Dr. Luc Isebaert, an inspiration to everyone he met and a key figure in many areas of psychotherapy and treatment, died September 30th. Luc’s accomplishments are legend;
he was a giant in Ericksonian, Solution-Focused, and Brief Therapy, and a true innovator of substance abuse treatment. I refer you to the Korzybski Institute, which he founded and nurtured to a premier training center of Europe, for the details of his significant contributions to the field. I am writing this blog not about the theoretical and practical psychotherapy genius he was, but rather about him as my friend and as a person I admired as a human being.
Our relationship happened because Luc recognized that solution focused work embodies many aspects of the factors known to create positive outcomes, the so-called but not-so-common common factors. Moreover, Luc also saw the commonalities between his Bruges model of Solution Focused Brief Therapy and the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS). Consequently, Luc asked me to teach in his training program for the past 10 years.
Beyond our spirited discussions about psychotherapy in which Luc never failed to dazzle me with his intellectual prowess and the depth and breadth of his knowledge, it was Luc himself who was a wonder to behold. Fluent in several languages, a gourmet cook, a wine and Belgium beer connoisseur, a European history aficionado, a philosophy buff—Luc was a walking encyclopedia.
I used to kid him about the commercials of Dos Equis beer which cleverly portrayed “the most interesting man in the world.” That guy couldn’t hold a candle to Luc. But here is the kicker: Have you ever met anyone who was that brilliant, that inspirational, that well-read, that everything—who never made you feel less than. Luc was genuinely humble without an arrogant bone in his body. His brilliance was without fanfare or an entourage of demands for adoration or gratitude. He was the most human of the human beings I’ve met.
I was very fortunate that Luc wanted me to be part of the Korzybski Institute. He brought me to Bruges each year but also occasionally to the Netherlands and Switzerland. Being in the magical city of Bruges allowed me the luxury of visiting Luc and his wonderful partner, Sophie, at their home. Eating one of Luc’s gourmet creations and listening to Sophie play a classical selection on a piano that Franz Liszt played at the 1878 World Fair in Paris over a glass of very special Riesling wine was yet another experience that has enriched my life.
Luc often traveled with me until his health started failing and those trips are memories that I will forever cherish. Spending time with him, having meals together, and long conversations over wine and beer that he chose to accompany the food were many things—political, philosophical, existential, historical—but always scintillating and exquisite. Luc wanted me to experience life in these places, to eat and drink in the art, history, and culture of each location where the trainings took place. Who does this? I now understand these special experiences that Luc created for me were expressions of our friendship.
For example: After a training near the Belgium border, Luc said he had to drop me off at my hotel and go off to do a conference presentation. I would take the train the next day at my leisure and meet him in Bruges. But like every experience with Luc, it was not just a hotel. He drove me deep into the hilly countryside to an inn overlooking a valley that was right out of a story book for children. Fresh snow only enhanced the beauty of this historic lodge. When I got to my room, the first thing I found was a note from Luc and a bottle of wine he thought I might enjoy a glass of before dinner. The note also said that he had taken the liberty to make a reservation for me and had chosen the menu given they needed to know in advance because everything was custom made to order. I went to the dining room, a 17thcentury stone and rustic wood ensemble with a fireplace that reached the length of the room in full ablaze. I was greeted by my waiter by name and told that Dr. Isebaert had ordered my meal and accompanying wines. For two and half hours, I enjoyed perhaps the most fantastic meal of my life, a harmonious collection of tastes and textures, one course after another of pure delight. When I expressed my thanks for this once in a lifetime experience, Luc was just happy that I enjoyed it. He didn’t need endless thanks or adoration. He was not in it for that. This was quintessential Luc.
Goodbye Luc, my friend. Thanks for the richness and kindness you brought to my life.