The Networker History

Founded in 1978, Psychotherapy Networker began as a small, mimeographed newsletter called the “Family Shtick.” Circulated among a tight-knit group of therapists interested in the emerging field of family therapy, the “Shtick” garnered a reputation for its in-depth profiles of leading practitioners, often written by psychologist Rich Simon, who developed the magazine with therapist Charles Simpkinson. 

Rich became the publication’s editor while working at a youth treatment center outside of Washington, DC. Inspired by his belief in the power of family therapy, he interviewed the larger-than-life figures in the field such as Murray Bowen, Salvador Minuchin, Virginia Satir, and Carl Whitaker. “I sent Bowen a letter,” Rich recalls, “and when the response came back from him, it was like the Pope had written me a personal note!”

Over the past four decades, the growth of the Networker has been interwoven with the emergence of its annual Symposium. Attended by a few hundred people, it first took place in the cramped auditorium of the Interfaith Chapel in Columbia, Maryland: a single room in which multiple presenters had to keep their voices low so as not to overpower each other. 

The Symposium has since grown into an acclaimed international conference that brings together the field’s leading innovators and more than 4,000 mental health professionals. It still takes place in Washington, DC, but in a decidedly bigger space, with many ballrooms and room for therapists to gather and celebrate the spirit of the profession. 

The “Shtick” grew rapidly in those early days as well, becoming the “Family Therapy Practice Network Newsletter,” and eventually the Psychotherapy Networker magazine. Its scope widened with each issue and came to encompass the broad range of emerging trends throughout the field. 

As couples therapist William Doherty wrote in the 40th-anniversary issue, “The Networker’s goal was to capture the collective adventure of understanding human experience from fresh angles and offer up-close and personal reporting on what it was like for practitioners to try out the range of the novel and often emotionally intense methods being generated by a field filled with creative ferment.”

From its humble origins as a mimeographed newsletter with an off-beat name to an award-winning magazine with an international circulation, the Networker has become an increasingly popular and influential publication. Its mission, however, has stayed the same: to provide a forum for clinicians to find inspiration and connection, explore trends in the field, and remain cognizant that psychotherapy does not exist in a vacuum—but rather, as Rich says, it’s “a window looking out at the whole of society.”