WHO WE ARE | A Note from the Founders

jefflevyJeff Levy  Bruce 300x260Bruce Koff

Live Oak has been incorporated since 2004 but its history goes back to 1995 when we first met as the result of a shared client. Bruce was in private practice in Chicago and had been seeing a young woman who was a survivor of sexual abuse, and Jeff was facilitating a group for female survivors. Bruce’s client was in that group, and we began collaborating about how to best meet her needs. As we got to know each other in those first months, we quickly learned that our styles were similar, our philosophies consistent, and our beliefs about “good therapy” synonymous. We developed a professional relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Within months, we began to think about how we could work together more regularly.

With Bruce’s practice focusing on gay men and Jeff’s practice focusing on trauma, we decided to co-facilitate a group for gay male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and launched this first group with eight men in 1996. Neither of us having facilitated a group of this nature, and not having worked so closely with one another, we were faced with many challenges. Certainly, there were the clinical challenges of working with men who were dealing with the effects of interrelated stigmas. Additionally, we had to learn to work together so closely, how to support one another and how to have have constructive conflict, and as a result, we both grew in ways neither of us thought possible. We continued this collaboration for several more groups and Jeff eventually moved his practice to Chicago, across the hall from Bruce’s.

With greater geographic proximity came additional conversations about growing our practices and moving them together in some way, shape, or form. We began sharing more and more cases, had regular weekly consultation meetings, talked clinically about our cases and professional issues, and we discussed the challenges of being in solo private practice and the comfort we found in being able to depend on one another.

Our conversations became more serious about creating a practice together. We dreamed about space, others with whom we would work, training other professionals, collegiality, and how we could do better work for and with our clients. As our conversations became more serious about creating some type of “entity,” we also learned more about each other. We struggled with how to create something within which we could feel fully authentic, be vulnerable when necessary, and trust that conflict would be resolved quickly and productively. One of our biggest conflicts, believe it or not, was what to call ourselves!

In 2003, we began developing an action plan to consolidate our practices. We started thinking of names and nothing seemed to fit. The Center for This or That didn’t feel right to either of us. We wanted something that represented strength, growth, integration, connection, life…that didn’t sound sterile or antiseptic or like a building somewhere. Bruce shared with Jeff a Walt Whitman poem to which he felt drawn about a live oak growing in Louisiana. The poem touched Jeff as well and within minutes, Live Oak was born. Months later, Jeff shared with Bruce a poem he had written when he was 14 years old—about a lonely oak tree. We incorporated Live Oak, Inc. on July 1, 2004, and fully merged our individual practices on January 1, 2005.

We share this journey with you to let you know that Live Oak was created over time with a great deal of thought, sensitivity, struggle, love and commitment. We are hoping to create a place where others can grow, learn, share, struggle and belong while doing the work they believe in. We invite you to participate in this creative process with us.

Jeff Levy and Bruce Koff