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Fall 2010

Nontraditional Psychiatrist

Kiev's expertise aided Olympic athletes and hedge fund masters.

By: Neil A. Grauer
Date: October 1, 2010


Ari Kiev

Few things escaped the attention of psychiatrist Ari Kiev (HS, 1960-61), and if something really intrigued him, he tended to make it a full part of his multifaceted career—time and again.

He went from specializing in depression and suicide prevention to studying nontraditional treatment of mental illness in Africa and Asia (and writing books about it); to helping Olympic athletes and Wall Street traders overcome psychological barriers inhibiting their performance (writing more books about that); to earning a law degree after often being called upon to testify in court cases.


Kiev, of Park Ridge, N.J., was studying for an MBA in executive health care when he died on Nov. 18 of cancer. He was 75. 

As head of the department of social psychiatry at Cornell, Kiev founded and directed a suicide prevention clinic there. He then founded the Social Psychiatric Research Institute in Manhattan, which took part in clinical trials for Prozac, Zoloft, and other medications. His expeditions to study “transcultural psychiatry,” which included a visit to the then Soviet Union to confer with Russian psychiatrists, led to two collections of essays he edited, Magic, Faith and Healing: Studies in Primitive Psychiatry Today (1964) and Psychiatry in the Communist World (1968), as well as his 1972 book, Transcultural Psychiatry

When he met some Olympic athletes at a gym frequented by his sons, he became interested in the psychological difficulties they encountered when trying to enhance their performances. Appointed as the first psychiatrist to the U.S. Olympic Sports Medicine Committee, he worked on overcoming the fears and anxieties of basketball players, bobsledders, archers, and scullers. Kiev’s efforts fascinated Steven A. Cohen, founder of SAC Capital Advisors. He hired Kiev to help his employees handle the rigors of financial trading. During his 16 years with SAC, Kiev turned those experiences into such best-selling books as Trading to Win (1998), Trading in the Zone (2001), and Hedge Fund Masters (2005). The last of his 20 books, The Mental Strategies of Top Traders, was published the month after his death.