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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 18, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 30
Obituary: Jerome Frank, 95, Noted Psychotherapy Researcher

Jerome Frank, a giant in the field of psychotherapy research and an integral member of the Johns Hopkins community throughout his academic career, died March 14 at the age of 95. A memorial service hosted by the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has been planned for 4 p.m. on Monday, May 2, in Hurd Hall of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. A reception will follow in the Phipps Lobby.

A summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University, Frank earned his doctorate from its Psychology Department in 1934 and graduated from its medical school cum laude in 1939. In 1940, he joined the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins' School of Medicine, where he was first considered an outstanding student of Adolf Meyer, and later an outstanding teacher.

Frank's work came at a time when psychiatry was in tremendous disarray, suffering from struggles for power and dominance between competing psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic points of view.

As a clinician scholar, Frank strove to scientifically study the psychotherapeutic methods, tenets and claims and to synthesize a coherent "comparative anatomy" of the various approaches. His book Persuasion and Healing — which describes the claims of psychodynamic psychotherapy and integrates the research in the field through the 1960s — is probably the most influential book of its kind. More importantly, his work synthesized both the types of patients and types of approaches that every student of psychotherapy must know and understand.

Frank's work had a profound impact on the field in two important ways. The first was that it helped heal the schisms that had developed between various academic centers, thereby allowing improved conversations and forward movement in the field.

The second accomplishment was that it liberalized thinking about psychotherapeutic treatment and allowed the orthodox psychoanalytical community to foster the development of new types of psychotherapy, including the self-psychology movement. This resulted in the development of many new conceptions about psychotherapy, including family therapy, supportive therapy and subspecialty types of psychotherapy. The impact of Persuasion and Healing on the field of psychiatry reflects Frank himself, as it gently persuades the reader to reconsider nearly every assumption and idea in a clearer and more scientific light. The book, now in the third edition, feels in no way dated; the first edition still seems revolutionary.

Committed to the concept of physicians having an important social responsibility for the greater good of society, Frank was instrumental in the founding of Physicians for Social Responsibility and was an active crusader against nuclear armaments, for human rights and for a humanistic approach to medicine.

Frank was a passionate teacher and mentor who gave generations of students gentle but steady encouragement that helped them develop successful and productive careers. After retiring, he continued on as an active emeritus professor who was heavily involved in the supervision and teaching of residents and young faculty. A recipient of many awards himself, Frank was often remembered by his students when receiving their own awards. When Irvin Yalom received the prestigious Oscar Pfister prize from the American Psychiatric Association, for example, he opened his remarks by thanking his mentor, Jerome Frank, who had been the first recipient of the Oscar Pfister award.

Frank is survived by his wife, the former Elizabeth "Liza" Kleeman, whom he married in 1948, four children and six grandchildren. His daughter Emily is associate dean of student affairs at the Peabody Conservatory. His son, David, teaches at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston. His daughter Deborah is a professor of pediatrics at Boston University, and his daughter Julia is an associate professor of psychiatry at George Washington University and the co-author of the third edition of Persuasion and Healing.


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