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Jerome Frank

Institutional affiliation: 1940-2005

Jerome Frank

Jerome Frank came to Hopkins at the very end of Meyer’s tenure as leader of the Phipps Clinic, having just earned MD and PhD degrees from Harvard. Over his five decade career at Hopkins, Frank eschewed the sorts of untestable theories about the nature of unconscious phenomena that occupied Freudians, and instead focused scientifically on the big questions: what is psychotherapy? Who does it help? What makes it work?

While the psychoanalysts argued over who was the true heir to Freud’s legacy—who’s theory and method should prevail—Frank settled the question for them. As he describes in his seminal book Persuasion and Healing, the common threads in successful psychotherapy have little to do with the theory, or school of thought behind it, or even the particular method, but have everything to do with the ability of a therapist to engage a demoralized patient in an emotionally charged healing relationship removed from everyday life. The relief of angst and the renewal of energy to make positive changes in one’s life that occur in a psychotherapist’s office thus were invented not on a couch in Vienna, but in the shaman huts and church confessionals and revival tents from time immemorial, wherever a suffering person placed his or her faith in the power of a healing relationship. Frank found the science beneath the magic.

Dean MacKinnon, M.D.