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Nathan Ackerman was born on November 22, 1908, in Russia. When he was only four, his family moved to America. Ackerman was enrolled in the public school system in New York and attended Columbia University. He received his BA in 1929 and his MD from Columbia four years later. He conducted his internship at both the Montefiore Hospital in New York, and the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansa. In 1935, Ackerman accepted a staff position at the Menninger Clinic. In two short years, Ackerman had risen to Chief Psychiatrist at the Clinic. He was also affiliated with several other professional organizations in New York. He participated with the Red Cross during the war and when the war ended, was asked to join the staff at Columbia University as a clinical professor of psychiatry. All the while, Ackerman remained active as a visiting professor at other colleges throughout the country. He was also asked to serve on a special delegation for children in a White House conference.
In 1938, Ackerman published two books that publicized his views on family theory. The books, Family Diagnosis: An Approach to the Preschool Child and The Unity of the Family were among several that Ackerman published throughout his long career. In addition to the subject of psychology, Ackerman wrote about Jewish concerns and anti-Semitism.
Contribution to Psychology
Ackerman is considered one of the pioneers of family psychology. He was instrumental in bringing the theory of this approach to the mainstream during a family therapy debate at a session of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. He, like other psychiatrists of his time, theorized that the psychological well-being of the individual was directly a result of, and related to, the condition of the family. He firmly believed that a client was best served if the whole family received treatment. Ackerman spent most of his career advocating for the advancement and acceptance of family therapy.
Ackerman founded the Institute for Family Studies and Treatment, a center designed to offer education and resources for the mental health of families. Along with his colleague Don Jackson, Ackerman created the professional journal, "Family Process." To this day, the journal is seen as one of the leading resources in the field of family mental health and family therapy. Ackerman served on the board of many organizations and held the title of president of the Association of Psychoanalytic Medicine for a period. He has been recognized for his many achievements with the Wilfred Hulse Award and the Rudolph Meyer Award.
Books by Nathan Ackerman