James Framo was a 20th century psychologist who pioneered the fields of marital and family therapy.

Professional Life

James Framo was born in 1922 and was a leader in the field of marital and family therapy. He earned his master’s degree from Penn State University and then continued his education at the University of Texas, earning his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1953.

Framo worked as a researcher and family therapist at the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute from 1956-1969. Beginning in 1960, he was a professor of psychology at Thomas Jefferson University, and later at Temple University, and then the United States International University in San Diego where he worked until his retirement in 1999. He also acted as chief of the Family Therapy Unit at the Jefferson Community Mental Health Clinic in Philadelphia from 1969-1973. Framo was a founding member of the American Family Therapy Association where he served as president from 1981-1983.

In his spare time, Framo loved reading about World War II and history in general. Before his death in 2001, he was working on writing his memoir, which recaptured his own service in the war during the years 1943-1945.

Contribution to Psychology

Framo was an early advocate for marital and family therapy and was particularly interested in the role intergenerational and family of origin issues could play in marital counseling. In addition, Framo firmly believed in treating the source of the problem. As unorthodox as it was in the 1950s, Framo encouraged antagonistic family members or partners to come together to receive treatment. He also believed that a troubled child often stemmed from a troubled marriage. He theorized that if the marriage could be fixed, the problems of the child would disappear.

He argued in favor of an object relations approach to marital and family counseling. Object relations theory emphasizes that relationships between people are the primary drive in human life, and family therapy built upon object relations theory emphasizes relationships as a primary good in human life.

Framo was an active practitioner, lecturer, teacher, and author, writing more than 60 publications in the field of family therapy. He wrote several books, including Family-of-Origin Therapy: An Intergenerational Approach and Family Interaction: A Dialogue Between Family Researchers and Family Therapists.