, Stillpoint Engage is exploring ways to strengthen and enhance mental health services for Pine Ridge youth.

The third Stillpoint Engage project focuses on helping humanitarian aid workers. There are approximately 3,900 humanitarian non-governmental organizations around the globe with nearly 250,000 workers trying to find solutions to the most difficult international problems – human rights, humanitarian relief, international migration of refugees, food insecurities, reducing human suffering, and achieving international peace. They often work under extreme conditions of stress and conflict which takes a toll physically and mentally.

The need for humanitarian workers is only growing and the need to support them is of utmost importance. Stillpoint Engage team members have experience in the field and from this experience they have developed a Humanitarian Workers Program that offers Resiliency Training in preparation for fieldwork, support while in the field, an app-based tool to support aid workers when on assignment, and reintegration, re-entry and meaning making programs upon return.

What stands out for me in all this work being done by Stillpoint Engage is the vision inspired by Dr. Setterberg and developed by his team to improve lives by healing human suffering. And in each project, a recurring theme is the reliance on the healing potential of human relationships when those who suffer are encouraged to talk in depth, something central to all approaches based on psychoanalytic thinking and practice.

I want to share this with you because Dr. Setterberg is known to you primarily as the head of PrairieCare and someone who has partnered with MPSI to train PrairieCare staff to be psychoanalytically informed. We should take great pride in being part of this undertaking. I know that there are Psychoanalytic Institutes located in hospital settings but I know of no hospitals or outpatient systems that pay to have their staff trained psychodynamically by the institutes that exist within their walls. The partnership with MPSI and the benefits of psychodynamic training is a message Dr. Setterberg has been delivering when he talks to other hospital systems about our joint program.

In this email my goal was to introduce you to yet another dimension of the man who has been MPSI’s primary financial patron and who we collaborate with to train PrairieCare staff. In closing I’d like to share the letter Dr. Setterberg sent from Ukraine that was read at the event I attended. “