Ward Ackerman was born in Bessarabia, Russia on November 22, 1908. His
parents were pharmacist David Ackerman and Bertha (Greenberg) Ackerman.
They came to the United States in 1912, and were naturalized in 1920. He
was married to Gwendolyn Hill on October 10, 1937. They had two
daughters, Jeanne and Deborah.
Ackerman attended a public school in
New York City. In 1929 he was awarded a B.A. from Columbia University,
and in 1933 earned his M.D. from the same university. After a short
spell (1933-34) as an intern at the Montefiore Hospital in New York, he
interned at the Menninger Clinic and Sanitorium in Topeka, Kansas. He
joined their psychiatric staff in 1935.
He assumed the post of chief psychiatrist at the Menninger Child
Guidance Clinic in 1937. For the next fourteen years, Ackerman was also
chief psychiatrist to the Jewish Board of Guardians in New York City.
During this period, he had numerous positions at a variety of
institutions in New York City. Ackerman acted as psychiatrist to the Red
Cross Rehabilitation Clinic during World War II, and also worked as a
consultant to the department of scientific research when it was first
established by Max Horkheimer in 1944. After the war, Ackerman assumed
the post of clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and
later lectured at the New York School of Social Work, a part of Columbia
University. He also lectured (1944-48) at the Visiting Nurse Service and
the Community Service Society.
In addition to his active career in New York City, Ackerman served as
visiting professor of psychiatry for a number of universities, including
Tulane University and the University of North Carolina. In 1952 Ackerman
served as a member of the White House Conference on Children in
Pioneers field of family psychology
Ackerman published The Unity of the Family and Family
Diagnosis: An Approach to the Preschool Child in 1938, both of which
contributed to the initial promotion of the theory of family therapy. In
1950 Ackerman wrote a book on anti-Semitism in collaboration with Marie Jahoda. Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Semitism and
Emotional Disorder, a Psychoanalytic Interpretation examines and
analyzes the phenomenon and offers possible solutions. He went on to
write many books during his career, including
The Psychodynamics of
Family Life (1958) and Treating the Troubled Family (1966).
He co-authored several books, including Exploring the Base for Family
Therapy and published more than 100 articles in professional
Ackerman is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in his field and
credited with developing the concept of family psychology. In 1955 he
was the first to initiate a debate on family therapy at a meeting of the
American Orthopsychiatric Association, with the intention of opening
lines of communication in this new branch of psychiatry. He believed
that the mental or physical disposition of one family member would
affect other family members, and that often the best way to treat the
individual was to treat the family as a whole. In fact he was a very
strong advocate of treating the whole family in order to solve the
problems of the individual. He devoted most of his career to family
Ackerman's work was deeply appreciated by his peers, as evidenced by
the number of awards bestowed upon him. He received the Rudolph Meyer
award from the Association for Improvement to Mental Health in 1959. He
was also the recipient of the Wilfred Hulse award for group
psychotherapy in 1965.
Founds institute to study the family
In 1960, Ackerman opened the Institute for Family Studies and
Treatment, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting family mental
health. The Institute's premise was (and is) that if the family is
healthy, the individual will be healthy and ultimately produce a
healthier society. Ackerman developed a program for research that
greatly furthered the effectiveness of the Institute.
He served as the director of this establishment up until his death,
when it was renamed the Nathan W. Ackerman Institute (usually known as
the Ackerman Institute) in his honor. The Institute has its own journal,
Family Process, which was the first ever family therapy journal,
started by Ackerman in association with Don Jackson. This journal
remains a principal reference for other professionals in the field.
Today the Ackerman Institute is considered perhaps the finest facility
for family psychology in the world.
In addition to being a fellow of the American Board of Psychiatry and
the New York Academy of Medicine, Ackerman was also president (1957-59)
of the Association of Psychoanalytic Medicine, as well as a member of
the Academy of Child Psychiatry, the American Psychopathalogical
Society, and the New York Council of Child Psychiatry.
Ackerman died on June 12, 1971, and was buried in Westchester Hills
Cemetery, Hastings on Hudson, New York.
Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology: Ackerman, Nathan Ward (1908-1971) [HTML] (Digital)
《家庭治疗的力量》Bloch & Simon 1982年整理的阿克曼论文集。