Mark C. Stanberry was a psychiatrist who resisted the trend toward medication only, and instead concentrated on careful listening and helping his patients unravel their problems.
It wasn't that he was against the pharmacopeia that has helped millions with psychiatric issues — he thought a talking cure was also necessary, a colleague says.
"Many psychiatrists have been battered into doing psychopharmacology and 15-minute sessions," said John Corwin, a psychiatrist in Madison. "Mark continued to enjoy psychotherapy; that was an usual aspect of his practice. We both appreciate what's become a more and more antiquated part of a practice."
Stanberry, who died on July 29, had deep roots in the West. He was born on Dec. 14, 1942, in Prosser, Wash., a small town east of Seattle. His father, Chauncy Stanberry, had multiple sclerosis, and Mark spent a lot of time caring for him when he was young. Mark had a brother, Alan; his mother was Ruth Ida Stanberry.
After his parents divorced while he was in his teens, he lived with his father, and they moved to Tucson, Ariz., where Chauncy Stanberry got job teaching soil sciences at the College of Agriculture of the University of Arizona.
Mark went to college at the University of Arizona, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and then went to Harvard Medical School, where he decided to become a psychiatrist. After graduating in 1969, he received further training at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston.
He served two years in the Navy, including Naval Submarine Base in Groton, where he evaluated sailors on their fitness to serve. He tried to separate those who were only malingering from those who were genuinely traumatized by the experience and needed to be taken off the submarines.
After he was discharged, Stanberry remained in Connecticut and began building up a private psychiatric practice in Essex. He was a consultant at the women's prison in Niantic, worked with a child and family agency and was the medical director of outpatient for a mental health agency in Charleston, R.I.
He operated a general practice, focused mainly on adults, and after he built a house in the Ivoryton section of Essex, he opened an office near his home.
"His true passion was helping people," said his wife, Candy. "He had a wonderful heart."
"He was so kind to people, you almost could mistake him for [a pushover,]" said his son Matthew — but, of course, he wasn't.
Many of his patients attended Stanberry's funeral, or wrote to describe how much he had helped them.
Naomi Rachleff said in an interview that she consulted Stanberry when her husband became blind, and she vacillated between being angry and babying him. Stanberry "made it possible for me to live," she said.
"Most therapists have this barrier you can't cross," said Bob Zemmel, who had been in therapy with Stanberry. "He had no problem relating items that were comparable or from his own family life, and made you think, 'I'm not the only guy in this situation.' The psychiatric 'hour' has shrunk to 45 minutes, but if no one was coming, [the session] could last up to 90 minutes."
Stanberry also had a wide-ranging interest in general medicine, kept up with the newest psychiatric medications and was an expert at recognizing potential problems caused by drug interactions.
"It was like talking to an internal medicine specialist, not just a psychiatrist," Zemmel said.
Other patients commented on Stanberry's sense of humor and uncritical acceptance of them.
"Many patients would describe him as their best friend," said John Corwin, a psychiatrist in Madison. "He didn't lose perspective or his ability to help them to identify what they needed to change."
For many years, Stanberry was a pastoral counselor for the Congregational Church of Old Lyme, where he ran support groups and helped parishioners.
"He was gifted at the chemistry of the brain and particularly good at analyzing the way various prescriptions would interact," said the Rev. Carleen Gerber, the church's senior minister. "He would listen, and before he saw you again, he would develop a question. … He was very thoughtful."