Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jeremy Safran: April 23, 1952 – May 7, 2018

We are all more deeply connected to each other than we can ever know, and sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind that this is so.  All of my networks have been buzzing this week with the news of Jeremy Safran’s brutal and senseless murder last Monday.  Even if you’ve never heard of Jeremy or haven’t read anything of his, if you are a psychotherapist or counsellor today, the chances are very good that he has influenced your practice.

His was a maverick spirit, wandering restlessly between most of the major approaches to psychotherapy, always open to new things. He started in the humanistic-experiential therapy tradition, where he first studied with Les Greenberg and help lay the theoretical ground work for emotion-focused therapy.  After that, with Zindel Segal, he was responsible for broadening and softening CBT, by adding an interpersonal emphasis.

Although I’d known him since the early 1980’s, mu closest interactions with Jeremy were in the 1990’s, when we both were running American clinical psychology doctoral programs.  We were both part of a rump faction of DCTs (Directors of Clinical Training) who tried to resist the rising tide of CBT in American clinical psychology in what felt like a dark time, as CBT advocates attempted to impose this approach as the dominant approach in our courses.  It was good to have an ally and we had lots of interesting talks.

In my opinion, his most important work was with Chris Muran, with whom he initiated a major continuing line of research and practice on therapeutic rupture and repair.  If the phrase “alliance rupture” is in your working vocabulary, there you will find Jeremy in your work as a counsellor or psychotherapist.  Finally, I think, he found a home, or rather several homes, in psychoanalysis and Buddhism, and the dialogue between them.

If you want to learn more about Jeremy Safran and his many contributions, you can go to his website: 

Rest in peace, Jeremy, you are part of us, and live on in us.  We won’t forget you.