ACKERMAN, NATHAN WARD (1908–1971), U.S. psychiatrist, born in Russia. Ackerman joined the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, and became the chief psychiatrist of the Child Guidance Clinic in 1937. In 1957 he established the Family Mental Health Clinic in New York City and began teaching at Columbia University. He was a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, chief psychiatrist of the Child Guidance Institute of the Jewish Board of Guardians, and supervising psychiatrist of the Family Mental Health Clinic of the Jewish Family Service, New York. Ackerman held that the family unit is the crucial link between individual personality and the social and cultural milieu, that psychiatric abnormality in a child is at times an expression of disturbed emotional relations in the entire family, and that cure requires therapy of the conflicts and relations of the family group as such. His astute ability to understand the overall organization of families enabled him to look beyond the behavioral interactions of families and into the hearts and minds of each family member. He used his strong will and provocative style of intervening to uncover the family's defenses and allow their feelings, hopes, and desires to surface. Committed to sharing his ideas and theoretical approach with other professionals in the field, he published The Unity of the Family and Family Diagnosis: An Approach to the Preschool Child (1938), both of which inspired the family therapy movement. Together with Don Jackson, he founded the first family therapy journal, Family Process (1960), which is still a leading journal of ideas in the field today. Ackerman opened the Family Institute in New York City in 1960, which was later renamed The Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. A nonprofit institution, its twofold mission was to develop innovative and effective models of treatment for families in trouble and to train clinicians to implement these models. On behalf of the American Jewish Committee, Ackerman was coauthor of Anti-Semitism and Emotional Disorder (1950). On family therapy he wrote numerous articles in professional journals; the books The Psychodynamics of Family Life (1958), Treating the Troubled Family (1966), Expanding Theory and Practice in Family Therapy (1967), and Family Process (1970); and edited several anthologies, such as Family Therapy in Transition (1971). He also coauthored with Marie Jahoda Anti-Semitism and Emotional Disorder, a Psychoanalytic Interpretation (1950). His selected papers were published in The Strength of Family Therapy (1982). (Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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