Seymour Rubenfeld

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'UBENFELD SEYMOUR RUBENFELD Seymour Rubenfeld, author, founding director of the Washington School of Psychiatry's National Group Psychotherapy Institute, and for decades one of the most distinguished and influential psychotherapists in Washington, died July 25, 2011 of natural causes at Georgetown University Hospital. He was 81. Dr. Rubenfeld - or "Sy," as he was known to his many friends - came to Washington more than fifty years ago as a young psychologist working under the United States Public Health Service at a boys' juvenile detention center in the District of Columbia. His work there led to his much-cited book, Family of Outcasts - A New Theory of Delinquency, published by the Free Press in 1965, which broke new ground by showing that juvenile delinquency could not be fully explained by family history or class conflict, but depended crucially on an individual's relation to history as reflected in his value- and belief-systems. Following his government service, Dr. Rubenfeld, together with longtime partner Isaiah Zimmerman, built one of the most important private psychotherapy practices in the Washington area. In the 1960s, he joined the Washington School of Psychiatry, where he became a leader in the Group Psychotherapy Training Program and, in 1994, founded the National Group Psychotherapy Institute, which quickly achieved nationwide distinction for its cutting-edge contributions and challenges to the theory and practice of psychodynamic group psychotherapy. Dr. Rubenfeld continued presenting seminars nationally and publishing influential articles internationally throughout his life, drawing on his wide interdisciplinary knowledge but always insisting on the pivotal importance of personal agency. His 2002 article on the latter topic was described by a noted psychiatrist in Great Britain as finally offering the "correct answer" to the long-vexed problem of pursuing a psychoanalytic approach within a behavioral therapy. In recognition of his contributions both to his patients and fellow practitioners, Dr. Rubenfeld received in 2001 the American Group Psychotherapy Association's Alonzo Award for Excellence in Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy. Seymour Rubenfeld, the son of Jewish immigrants, was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1929, and received both his undergraduate degree and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Penn State University in the 1950s. He is survived by his cherished and beloved wife, Harriet Swankin Rubenfeld of Washington; his dearly loved children from his first marriage to Florence Rubenfeld: Viktor Rubenfeld of Los Angeles, Debby Rubenfeld Gossett of Reston, Va., and Jed Rubenfeld of New Haven, Conn.; his loved nephew Gordon Rubenfeld of Toronto, Canada, and niece Faye Rubenfeld of Phoenix, Ariz.; his loved step-daughter Sheryl Swankin of Sudbury, Mass.; and his treasured grandchildren Sophia and Louisa Chua-Rubenfeld. Funeral services will be held today, July 27, at 1:30 p.m. at the Judean Memorial Gardens, 16225 Batchellors Forest Rd., Olney, Md. Memorial donations in Sy's behalf may be made to the Washington School of Psychiatry, 5028 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20016-4118, or to a charity of the donor's choice.Funeral services will be held today, July 27, at 1:30 p.m. at the Judean Memorial Gardens, 16225 Batchellors Forest Rd., Olney, Md. Memorial donations in Sy's behalf may be made to the Washington School of Psychiatry, 5028 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20016-4118, or to a charity of the donor's choice.

Published in The Washington Post on July 27, 2011
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