Rachel Newcombe has navigated life’s transitions with curiosity and grace.
A long-time resident of New York City, she taught at The Dalton School in the early 1980s. It was at this private, coeducational college preparatory school for grades K-12 that her interest in mental health began.
“I absolutely loved teaching and I still do. My desire to learn about community mental health and become a therapist felt like a natural progression. As a classroom teacher I saw how we pass on intergenerational traumas, consciously and unconsciously to our children,” she said. “This made me realize I wanted to study psychoanalysis and work intensely with adults.”
Newcombe returned to graduate school at Hunter School for Social Work and then attended a four-year post-graduate psychoanalytic training program. She says she views teaching and psychoanalysis as being “entwined.”
On the Winter Solstice of 2005, Newcombe moved to Orcas Island with her 11-year-old daughter. Their first stop was the Orcas Island Library to get a library card.
“Manhattan and Orcas Island continue to balance my sensibilities. I love them both,” she said.
Working as a therapist means Newcombe spends all day doing what she loves.
“There are many rewarding aspects to my work. One that stands out is being able to bear witness as an individual becomes aware of their unconscious process,” she said. “Psychoanalysis is not about being the expert or giving advice. It is about the patient listening to what they say, what they don’t say and discovering language for unformulated experiences.”
In 2007, Newcombe launched the Orcas Island Therapists’ Group, which meets several times a year in a confidential setting to allow space for therapists to share the ups and downs of working in a small island community.
“Over the years we’ve been a great support to each other,” she said. “Since psychologist Paul Berry arrived on the island, he has also reminded us we need to have some fun. Our first in-person gathering since 2019 will be happening at the Orcas Island Winery.”
Two of Newcombe’s most significant professional influences are her own analyst and a psychoanalytic supervisor with whom she worked during the mid-nineties.
“Both individuals are fiercely independent scholars and taught me the joys of following my own mind, which helped me understand that all theory is autobiographical,” she said.
Newcombe is also an avid writer, reader and runner.
“I see these as being interrelated. Some of my best ideas come to me on early morning runs up Turtleback Mountain. It feels enlivening to be free-associating and watching the sun come up,” she said.
Newcombe’s says three books have “burrowed deep inside” her: Carole Maso’s “Break Every Rule, Essays on Longing, Language and Moments of Desire,” Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” and Lidia Yuknavitch’s “The Chronology of Water.”
“Currently I’m almost finished reading Ocean Voung’s ‘On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous,’” she shared. “His writing has turned me inside out with its beauty. I have spent decades reading psychoanalytic literature but lately, I am most stirred by writers from San Francisco’s 1970s New Narrative movement, especially Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian.”