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Colleagues: Slain Virginia Psychiatrist Was Mentor

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MCLEAN, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia psychiatrist who was fatally shot by a patient in an apparent murder-suicide had been a mentor to hundreds of area therapists, his colleagues said Saturday.

Fairfax County police say Dr. Mark A. Lawrence was found dead inside his McLean home-office on Friday afternoon along with 62-year-old Barbara Newman, one of his patients. Police believe Newman, of Vienna, killed Lawrence and then turned the gun on herself. Police say the investigation is continuing and have not released any more details.

Dr. Mel Stern, a psychiatrist and longtime friend of Lawrence’s, told The Washington Post that Lawrence had voiced concerns about the patient during a lunch the day before he was killed.

Stern, who lives in Chevy Chase, Md., told the newspaper that Lawrence was very concerned about the woman’s paranoia and believed she needed outside consultation, though he did not express fear that she was a danger to herself or to him. Lawrence’s wife Karen was home when the attack occurred, Stern said.

Lawrence was semi-retired, and focused on training other therapists while he continued to see some patients at his home
office, said Dr. Cynthia Margolies, a colleague of his at the Center for Healing and Imagery, which Lawrence co-founded in 1984 and where he had taught since.

“He was an incredibly kind, generous person, with a huge heart,” Margolies told The Associated Press. “He was very
dedicated to both his patients and he trained and was a mentor to many, many therapists locally.”

Lawrence trained at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. He had also served on the psychiatric faculties of Georgetown University Medical School and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Margolies said Lawrence started working in the Washington area in the early 1970s. He served as a group therapist and was skilled at working with disturbed people, she said.

“He was both brilliant and compassionate, a pretty unique combination,” she said.

Margolies said many therapists sought out Lawrence when they were at an impasse with patients.

“There are a lot of people today who are deeply affected by this,” Margolies said. “I have heard from lots of therapists who
are grieving …It’s a major loss for the community.”

Susan Drobis, a clinic social worker at the center, said she was stunned by the news of Lawrence’s death.

“I don’t quite believe it,” she said Saturday night by phone.

Drobis said she knew Lawrence for more than 25 years, and that he trained her before he became a colleague who co-taught courses with her. She said Lawrence “trained hundreds of therapists and people have enormous respect for him.”

She described him as “very down-to-earth, warm,” with a great sense of humor and a way of connecting people with their strengths.

Drobis said: “He was really committed to the work that he did, which was the work of healing people and helping people.”

In addition to his wife, Lawrence is survived by a daughter and grandson.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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