|Dr. Hyman Spotnitz
Hyman Spotnitz (September 29, 1908 - April 18, 2008) research psychiatrist, neurologist and the founder of Modern Psychoanalysis, was born in Boston to immigrant parents. The oldest of five siblings, he grew up in the North End of Boston, attended public school, and graduated from Harvard College. In 1934 he received a degree in medicine from Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin. Dr. Spotnitz continued his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, earning a Medical Science degree in neurology in 1939; he was certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 1941.
Dr. Spotnitz married Miriam Berkman, a childhood sweetheart to whom he remained deeply attached until her death in 1977. They had three sons.
Influenced by the works of Sigmund Freud, Dr. Spotnitz believed that the principles of psychoanalysis could be extended to cure the severe narcissistic disorders that Freud had deemed untreatable. He firmly believed in the reversibility of schizophrenia, and felt that previous failures at treating it were due not to patients' incurability, but rather to the fact that practitioners had not yet discovered a way to cure them. He determined to find a cure for schizophrenia, doing collaborative research and supervision both at the Jewish Board of Guardians, where he served as consulting psychiatrist, and in his private practice. In his groundbreaking book, Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient (1969, first edition), Dr. Spotnitz laid out the theory and technique for the treatment of schizophrenia which he formulated from his pioneering clinical research and practice.
Dr. Spotnitz's career included research in the field of neurophysiology at the New York State Neurological Institute and in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He served as Adjunct Psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. He is honorary President of several psychoanalytic institutes, including the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies, The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and the Mid-Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis in New York City. His books include Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient, Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions, and, with Phyllis Meadow, Ph.D., Treatment of the Narcissistic Neuroses. A pioneer in the modality of group psychotherapy, he wrote The Couch and the Circle in 1961; and co-authored other books aimed at a general audience.
Dr. Spotnitz has published over 100 articles in both national and international professional journals. In addition to maintaining a large practice, he has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as supervisor, training analyst, lecturer and group psychoanalyst. In May of 1988, Dr. Spotnitz received the Sigmund Freud Award from the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians for his contributions to psychoanalysis and psychiatry. He was made a Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The American Psychiatric Association also honored Dr. Spotnitz in January, 1991, for his 50 years of service to the Association and to the field of psychiatry.
He resided in New York City with his wife, Dorothy Harten Spotnitz, until her death in 2007, and until his own passing, maintained active contact with psychoanalytic students and colleagues. His latest videotaped interview, "Conversations with Dr. Hyman Spotnitz on Modern Group Psychoanalysis," was released in 1999 by the Mid-Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis.
The Modern Psychoanalytic community mourns his death. The mourning will end one day, but the work of assessing the depth and breadth of his contributions to the practice will occupy analysts forever. The affection with which he was regarded by those who knew him, worked with him, and learned from him is beyond measure.
Some biographical material was taken from Just Say Everything: A Festschrift in Honor of Hyman Spotnitz, edited by Sara Sheftel and published in 1991 by the Association for Modern Psychoanalysis, New York City.