Psychotherapy research pioneer Hans Strupp dies

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Internationally renowned psychologist Hans H. Strupp, who helped psychotherapy gain legitimacy as a scientific discipline, died Thursday, Oct. 5, at Alive Hospice.

Services are planned for 2 p.m. Oct. 8 at The Temple, 5015 Harding Pike.

Strupp, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University, spent his academic career engaged in the study of the effectiveness of psychotherapy and the processes that accounted for its effectiveness. He is credited with creating the form of therapy known as time-limited dynamic psychotherapy.

“One could reasonably argue that he is the single individual most responsible for creating and legitimizing psychotherapy as an area of scientific inquiry,” said Andrew J. Tomarken, chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Psychology, where Strupp taught and conducted research for nearly 30 years before his retirement in 1994. “In terms of national and international visibility, we continue to benefit enormously from his association with Vanderbilt. Hans was also a wonderful mentor, colleague and friend.”

In 1987 The American Psychological Association presented Strupp with its Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge. In a profile in American Psychologist the following year, Strupp was praised as “a pioneer in the study of therapeutic process and change” who “has forged rigorous research methods for studying psychotherapy. His stewardship of psychotherapy research has helped form it into a respected field of scientific inquiry; his active leadership in the integration of clinical and research knowledge has been invaluable to the psychotherapy professions.”

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1921, Strupp and his mother fled to the United States from Nazi Germany in 1939. He attended City College in New York and George Washington University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1945, a master’s degree in 1947 and a Ph.D. in social psychology in 1954. He earned a Certificate in Applied Psychiatry for Psychologist after completing training at the Washington School of Psychiatry. From 1949 until 1954, he was a psychologist with the U.S. Air Force. In 1945 he became an American citizen.

Strupp conducted his first empirical study in psychology in 1953 and even after his retirement from the Vanderbilt faculty remained an active researcher of psychotherapy, which he described as “the systematic use of a human relationship for therapeutic purposes.”

“When Strupp entered psychotherapy research, the field was largely dominated by psychiatrists, and little empirical research had been published,” the American Psychologist noted in its 1988 article. “Thorough training in psychotherapy was also largely unavailable to psychologists.”

Strupp focused much of his attention on the relationship between the therapist and patient. He noted that the attitude of the therapist toward the patient was significant; therapists who were supportive and empathetic were the most likely to have success. “What has the best therapeutic effect is how the patient experiences the therapist as a person to whom he can relate,” he told an international gathering in Germany in 1992.

Strupp came to Vanderbilt in 1966 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he had been director of Psychological Services in the Department of Psychiatry. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty as distinguished professor of psychology and was director of clinical psychology training from 1967 to 1976.

“He was a superb teacher who placed many students in top academic programs and was a master clinician who was widely admired for his clinical insights,” Tomarken said last March in opening remarks at a conference at Vanderbilt in Strupp’s honor.

In 1984, Strupp co-authored with Jeffrey L. Binder a treatment manual, published in book form, Psychotherapy in a New Key, which became the centerpiece of a five-year project on time-limited dynamic psychotherapy. In all, he authored more than 300 publications. He also served as co-editor of the journal of Psychotherapy Research and advisory editor to numerous professional journals.

He was a fellow of the American Psychological Association and served as president of the APA’s Division of Clinical Psychology. He was president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Professional Achievement Award of the American Board of Professional Psychology, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the Division of Psychotherapy Research and the Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge Award of the APA. He was the recipient of Vanderbilt’s Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research and the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professorship.

Survivors include his wife, Lottie Metzger Strupp; daughters Karen R. Strupp, Ph.D., of Houston, Texas, and Barbara Strupp, Ph.D., of Ithaca, N.Y.; brother Werner Strupp of Bethesda, Md.; and five grandchildren — Michael and Sarah Levitsky, of Ithaca, children of Barbara and David Levitsky, Ph.D.; and Emily, Joshua and Suzanne Strupp, all of Nashville, children of the late John Strupp, M.D., and Dana Strupp.

Contact: Elizabeth Latt, 615-322-NEWS

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